There’s no feeling like finishing your program of study and gaining your registered nurse license, enabling you to start working in your desired profession – this is the fulfillment of a lifetime’s ambition for many.

But, of course, learning never stops, and over the course of your career, you will encounter many opportunities to continue your education, building on what you already know. You should grab these chances with both hands as furthering your knowledge and skills in this way will reap many rewards.

In this article, we’re going to take a look at these benefits, discovering the personal and professional advantages that nurses can enjoy by continuing their education throughout their career. We’ll also explore how you can embark on a transformative program of study to enhance your existing knowledge of the nurse’s role and take it to the next level, opening up many more opportunities.

What is continuing education for nurses?

Continuing education for nurses refers to education in addition to the basic level of study and training required for their role. It’s considered essential for healthcare professionals, as it enables them to keep up to date with the latest theory and techniques and ultimately deliver better patient care.

Essential nurse training in the US involves following an appropriate program of study, which could be a nursing diploma, an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Then, to practice as a nurse, you will need to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) to gain registered nurse (RN) status. At this point, you are able to start working in your chosen profession as a nurse.

Any education that goes above and beyond the scope of these basic requirements is considered continuing education for nurses. Further education may include advanced programs of study such as a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree or a doctoral degree (for example, a DNP or DNSc).

It can also include short courses, lectures or seminars on specific subject areas or treatments to expand the scope of, or refresh, your skillset. Informal learning is also relevant – reading journals, self-directed learning and reflecting on practice can all contribute to continuing education.

There are many personal and professional benefits of continuing education. We’re going to take a closer look at these in the next section.

Personal benefits of continuing education

Continuing education offers many personal benefits. To start with, it’s clear that studying to attain new knowledge and skills gives you a sense of satisfaction and confidence that will enhance all areas of your life. It may also inspire you to try new activities and meet new challenges in your personal life, adding transferable skills that you may also use in your daily professional tasks and also giving you the push you need to fulfill your personal ambitions.

Education and development undoubtedly contribute to personal development, helping you to hone a whole raft of additional skills such as critical thinking. This is the ability to draw on a range of sources of information, understand their authenticity and relevance, and come to an objective conclusion after studying them – essential attributes for making all sorts of decisions in both your professional and personal life.

There’s also problem-solving, a valuable competence that is pivotal to continued education and can also be used every day in all aspects of your life. Whether it’s solving a clinical dilemma or simply figuring out how to prioritize the commitments in your daily schedule, this skill is going to be one of your most frequently used ones!

Teamwork is also important. When you undertake a course of further education in nursing, at some point, you’ll have to demonstrate and refine your team working skills, whether this is in study groups or on a clinical placement. The ability to work successfully as part of a team is something that’s prized not only by employers but also by your nearest and dearest and the wider community. It’s one of those indispensable abilities that can help you make a success of any endeavor you undertake.

Once you commit to a program of further education, you will automatically have to develop your time management skills – especially if you are juggling professional and family commitments at the same time.

The intellectual curiosity that goes hand in hand with continuing education is a significant plus point for any individual who wishes to improve their learning. Having a broad and deep knowledge of several areas means that you can engage easily with more people, whether they’re patients, colleagues, family, friends or acquaintances.

It’s well documented that activities such as learning and education can help reduce stress levels and even mitigate against cognitive deterioration and improve memory. These activities enhance all areas of an individual’s life, delivering benefits that can truly be described as holistic. Research has even suggested that learning can help to increase your life expectancy – the ultimate incentive to take part in continuing education.

Professional benefits of continuing education

Now, let’s find out about a selection of the many benefits of continuing education for nurses.

To start with, continuing education is a requirement by many states to keep your licensure active, so it automatically provides an essential benefit in terms of allowing you to practice as a nurse. However, it also offers many opportunities to grow and thrive in a nursing role.

Education and development allow you to refresh your existing knowledge, increasing your confidence so that you can approach your role with renewed enthusiasm. This positive attitude will not go unnoticed and will certainly help to make the patient experience a positive one.

