What’s The Difference Between CEUs And Contact Hours?

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What’s The Difference Between CEUs And Contact Hours? | BeaconLive

Find Out Everything Nurses Need To Know About Continuing Education Units And Contact Hours 

The healthcare industry is a fast-paced, ever-changing field that requires professionals to become lifetime learners. This helps doctors, pharmacists, and nurses maintain high-quality patient care, improve competency, and ensure better outcomes for those they help. 


Nursing professionals like you always look for CE courses to bring new skills and techniques to your patients. When a nurse completes continuing education activities, it shows that they value their profession and are always looking to learn new things. 


It also helps them obtain valuable continuing education units and contact hours needed for license renewal and continuing education requirements. 


But what is the difference between a CEU and contact hours? These terms are commonly confused but have distinct differences in the world of professional development. 


Let’s look at what these terms mean, why they are essential, and what you need to know about CEUs and contact hours for nurses.


Laptop, mug, paper, pen and phone on a desk ready for a CE unit.

Source: Unsplash


What Is A Continuing Education Unit? 

Continuing nursing education, or CNE, is a term used to describe courses designed specifically for nurses. 


A continuing education unit, or CEU, reflects the time a nurse spends participating in a nursing education program, learning activity, or seminars. 


CEUs were initially created by the International Association For Continuing Education And Training, or IACET, to create highly effective training programs for all types of professions, including nursing. 


A single CEU equals ten hours of instruction in a CNE course or approved activity. You’ll need a certain amount of CEUs to meet your continuing education requirements for your state. 


Each state board has different CEU requirements for registered nurses. For example, in Florida, nurses must complete 24 continuing education units every two years to maintain licensure in the state. This is equal to 240 hours of accredited educational courses and approved activities. 


What Are Contact Hours? 

While some people use the terms CEUs and contact hours interchangeably, there are actually key differences. Contact hours are a standardized measure used to log how much time nurses spend in continuing education. 


One contact hour is equal to one clock hour, or 60 minutes, of dedicated nursing CE. You can obtain contact hours at seminars, workshops, conferences, vendor education programs, and virtual continuing education courses. 


Twelve states require RNs to complete a specific number of contact hours on approved topics to hold on to their nursing license. 


While the amount of time each state requires per renewal period varies, all will not count topics that are not directly related to nursing, such as self-help, English, or math. 


However, these contact hours do not include any time spent in the following activities: 

  • Business meetings 

  • Coffee or meal breaks 

  • Social activities or networking 

  • Vendor exhibits, unless they are providing approved educational activities


To earn contact hours, you need sixty minutes of instruction. In general, for nurses to maintain certified and registered central service technician or CRCST status, they will need twelve contact hours per year or about one per month. You’ll need more for additional certifications. 


Why Are Continuing Education Units And Contact Hours Important For Nurses?

Great CME courses are crucial for nurses to show they have furthered their education after earning their BSN. It helps you to stay up to date on the latest developments in the health industry. 


You’ll also be able to learn new techniques you can use to help improve the quality of care you provide to your patients. 


Earning continuing education credits not only helps nursing professionals further their knowledge, but it helps them obtain certification and licensure in their state. 


If you’re a nurse looking to earn CE credits for your next renewal cycle, here’s how to tell if the continuing medical education courses you’re interested in will be worthwhile. 


What You Need To Know About Finding The Right Learning Activity

As you look for continuing education activities that will help you further your nursing practice, you may be wondering how to tell which courses suit you. 


Here are some ways to tell whether or not the course you choose will help you earn the right contact hours and continuing education units for your license renewal. 

  • Look for virtual CME opportunities: Not all CE courses need to be in-person. The healthcare industry is using webinars and webcasts to provide accredited CME to nurses across the world. It’s a great way to earn CEUs in your free time from the comfort of your home. 

  • Choose an approved provider: For your CME courses to be accredited, they need to be offered by a continuing education provider approved by a board of nursing like The American Nurses Credentialing Center or ANCC. 

  • Look for the right topics: Some states require that a certain amount of your CEUs or contact hours come from specific courses, like pharmacology or mental health awareness. Check with your state board to find out what CEU requirements they have. 

  • Check with your state’s nursing board for specifics: Each state has its own requirements, so it’s essential to confirm what you’ll need before your renewal is due. Remember, if you live in one state but practice in another, you’ll need to meet the licensure requirements for both states. 


Don’t wait until the last minute to find the right continuing education courses for your nursing license renewal. Look for continuing education webinars and virtual conferences to connect with other nurses from across the world while earning the CEUs you need for recertification. 


The sooner you plan your CE opportunities, the easier it will be to renew your license. 


Find The Right Continuing Education Course For Your License Renewal 

CEUs and contact hours may seem similar to the untrained eye. And these terms are often used interchangeably. 

However, there are distinct differences that are crucial for every nurse to know, especially since some states require a specific amount of both contact hours and continuing education units. 


Take the time to find continuing education courses that will help you improve your nursing practice and become the best healthcare professional you can be. 


Topics: Certificates, Continuing Education, Continuing Medical Education (CME), Medical & Healthcare

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How often should I calculate my contact hours?

You should calculate contact hours on a weekly basis. 

How do I get certificates from virtual continuing education courses?

The continuing education provider will create and send certificates to attendees via email or through the learning management system.

What are the benefits of a CME tracker?

A CME tracker will keep tabs on your CEUs and contact hours from a specific provider in one central location without you having to calculate and track them yourself.