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Continuing Education for License Renewal

Registered nurses, in the State of California, are required by law (Section 1451, Article 5, of the California Code of Regulations) to complete thirty (30) hours of continuing education (CE) every two years (in addition to paying the renewal fee), to maintain an active license. Continuing education courses must have been completed during the preceding renewal period (when renewing), or during the preceding two years (when renewing a delinquent or lapsed license, or going from an inactive to active license). Courses must be taken through a continuing education provider recognized by the Board of Registered Nursing (BRN).

RNs are advised to go to the BreEZe License Verification section of this Web site and check the current status of the provider's CEP number to ensure it is still active. Courses are not eligible for contact hours when the provider number is in an expired status.

Acceptable Course Content

The content of all courses of continuing education must be relevant to the practice of nursing. Learning experiences are expected to enhance the knowledge of the registered nurse at a level above that required for licensure. Courses must be related to the scientific knowledge and/or technical skills required for the practice of nursing, or be related to direct and/or indirect patient/client care.

Courses related to the scientific knowledge for the practice of nursing include basic and advanced courses in the physical, social, and behavioral sciences, as well as advanced nursing in general or specialty areas. Content which includes the application of scientific knowledge to patient care in addition to advanced nursing courses may include courses in related areas, e.g. human sexuality; death, dying, and grief; foreign languages (conversational); therapeutic interpersonal relationship skills; pharmacology; and those related to specialty areas of nursing practice.

Courses in nursing administration, management, education, research or other functional areas of nursing relating to indirect patient/client care would be acceptable.

Acceptable Courses

Homestudy Courses

There is no limit to the number of contact hours that can be completed through independent or home study courses.

Continuing Medical Education (CME Category 1)

Continuing Medical Education is acceptable for meeting RN continuing education requirements, as long as the course is Category 1, and has been taken within the appropriate time frames.

College Courses

Courses taken for college or university credit can be used for RN continuing education. To compute the number of units earned into contact hours use the following formula:

  • 1 quarter unit = 10 contact hours
  • 1 semester unit = 15 contact hours

The course(s) must be of an advanced level (above the knowledge required for licensure).

The following courses are acceptable:

  • Advanced courses in physical, social and behavioral sciences.

    Examples:
    • Physical sciences-pathophysiology courses related to subspecialties in nursing.
    • Social sciences-physical or cultural anthropology, sociology of the family and social structure change.
    • Behavioral sciences-psychology courses including abnormal psychology, child psychology and mental health.
  • Required basic courses in physical, social and behavioral sciences for RNs who are obtaining a baccalaureate or graduate degree or specialty certification.
  • Courses where the primary focus is recent scientific knowledge applied to direct or indirect patient care.

    Content related to Direct Patient/Client care can include:
    • Advanced courses on any type of patient monitoring equipment (fetal, cardiac, respiratory, etc.).
    • Patient education strategies
    • Certification/re-certification skills such as: Advanced Life Support (ALS), audiology, etc.
    • Skills courses (stoma care, etc.)
    • Cultural and ethnic diversity
    • Foreign languages (conversational) and sign languages
    • Therapeutic interpersonal relationship skills with patients/clients
    • Courses in any specialty area of nursing practice, including occupational health nursing, school nursing, office nursing, etc.
    Content related to Indirect Patient/Client care can include:
    • Nursing administration or management, nursing education or nursing research
    • Statistics
    • Quality assurance
    • Legal aspects of nursing
    • Assertiveness
    • Teaching multi-ethnic students and staff
    • Retention of nurses in the health care delivery system, including cross training
    • Current trends in nursing and health care
    • Establishing a professional nursing business or independent practice
    • Publishing for professional journals or books
    • Instructor courses in CPR, basic life support (BLS) and advanced life support (ALS)
  • Other courses:
    • Courses that deal with grief, human sexuality, kinesiology, nutrition, crisis intervention, counseling, stress reduction, burnout syndrome, advanced nursing courses, advanced pharmacology, advanced EKG/dysrhyuthmia and advanced IV therapy

Courses Approved by Other Entities

Courses approved by appropriate state, regional and national health professional associations as well as other professional health and licensing boards in and out of California can be acceptable, so long as the content meets the Board's requirements as specified in Title 16, CCR, Section 1456. These courses must be developed for continuing education purposes.

  • Courses taken in another state, so long as the course is acceptable by that state's Board of Nursing for continuing education.
  • Courses approved by ANCC (American Nurses Credentialing Center) approved regional accrediting bodies when these courses are taken out-of-state.
  • Courses offered in California by out-of-state organizations, associations, corporations, individuals, must have a BRN approved CEP number.

Unacceptable Courses

  • Courses which deal with self-improvement, changes in attitude, self-therapy, self-awareness, weight loss and yoga
  • Economic courses for financial gain, e.g. investments, retirement, preparing resumes, techniques for job interviews, etc.
  • Courses designed for lay people
  • Liberal Arts courses in music, art, philosophy, and others, when unrelated to patient/client care
  • Orientation programs - orientation meaning a specific series of activities designed to familiarize employees with the policies and procedures of an institution
  • Courses which focus on personal appearance in nursing
  • CPR and BLS courses, basic EKG/dysrhythmia courses as well as basic IV courses that are similar to those used to certify licensed vocational nurses to start IVs
  • A course with identical content and objectives taken twice during the same renewal cycle will have its contact hours counted only once.

Audits of Registered Nurses

Random audits of registered nurses are conducted regularly (Title 16, CCR, Sections 1451(c) and (d)). All RNs are subject to random audits of CE compliance. You are required to keep certificates or grade-slips for four years as proof of CE completion in the event of an audit.

RNs Renewing for the First Time After Taking the Exam

If you obtained your initial RN license by passing the national licensing examination within the past two years and this is your first renewal, you are exempt from the CE requirement. Be sure to indicate the required status, sign your renewal request and indicate this is your first renewal on the back of the renewal form.

Advanced Practice Certificates

If you hold an advanced practice license or certificate (PHN, NP, NPF, etc.), additional contact hours are not required beyond the 30 hours required for renewal of the RN license.

Exemption from Continuing Education

Licensees shall be exempt from completion of the continuing education requirements (as specified in Title 16, CCR, Section 1451), during the first two years immediately following initial licensure (after taking the national licensing examination).

Requests for exemption from continuing education requirements can also be made, if:

  • The licensee is requesting inactive status for the license
  • The licensee can show evidence, satisfactory to the Board that:
    • he/she has been employed overseas for a period of one (1) year or more, or a resident overseas for a period of one (1) year or more and currently employed; or
    • he/she is employed by a Federal Institution or Agency or one of the Military Services (USA), where that person is practicing nursing outside of the state of California on a California license (see Special Renewal Provisions for Military RNs); or
    • he/she has had hardship of one or more years' duration, if:
      • there is a total physical disability for one (1) year or more and verification of readiness or ability to return to work; or
      • there is a total disability of a member of the immediate family for whom the licensee has total responsibility for one (1) year or more