Pros and Cons of Mandatory Continuing Nursing Education

Continuing Nursing Education

Continuing Nursing education is defined as “systematic professional learning experiences designed to augment the knowledge, skills, and attributes of nurses and therefore enrich the nurses’ contributions to quality health care and their pursuit of professional career goals” (American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Commission on Accreditation, 2012).

Mandatory continuing nursing education would impact competency, knowledge and attitudes, and relationships to professional certification, American Nurses Association (ANA) scope and standards of practice, and code of ethics. In this work, we are going to discuss the pros and cons of mandatory continuing nursing education as it relates to each of the previously mentioned topics. We will also discuss if the group believes that continuing nursing education should be mandatory for all nurses and support our decision with rationale.

Impact on competency

Continuing competence is “ongoing professional nursing competence according to level of expertise, responsibility, and domains of practice” (Whittaker, Smolenski, & Carson, 2017, p. 1).

Professional Nursing Competence is “behavior based on beliefs, attitudes, and knowledge matched to and in the context of a set of expected outcomes as defined by nursing scope of practice, policy, Code for Nurses, standards, guidelines, and benchmarks that assure safe performance of professional activities” (Whittaker, Smolenski, & Carson, 2017, p. 1).

Currently in many states, a practitioner is determined to be competent when initially licensed and thereafter unless proven otherwise. Yet many believe this is not enough and are exploring other approaches to assure continuing competence in today’s environment where technology and practice are continually changing, new health care systems are evolving and consumers are pressing for providers who are competent (Whittaker, Smolenski, & Carson, 2017, para. 1).

“Continuing education for nurses is necessary for the nurse to remain up to date with the latest practice issues and it is necessary for patient’s safety as well “ (Ellis, n.d., p.1).

Minimizing legal risks. As professionals, nurses are expected to stay up to date by keeping their practice current. Failure to adhere to current nursing practices could be have potential legal ramifications (Nurse Journal, 2017, p.1).

“All nurses who describe themselves as professionals need to be willing and ready to implement change in their own practice by realizing that competence in any profession requires periodic updating” (Ellis, n.d., p.1).

“A patient who perceives the staff as competent and reliable is less likely to seek compensation through litigation for an adverse outcome“ (Brunt, 2001, p.1)

An expert panel has formulated the following assumptions regarding continuing competence:

  1. The purpose of ensuring continuing competence is the protection of the public and advancement of the profession through the professional development of nurses.
  2. The public has a right to expect competence throughout nurses’ careers.
  3. Any process of competency assurance must be shaped and guided by the profession of nursing.
  4. Assurance of continuing competence is the shared responsibility of the profession, regulatory bodies, organizations/workplaces and individual nurses.
  5. Nurses are individually responsible for maintaining continuing competence.
  6. The employer’s responsibility is to provide an environment conducive to competent practice.
  7. Continuing competence is definable, measurable and can be evaluated.
  8. Competence is considered in the context of level of expertise, responsibility, and domains of practice. (Whittaker, Smolenski, & Carson, 2017, p. 1).

Online and in person classes have varying costs associated with it. Who is to be the one paying? The facility the nurse is employed at or the individual nurse?

Making it a requirement for nurses as opposed to an exciting learning opportunity makes for many nurses to not be fully engaged. Thus, they may not retain what is being taught.

Nurses educational needs vary between employers, specialties, and states (Nurse Journal, 2017, p.1).

Arguments Against Mandatory Continuing Education

  • Education cannot assure knowledge or competence.
  • Constituents in remote areas lack access to CE.
  • CE is expensive.
  • Quality of activities and ability of providers vary greatly.
  • Specialization makes CE programming difficult.

Impact on knowledge and attitudes

One of the major impacts of continuing education in the nursing profession is that nurses get acquainted with the current technology. Leveraging technology is a major contribution to the quality of care, especially when considering safety. Continued education also sharpens skills and knowledge, which fosters career growth (Smith, Latter, & Blenkinsopp, 2014).

Continuing education is quite important in the development of high performance teams. The application of evidence-based services requires nurses to continually acquaint themselves with current approaches in dealing with specific health conditions. Continuation of learning is also important for the development of a learning organization, whereby team members learn from each other.

It is apparent that the cost of education is quite high in the nursing field; hence, the requirement for continuing education is a burden to the professionals. Additionally, it takes a lot of time to get the relevant education, which implies that nurses have to face work-school-life challenges. Different organizations and nursing levels also require varying educational levels; hence, some nurses would be subjected to more pressure than others (Smith, et al., 2014). Therefore, it is not a fair policy.

Relationship to professional certification

The enhancement of education and the attainment of more certificates increases the chances of a nurse to acquire responsibilities that are better paying. Qualifying for better positions also gives a nurse to use their personal philosophies to enhance the nursing approaches used in an organization, and this helps the consumers to access better services. The continued education is also an important part in self-actualization and career growth (Smith et al., 2014).

There is no doubt that the mandatory continuing nursing education will foster a workforce with professionals that have similar skills. There will be a higher level of competition for positions, and many nurses will lose their jobs. Skills will stop counting when presenting qualifications, and experience will be the main measure of qualification (Smith et al., 2014). It is also likely that the profession will not attract as many people as required. The health care system has been facing a shortage in nurses, and the embracement of policies that are not inclined toward developing incentives might see a bigger shortage of nurses in hospitals.