Also, of course, continuing education opens you up to learning new techniques and skills to enhance your practice and contribute to improved and more up-to-date patient care. This is particularly true where you apply evidence-based practice to your daily tasks, meaning that your patients benefit from the latest techniques and treatment with the best predicted outcomes.

With additional qualifications such as an MSN, your career prospects will get an instant boost, allowing you to branch out into ever more responsible and satisfying roles. These include the role of nurse practitioner, which offers a high degree of autonomy, or a nurse preceptor, where you mentor newly qualified nurses and support them in the early stages of their career.

You will also be able to specialize in a discipline of your choice, taking your pick from many fascinating and rewarding areas of nursing, including pediatrics, mental health, gynecology and gerontology, to name just a few.

As you work your way up to increasingly senior posts, you will reap the benefits in terms of remuneration. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary for nurses is $89,010. However, more senior nurses with qualifications such as an MSN who go into roles such as nurse practitioner can expect an annual wage of around $124,680.

In senior roles, you will also have the satisfaction of playing a part in shaping the healthcare systems and practices of the future, leading to increased standards of care and a superior experience for patients.

Let’s not forget that continuing education offers many benefits to employers. When employees are supported in their professional development, they become more empowered, more confident and have more to offer the workplace. This naturally results in more driven and engaged employees who are more likely to remain in their posts, thus driving up standards of care and improving retention rates.

Professional development opportunities will also attract more talent, so both employers and patients benefit enormously from the high quality of candidates filling posts and delivering excellent care on a daily basis.

How can I further my skills and knowledge?

If you’ve already gained your ADN and have a year of RN experience, then you’re ready to take the next step in continuing education to reap the benefits that we’ve discussed so far in this article.

You should choose a program that takes your clinical skills further, enhances your theoretical knowledge and opens up your career options. Online bridge programs tick all of these boxes and are ideal for qualified RNs who have at least a year’s worth of experience and are passionate about reaching their full potential in their career. The Associate Degree in Nursing (RN) to Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) – Nurse Practitioner program offered by Wilkes University is a prime example of a course that can prepare you for a long and varied career in responsible nursing positions. It allows you to choose from three nurse practitioner concentrations: Family Nurse Practitioner, Adult-Gerontology Primary Care and Psychiatric/Mental Health.

The nurse practitioner role

The nurse practitioner role is the obvious next step for ambitious nurses who have plenty to offer their patients and the healthcare system.

Nurse practitioners enjoy greater autonomy, delivering excellent-quality patient care and performing many more tasks than they would carry out in a traditional RN role. For example, they may perform tests and diagnose patients, write prescriptions and design treatment plans.

From a strategic point of view, they also play a leadership role that helps to shape healthcare practice and improve patient care for the future. Tasks linked to this include leading research projects, taking part in committees, and mentoring newly qualified nurses to pass on their specialized expertise.

Nurse practitioners work in a variety of settings – for example, doctor’s offices and medical centers – and, depending on the state in which they work, they may set up in their own practice.

Study that suits you

The Wilkes University RN to MN program can prepare you for all these aspects of a nurse practitioner role, and in a way that suits you. Because it’s delivered 100% online, there’s no need to waste valuable time and resources traveling to campus. It also means that you can study when and where you like, so it’s easy to fit it in around your personal and professional commitments.

On this course, you’ll be supported to find a clinical placement to complete your program of study, bringing together theoretical knowledge and practical skills in one course. This competitively priced program has an excellent track record when it comes to pass rates, so you can rest assured that your future is in good hands!

Reach your full potential

Continuing education is a fundamental component of nursing, a thread that runs throughout the entire course of your career.

As we’ve seen, it yields numerous benefits to the nurse, in both a personal and professional capacity. These benefits extend to employers and, most importantly, to patients, whose care is enhanced and optimized as a direct result of continuing education and professional development – all the more reason for you to investigate the opportunities out there to further your studies and choose a course, such as the RN to MN program, to consolidate your learning and set you off in new directions to reach your full potential as a nursing professional.