By Robert Hess, RN, PhD, FAAN
Executive Vice President, Global Programming
Right about now, Hillary’s nurse Marissa felt like a gold medalist in the dummy Olympics. About two sentences into a discussion about the prevention of osteoporosis in postmenopausal woman, she realized that Hillary knew more about the subject than she did. Hillary had been cruising the Net for the past two weeks, scarfing up factoids from osteoporosis websites faster than a shark feeding from a sushi bar. The problem was that Hillary could spout a fountain of data, but did not have enough background knowledge in basic sciences to make sense of it. On the other hand, Marissa had the background, but had to rely on five-year-old information from nursing school.
For nurses, continuing education (CE) is a part of being a professional. However, it involves much more than keeping your brain switched on. Perpetual learning is an imperative that reaches well beyond documenting contact hours mandated by 37 states for relicensure, required for recertification in countless specialties and expected by many employers. CE is necessary to stay competent and informed in practice settings where patients may know more than their nurses.
More and more consumers are plugged in and pulling down information about how to maintain their health and manage disease. These potential patients need well-informed nurses who can help them sort through the constant torrent of new developments in healthcare. Self-esteem issues aside, nurses who don’t continually update their knowledge, not only risk losing the confidence and trust of their patients — they can be dangerous to their patients’ health. But in a competitive market where continuing nursing education (CNE) is big business, not all offerings are equal.
As leader of the largest CNE provider on the planet, I keep my eyes on our mission and on the competition. I am constantly stumbling upon websites that offer independent, home-study modules online and unlimited contact hours at ridiculously low prices. Intrigued, I usually sample their wares. Many times, I am able finish the modules in under 10 minutes, even though they are credited for one contact hour, meaning the course should take an average of 60 minutes to complete. I often can pass the tests without having read the material. These courses sometimes lack goals or learning objectives, even though they are required for an organization to receive accreditation as a CE provider. References often are sketchy and outdated, and the content is devoid of a nursing focus. In fact, the word “nurse” might not even appear. I question the relevance and effectiveness of these offerings for enhancing nurses’ practices.
At Nurse.com, we want to deliver CE that will boost each nurse’s knowledge and advance his or her career. That’s why we take the time, effort and expense to maintain our providerships with such organizations as the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s (ANNC) Commission on Accreditation, the Florida State Board of Nursing and other state boards. As the executive vice president of Global Programming and the person responsible for all of our CE content, I don’t lose sleep over whether I correctly administered medication to a patient because medication administration is not a part of my current practice. My job is to safeguard the process that develops and disseminates CE to many of the RNs in the U.S. and, through the international reach of Nurse.com, to nurses as far abroad as Japan and Guam. My personal nightmare would be publishing inaccurate clinical information about medication administration.
Gannett Education maintains a rigorous process for ensuring the quality of its offerings that is the best in our profession and in the CE industry. It’s not only our opinion but also ANCC’s, which allocated the Premier Provider Award to Gannett Education for nine straight years for being the “best of the best.” Once a manuscript has passed initial editorial review, it is sent to paid reviewers who are individually selected for their expertise related to each offering; we do not use a generic review panel. After the manuscript has passed the scrutiny of these content experts, it is revised, edited and sometimes reviewed again. The whole process can sometimes take more than a year, but it results in articles that are deadly accurate. We believe that our learners deserve no less.
When shopping for CE, nurses should look for providers that are fast, friendly and inexpensive. However, the offerings you purchase should augment your knowledge and enhance your competency. CE does not stand for created equal or necessarily continuing education. It stands for consumer education. And nurses need to make educated choices, just like their patients, when making choices that will have a direct effect on health outcomes.