Getting the Most Bang for Your Continuing Education Buck

Have you found your continuing education experiences as a nurse practitioner to confer varying degrees of value? Some courses and activities inspire changes in your practice. Others prove to be nothing more than a required hour checked off your list. With limited funds allocated to continuing education not to mention your own personal time constraints, it's essential for nurse practitioners to spend CME dollars wisely. How do you get the most for your continuing education buck?

Spending your continuing education allowance and time wisely depends on individual circumstances. The first thing you should evaluate in selecting a continuing education conference, skills session, or online activity is your practice area. If you work in dermatology, furthering your education related to treatment of epilepsy is unlikely to be of much value. A conference geared towards primary care won't be as challenging or informative for cardiology nurse practitioners as one developed for providers working exclusively with cardiology patients. Get the most out of your time and money by enrolling in CME opportunities relating directly to your specialty. If you are a student, select opportunities you anticipate will be closely tied to your future practice area. 

The second thing nurse practitioners must consider in evaluating the value of continuing education opportunities is areas of weakness. Where could your skills use brushing up? In which areas of your job do you feel the most challenged? Has lacking of a specific skill set precluded you from applying to certain types of positions? Identify one or two areas in which you stand to improve the most. Seek out CME experiences that speak to this area of weakness. 

The third thing nurse practitioners must evaluate in assessing the value of continuing education opportunities is career growth. Certain types of skills and education make you more desirable to employers, both present and future. Applying to urgent care or ER opportunities without strong suturing abilities will likely land your resume in the 'no' pile. Experience or education with procedural skills is essential in many practice settings. Which skills do you need most to get hired? Which skills must you have in your repertoire for you to further your NP career in the future? Are there any skills you can learn which will generate additional revenue for your practice? Focus your education picks on areas that create a path for future career growth. 

Fulfilling state and employer continuing education requirements is also a consideration in planning your CME expenditures as a nurse practitioner. States increasingly require that nurse practitioners devote a certain number of education hours to the prescribing of controlled substances. General pharmacology or prescribing education hours may also be mandatory. Don't blow your continuing education budget before fulfilling these requirements. 

Lastly (but not least!), take your personal interests and CME experience into account. There's nothing wrong with enrolling in a conference that is loosely related to your specialty because you like the conference destination. Pursuing learning opportunities outside of your specialty can be interesting. It never hurts to gain background medical knowledge. Make sure these less relevant opportunities are balanced by other courses relating directly to your practice area. A word of caution - run these opportunities by your employer as they may be hesitant to reimburse you for conferences and expenses deemed to be excessive or unrelated to your current position. 

Which kind of continuing education opportunities do you find most helpful?

 

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