Saving $$ and Getting Educated: Continuing Nursing Education

Saving $$ and Getting Educated: Continuing Nursing Education

(Note: This piece is specifically geared towards nurses--RN or LPN--or nursing students who will eventually need to deal with this business. Anybody else might be bored...) But I just paid 100 bucks to renew my license! And the next 24 credits aren’t due until December of 2016 anyway. (At least, in the state of Montana!) Stop talking about it! (Please get away from me with that CNE talk!) (From Note: I’m not sure if the proper term is “credits” or “contact hours” but I am using them interchangeably to mean: Continuing Nursing…continue reading →

Saving $$ and Getting Educated: Continuing Nursing Education

(Note: This piece is specifically geared towards nurses–RN or LPN–or nursing students who will eventually need to deal with this business. Anybody else might be bored…)

But I just paid 100 bucks to renew my license! And the next 24 credits aren’t due until December of 2016 anyway. (At least, in the state of Montana!) Stop talking about it!


(Please get away from me with that CNE talk!)


Note: I’m not sure if the proper term is “credits” or “contact hours” but I am using them interchangeably to mean: Continuing Nursing Education (CNE).

If you want to save some money (and some sanity later on), getting started on credits now isn’t a bad idea.

I find the MT Board of Nursing on-line site rather confusing as a resource to understand educational requirements. The website is not very accessible. The main point is that 24 CNE credits are due every two years for RNs and LPNs in Montana.

If you are graduating from nursing school soon you are not exempt! Credits are still mandatory for you (just pro-rated from your graduation date). For example: If you graduate in May 2015, you are still responsible for 19 credits by December of 2016. (Montana specific).


(I know. You just got done learning about stuff and more book-smarter than you’ll ever be!)


What and how to look for continuing education:

  • Make sure you know your state’s requirements. This post has some points specific for MT nurses, but: if you live in another state, if you’ve moved from another state, are planning a move, work in multiple states, or are a traveling nurse…get familiar with the specific requirements for each state. Nurse Practitioners (of all sorts) have different requirements than RNs and LPNs.
  • Make sure credits are legit. The course should say “Accredited Provider” by the ANCC (American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Commission). The course may be a CME (continuing medical education) credit also. Helpful resource: Refer to the ANCC website for a list of accredited/approved contact hours under the “Renewal” Q & A section. Seriously, very brief and helpful.

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  • Find a topic that is relevant to your nursing practice. Found a free 3-credit course on pediatric antibiotic therapies and you work in endoscopy (and have no interest in pediatrics)? Okay, but just because a course is free doesn’t mean you are gaining anything useful from it. Sure, you get the hours, but is that helping you become a better nurse? On the other hand…work in geriatric home-health and really interested in working at a urology clinic? Great. Educate yourself!

Free or cheap ways to obtain CNE:

  • First time ACLS courses count toward credits, along with the NIH stroke certification, and multiple other (often required) courses in the hospital setting. Some of these courses are in-house and others are on-line. Some courses, such as the NIH stroke scale certification require a small fee on-line ($10).
  • For new-grads, I believe some hospital-required orientation may include courses that offer educational credit. Make sure to ask the instructor. Make sure to get your certificate too!
  • Watch for courses offered at local hospitals. Even if you are a nurse employed in a clinic or home-care setting, you may be able to attend certain hospital courses for credit. The staff educational or HR department should have course information available…or at least point you in the right direction.
  • Whether you are in-hospital or out of the hospital, ask your employer if classroom educational sessions can be “on the clock” or if fees can be reimbursed. Many facilities have an educational budget. Although the educational budget may be limited, the worst answer you will get is “no.” I always ask “do I clock in?” and usually the answer is “yes.”

damnafricawhathappened.tumblr2(This has nothing to do with anything other than it made me giggle).


I recently went to a hospital-offered course on legal nursing documentation. Not only was the course incredibly educational (and terrifying) but also was paid time. In fact, I didn’t even obtain credit for the course because I had reached my 24-hour requirement. I usually recommend getting the certificate regardless, but at this point I had a lot of hours already…

The reason I had a lot of hours was by doing the ECCO course (Essentials of Critical Care Orientation) offered by my supervisor. The course typically costs hundreds of dollars and offers a total of 69 credits total.