Relationship to ANA Scope & Standards of Practice

The American Nurse’s Association (2010) defines the Scope of Nursing Practice as “the who, what, where, when, why, and how of nursing practice that addresses the range of nursing practice activities common to all registered nurses,” and the Standards of Practice as “a competent level of nursing care as demonstrated by the nursing process” (p. 75). Nursing Process is a “critical thinking model used by nurses that is comprised by the integration of the singular, concurrent actions of these six components: assessment, diagnosis, identification of outcomes, planning, implementation, and evaluation” (American Nurse’s Association, 2010, p. 74).

How would mandatory continued nursing education positively relate to the ANA Scope and Standards of Practice?

Mandatory education would maintain nursing professionalism by reviewing the basics of nursing, the nursing process, which involves assessment, diagnosis, identification of outcomes, planning, implementation, and evaluation (Smith et al., 2014). Some nurses are really efficient in areas of the nursing process, but may need support or continued education in areas they are not as efficient in.

It would also ensure that the standards of care were being adhered to. Nurses do not have time to review the ANA standards of practice, so continued education could be utilized to update nurses on the changes made in standards of care. Too many times nurses continue to do what they know until someone informs them that it is no longer best practice and then they ask, “When did that change?” Continued education increases nurse awareness to frequent changes in our health care system which will promote delivering the best care to our patients.

Scope and standards of practice exist to outline expectations of the nurses role to ensure patients are receiving safe nursing care. Patient safety is a high priority to nurses, however if they do not receive education on changes, they may be unaware that they are not complying with updated standards or the most recent evidence based practices.

Previously we discussed how mandatory continued nursing education would positively relate to the American Nurses Association Scope and Standards of Practice, and now we are going to discuss how it would negatively relate.

As most of us know, not all nurses are the same. This means nurses do not all adhere to the same nursing standards. There are so many specialties and facilities which follow different standards. It would be difficult to create continued nursing education on scope and standards of practice that would pertain to every nurse since each and every nurse’s scope of practice is influenced by their previous education, experience, role, workplace, and population served. A class on basic scope and standards of practice may not be beneficial (Smith et al., 2014).

Mandatory continued education would take away the autonomy of the nurse and he/she may be required to learn material that is not relevant to their nursing job. Nurses attain knowledge and competency that reflects current nursing practice required for their jobs, by taking away that autonomy they may be left attending classes that do not relate to their current practice.

There is no guarantee that mandatory education will help nurses deliver safe-quality care. Nurse’s could be forced to take classes and do the bare minimum to pass. This would result in a waste of time, money, and resources, since the nurses left the class without gaining any useful information.

No matter which way you attempt to deliver continued nursing education, there is a cost associated with it. If continued education was to be mandated their would be a high cost associated with that, which would more than likely fall upon the employer to pay. With all the cost cutting happening in health care today, I’m not sure how organizations would be able to pay.

Relationship to ANA Code of Ethics

According to ANA Code of Ethics, nurses must strive to always enhance the quality of the services offered to the consumers. It is imperative to ensure that patients receive better services with time. This is the main reason that the guidance policies of the profession have always been revised to introduce better approaches; hence, it is important to continue getting education to increase competencies. It would ensure that all nurses are up to date with the scope and standards of care determined by the American Nurse’s Association and in return make sure that patients are being cared for by nurses aware of the updates and delivering the best care possible (American Nurse’s Association, 2010).

ANA code of ethics has provided the relevant guidelines for conduct, and this is sufficient to ensure that competence is upheld in the handling of all tasks in the workflow. The policies advocated by ANA are geared toward ensuring that there is a high level of competence among the professionals, and they are constantly enhanced to compel nurses to improve their skills and knowledge. This implies that if the guidelines are not constantly changing, there is no need for nurses to pursue higher education in their respective fields, especially if their performance is aligned with the requirements of the code of ethics.

Should it be mandatory?

There is no doubt that there should be mandatory continuing of nurse education. One of the factors supports this statement is that it will ensure that nurses are up-to-date in skills and knowledge. The quality of nursing services is constantly increasing following the requirement for nurses to increase their competencies (Huston, 2013). The knowledge acquisition process is bound to increase safety for patients as nurses continue adopting the use of technology in the provision of care. An evidence-based approach is required in the current health care delivery process; hence, continuous learning is relevant for the system.


American Nurses Association. (2010). Nursing Scope and Standards of Practice. Web.

American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Commission on Accreditation (2012). The Value of Accreditation for Continuing Nursing Education: Quality Education Contributing to Quality Outcomes. Web.

Brunt, B. (2001). The Importance of Lifelong Learning in Managing Risks. Web.

Ellis, S. (n.d.). Nursing Continuing Education For the 21st Century. Web.

Huston, C. J. (2013). Professional issues in nursing: Challenges and opportunities. Montgomery, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

The Nurse’s Continuing Education Toolkit. (2017). Web.

Smith, A., Latter, S., & Blenkinsopp, A. (2014). Safety and quality of nurse independent prescribing: A national study of experiences of education, continuing professional development clinical governance. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 70(11), 2506-2517.

Whittaker, S., Smolenski, M. and Carson, W. (2000). “Assuring Continued Competence – Policy Questions and Approaches: How Should the Profession Respond?” Online Journal of Issues in Nursing. Vol 5 No. 3. Web.

Removal Request
This essay on Pros and Cons of Mandatory Continuing Nursing Education was written by a student just like you. You can use it for research or as a reference for your own work. Keep in mind, though, that a proper citation is necessary.
Request for Removal

You can submit a removal request if you own the copyright to this content and don't want it to be available on our website anymore.

Send a Removal Request