Healthcare employers know their workers need to keep learning to retain their professional licenses, certificates and registration. Many also require continuing education for workers to keep their jobs, so they've made it easier for workers to stay up-to-date. Professional associations and colleges help with local and online courses.
It used to be harder to earn continuing education credits, but many healthcare providers offer opportunities for employees to take classes either in person or online.
Professional organizations also provide learning opportunities for their members, and some area community colleges provide them for alumni, according to Barbara Knudtson, director of learning and development for Allina Hospitals & Clinics. Employers may offer education for free or tuition reimbursement for classes taken off-site.
Keeping Track Of It All
Allina employees must keep track of the credits they've earned to maintain their licensure, certification or registration to practice.
"Each board or registration body defines what they consider continuing education," Knudtson says. "You really are personally accountable for knowing the requirements of your licensing board or registration body."
Employees may gain a number of credits at once by attending a conference or earn them over a longer period of time. They must obtain documentation showing the course was taught by a professional and that they completed it satisfactorily.
"There are so many opportunities to do this during a re-licensure or recertification period, it's not difficult," Knudtson says. "And now with a lot of professional organizations putting together free programs online, the difficulty has decreased. The hardest part is making time to do it."
Educating 6,000 Requires Coordination
At Presbyterian Homes, Margaret Dolan and a team of educators provide continuing education to 6,000 employees in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa. Presbyterian Homes centralized this function five years ago to streamline the continuing education process and ensure continuity of learning among employees. Nurses there must keep track of their own continuing education credits, but the organization does the tracking for certified nursing assistants, or CNAs.
"We provide education for the CNAs working in a home-care, assisted-living and skilled-care settings," Dolan says. "Some continuing education is a hands-on review of skills. The CNA will go to various learning stations and demonstrate competency in the skill. These are supervised by nurses. They monitor and provide suggestions and coach as needed."
Presbyterian Homes continually updates its courses to ensure staff learns what patients need. Popular courses among nurses lately have covered wound care or psychotropic medication. CNAs have a new course called "Clinical Observation for Change of Condition" that teaches what to watch for in a resident and when to notify a nurse.
"We really try to use learning to maintain skills, but also to really grow skills to match the residents whom they are serving," Dolan says. "We strive for them to be really engaged, participating, hands-on."