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Continuing Education (CE) Credits for NPs: What You Need to Know

You’ve made it! You graduated NP school, passed your board exam, and applied for licensure in your state. But then you start reading all of this information about continuing education for renewal.

You might be thinking, “Continuing education? Didn’t I just continue my education by graduating?”

In this post, we’ll cover everything you need to know about continuing education (CE) credits for nurse practitioners, so you can renew your certification and licenses with ease. We’ll even throw in some helpful places to look to earn them!

Top FAQs about Nurse Practitioner CE Credits

Do nurse practitioners need to earn CE?

The simple answer is: yes. Continuing education credits are a requirement for maintaining certification and licensure.

That means you’ll need continuing education for your board certification (FNP or PMHNP for example), plus your state license (RN and NP), and even additional licenses, such as a DEA license to prescribe controlled substances.

Why are nurse practitioners required to get CE credits?

So, what’s the point of all this continuing education? The main reason is that it’s a way for NPs to stay up to date on changes in evidence-based practice and clinical guidelines. That allows for better patient care, which is always the #1 goal.

The nursing profession has repeatedly embraced lifelong learning and continuing education is just one way of supporting that!

How do nurse practitioners benefit from continuing education?

Continuing education can allow you to explore new topics. Are you interested in learning more about dermatology and aesthetics? Take a course! Or maybe, do you need to brush up on your understanding of diabetes medications? Take a course!

Engaging in lifelong learning through continuing education has plenty of other benefits. For starters, continuing education can lead to increased job satisfaction by boosting your confidence and becoming more engaged in your specialty.

Also, depending on what activities you choose and if they lead to additional certifications, you may set yourself up for additional job opportunities and professional growth!

What are the CE requirements for certification and licensure?

Now, here’s where it gets a little tricky. The continuing education requirements vary greatly from state to state. You’ll need to check with your state’s Board of Nursing for the requirements of your RN and NP licenses. (Yes, you’ll need to maintain your license as an RN while practicing as an NP, so make sure you understand the CE requirements for both.)

You’ll also need to check the requirements for your board certification and any additional certifications you hold. Most CE requirements for NPs are divided into pharmacology and non-pharmacology hours, so you’ll need to make sure you have enough of each.

In addition to those, there may be specific topics that you’ll need to review. For example, some states require child abuse screening and reporting education with each renewal, and some require controlled substance prescribing education as well.

Which CE credits do you need for renewal?

One more thing to go over here is the difference between the types of continuing education credits. You may see activities listed with a certain number of contact hours, CEUs (continuing education units), CMEs (continuing medical education), or even AMA Category 1 credits. What does that all mean?

You can use the conversion of 1 CME credit = 1 contact hour and that 1 CEU = 10 contact hours. AMA Category 1 credits are a specific type of CME approved by the American Medical Association, but NPs can still complete them.

The bottom line is, make sure you’ve reviewed and understood all the requirements well before you need to renew! Different organizations may specify contact hours while others use CEUs, so you’ll need to know how to calculate all of your continuing education credits.

And with that, stay organized! Keep dedicated files of all of your CE certificates so that you can upload them when needed and make renewal a smooth process. 

Are there different types of CE activities for nurse practitioners?

On a lighter note, there are lots of different CE activities nurse practitioners can partake in! There are tons of online courses and webinars that allow you to learn on your own time and from anywhere.

Another form of continuing education that’s gaining popularity is journal clubs. These can be virtual or face-to-face meetings in which a group of participants reviews an article and answers questions in a written format.

Want to network or learn new skills? There are CE opportunities for those things as well! You can attend conferences at the local, state, or national level that can provide great networking opportunities.

And if you want to learn new suturing techniques, or learn to do aesthetic injections, or an IUD insertion, then a skills workshop can provide you with the education you need to master new procedures.

In the mood to travel? You can earn continuing education credits at top resorts and destinations across the country. You can even go on a cruise! The possibilities really are endless. You’re guaranteed to find continuing education opportunities that fit your interests, schedule, and budget.

What are some convenient and fun ways to earn your nurse practitioner CE credits?

Let’s talk about where you can earn your CE credits. One place to start is probably something you use every day in clinical practice. Did you know many point-of-care medical reference applications allow you to earn CE credits? For example, in UpToDate, you can earn credits just by searching for topics, and in Epocrates, subscribers have access to a large library of CE courses.

You should also check out CE activities from your certifying body, such as through the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) and the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). They have a lot of CE content, and it’ll be easy to upload any required documents right into your recertification application when the time comes.

And, of course we need to talk about the CE activities at SMNP Reviews! The following activities offer continuing education contact hours:

  1. Crash Course: 7 contact hours (including 1 hour for pharmacology!)
  2. Diagnosis Course: 6 contact hours (including 1 hour for pharmacology!)
  3. Pharmacology Course: 4 pharmacology contact hours 
  4. Live Study Group: 33 contact hours
  5. 1-Day Prep: 10 contact hours
  6. Job Hunt Course: 5 contact hours
  7. Monthly CE Webinars: 1 contact hour each


Further Reading

Continuing education is a great way to expand your knowledge, network with colleagues, advance your career, and provide the best care to your patients.

It may seem overwhelming when first learning about continuing education requirements, and maybe you’re wondering how you’re going to get them all done. But remember, there are so many different ways and places to earn your CE credits.

In your NP position, you’ll also likely have professional development funds that you can use towards continuing education, so make sure you use them!

Looking for more (free!) professional development content? Check out these other posts on the SMNP Reviews blog!