Continuing education is considered not as an advantage but as an absolute necessity in many occupations as it allows one to keep one’s skills and knowledge up-to-date. As nursing is a rapidly growing field, it requires continuous self-development and training to perform at a high level and have relevant skills and knowledge.
It is important that nurses “achieve higher levels of education and training through an improved education system that promotes seamless academic progression” (Institute of Medicine, 2011, p. 163). As higher qualification of nurses is a required quality-improvement for the healthcare system, the nurses will undeniably benefit from it. Further education and additional certification after getting a license to create an advantage in a competitive job market. It is essential for nurses to engage in continuing learning to elevate their knowledge and to care for various population groups.
The reports of the situation on the nursing job market in the USA carry mixed messages. The problem of the nursing shortage is noted, but there is a competition that new nurses face when applying for a job in their chosen area. Despite the lack of nursing staff, they are distributed unevenly among the areas as the majority of schools continue to provide traditional education focused on acute treatment disregarding the demand of the society. At the prelicensure level, most schools “are not providing enough nurses with the required competencies in such areas as geriatrics and culturally relevant care” (Institute of Medicine, 2011, p. 186). Currently, most nurses with bachelor’s degrees face severe competition in the job market and require continuing education to obtain more specific knowledge in the relevant specification. The reform at the undergraduate level is being currently designed, but until it affects the field, nurses need to take steps towards postgraduate education to fill understaffed areas.
The nursing field requires highly qualified professionals with expertise in such areas as culturally relevant care or geriatrics. According to IOM, postgraduate education is highly recommended, as well as increasing the rate of baccalaureate degree nurses from 50 to 80 percent (Institute of Medicine, 2011). IOM also aims at promoting MSN and DNP programs and ensuring that up to 10% of graduates pursue these degrees. MSN programs prepare nurses for advanced practice, clinical leadership, or nursing administration. Doctoral degrees include a Ph.D., which is a traditional research-oriented degree and a relatively new DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice). While PhD-certified nurses mostly remain in Universities, DNP programs prepare clinical scholars.
A DNP degree gives the knowledge and the authority to conduct research in a clinical setting, take quality improving actions, shape care systems, and influence organization-level issues. This degree answers the need of those nurses who aspire to make a difference in the modern health care system, and who can bring new ideas for quality improvement of clinical practice. Attaining a DNP degree requires time and training as it is recommended to get several years of practice as a registered nurse, although not mandatory. Moreover, a DNP degree offers an opportunity to practice in areas with high improvement demand, such as leadership, health policy, and quality improvement.
Achieving the rates recommended by IOM increases competition in the nursing field. Nurses require developing additional skills to be able to compete in the job market successfully. DNP programs, in particular, provide significant training in conducting evidence-based research in a clinical environment. This degree gives the qualification to implement changes into the whole health-care system. However, “nurses should hone their analytical skills with training in such areas as statistics and data analysis, econometrics, biometrics, and other qualitative and quantitative research methods that are appropriate to their research topics” (Institute of Medicine, 2011 p. 224). They should continuously exceed their scope limits and cooperate with all health care team members to improve practice environments.
Continuing education, both formal and informal, contribute to the professional competency, knowledge, and attitude of nurses. As developing competency is one of their major professional responsibilities, nurses “must be encouraged to always seek and maintain certification when it is available in their areas of practice” (American Nurses Association, 2015, p. 32). Continued education should be viewed as the source of maintaining and elevating knowledge of nurses and, in such a way, improving health care in communities. Each of them should contribute to the quality of nursing and always strive to attain knowledge that relates to their current practice. With this aim, interdisciplinary education should be implemented as it aids to fostering collaboration and widening the scope of knowledge.
It is expected that nurses who strive to obtain post-graduate certificates express genuine professional interest and attitude. They should treat their job with due responsibility, non-judgmental approach, and feel the need for sharing the acquired knowledge about safety, health, and wellness. They “recognize the impact of one’s own personal attitudes, values, and beliefs” (American Nurses Association, 2015, p. 53). In addition to this, a strong vision of the strategies they want to implement is required, as well as the responsibility for leadership in their professional practice.
The aspiration to improve one’s clinical skills and update knowledge is one of the key factors that motivate nurses to pursue continuing education. Various certification programs offer opportunities to promote the qualification, such as MSN or DNP degrees. According to Shahhosseini and Hamzehgardeshi (2015), nurses are “required to participate in special courses of continuing education for their annual assessment and promotion” (p. 189). Despite the mandatory nature of these courses, most nurses express their interest in participation as they help to improve one’s skills and elevate knowledge. Nevertheless, continuing education being mandatory faces barriers such as work commitments, lack of funds, and support from colleagues. Shahhosseini and Hamzehgardeshi (2015) offer E-learning and remote education programs as a solution to the problem.
Nurses, like any other specialists, should improve their qualification through lifelong learning which helps to be informed about all the new tendencies and implementation. However, several barriers hinder obtaining this education, such as high costs or the necessity to interrupt practice stay at university location. That is why mandatory continuing education should be required in case of providing conditions for remote education without hindering the practice.
The value of lifelong education in nursing is difficult to overestimate, as it prompts profound changes and improvement in the healthcare system. For nurses, it creates an advantage in the job market, putting them in favorable conditions in the competition. As undergraduate schools cannot respond to the societal demand, continuing education helps to fill understaffed areas with skilled specialists. Today, it is a requirement for career promotion in nursing and serves as a tool for improving competency, extending one’s scope of knowledge, and developing a responsible attitude.
- American Nurses Association. (2015). Nursing: scope and standards of practice. Silver Spring, MD: ANA.
- Institute of Medicine. (2011). The future of nursing: leading change, advancing health. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press.
- Shahhosseini, Z., & Hamzehgardeshi, Z. (2015). The facilitators and barriers to nurses’ participation in continuing education programs: A mixed-method explanatory sequential study. Global Journal of Health Science, 7(3), 184-193. doi: 10.5539/gjhs.v7n3p184