Unfortunately, I made the mistake of not asking enough questions and later realized completion of the course would have paid me 300-some dollars from my employer as well! I had not completed the course in full, but instead focused on the pieces of the most interest. Oops! In the long run, I probably learned more by spending more time on individual sections, but completing it would have (literally) paid-off. I did still get 40 plus credits without paying a dime…Sigh. Can’t complain too much.

  • Ask your employer if the ECCO course is offered (and paid-for) at your facility. The course is mostly intensive review of a Med-Surg class, but extremely useful for nurses in general med-surg and critical care. That said, it is also time-consuming and you have an entire year (which will go by incredibly fast). I do not recommend taking meticulous notes like I did! You will never finish the content that way.
  • As with ALL education, don’t assume all the information is given to you up front. Ask questions. Always ask about employer-offered courses that may not be advertised. Ask your more experienced co-workers too!
  • Watch for CNE seminars that would satisfy all or most of your 24 contact hours. Can you coordinate with your other co-workers and share rides and a motel room? These are usually a bit more expensive, but can be educational and fun. They are generally cheaper to sign up as a “group” rather than as an individual. Will your employer reimburse any of the expenses?


(Nursing seminars are, like, that much fun.)


In nursing school, a group of us were able to go for a public health conference in Billings, MT. We got a fabulous deal as students and could not gain CNE (since we were not yet licensed). If there is a seminar that particularly appeals to you, this seems like a good use of time and money…and is a stimulating environment to learn!

  • Have you received those NetCE magazines in the mail? I’ve received several and ignored most of them. Then I realized they are a really good deal. The magazines themselves are pricey…so if you get one for free, hold on to it! Also, be nice and share.

I just finished a NetCE 10-hour course on COPD and a 15-hour course on Chronic Pain (just happened to be the one in the mail). Both of these are relevant to my nursing practice (although the COPD one was mostly review). In this case, you could pay $29 for both courses, or pay individual (but still $29 each). So now I have already completed 25 credits. The price jumps to $39 (max price) if you complete the course after July 2015. Another incentive to get education done early! provides multiple courses for (mostly) reasonable fees.

  • If you haven’t been to Medscape…get on Medscape. Medscape offers many free accredited courses. You just need to sign up. There are limited topics offered for free, but worth checking out.

A quick google of CNE courses for nurses brings up a ka-billion search results. Be wary of where the information is coming from…there is plenty of junk science available on the web. And, of course, sometimes “free” is not “free.”

  • also has free and paid courses available. Most free courses on-line overall seem to offer lower number of contact hours (1-3 hours) but some courses are quite worthwhile. Lower contact hour number might be just fine, because then you can get a little done at a time.
  • On that note, larger courses (even 5 contact hours, plus) should probably not be done in one sitting. You won’t learn much, and you’ll be ripping out your hair in the end.

How to Keep Track of Your Hours!

  • Print on-line certificates. Make sure to obtain paper certificates from classroom settings. In most cases, your name will be typed or written-in on the certificate.
  • Some folks like to keep all of their records on-line. In the case of CE certificates, I prefer to print them and put them in a binder. (A binder. Seriously?) Yes. I know. Old school. But, this way…if you happen to get audited, you have a copy of everything you need ready to go. I actually print two copies: one in case I am audited, and another “back up” copy in case the first is lost in the mail (from many negative recent experiences).



  • If an on-line folder with scanned documents works better for you, go for it. Just organize your certificates in some way.
  • Don’t assume you won’t get audited and don’t need to keep track of your certificates. This will save you a huge headache later if you are audited!

**Also…don’t forget to keep receipts! I am super-duper lucky to have a mother-in-law (ish) who is an accountant…but you can deduct all sorts of things like your $100 renewal fee and possibly some CNE expenses. I don’t know any of the details…but ask an accountant!



Any other suggestions for CNE or useful websites or related nurse-y things? Please let me know!

This article has 3 comments

  1. linda Reply

    Love how you have combined important continuing education info and fun photos…..thanks

  2. Cindy Reply

    I love that you consider me your mother-in-law(ish)! You are my favorite daughter-in-law. Taxwise, it’s always better to get your employer to pick up the expense for continuing education. You can claim it on your tax return but it’s not a direct write-off of tax. It might lower your taxable income if you itemize and subject to some limitations. I’ve been at work too long. I’m talking in a foreign language…Love you