Graduating from college is a lifetime achievement for many people. Having earned the degree, the student has mastered their discipline and can now pursue their career. No more waking up early for classes, studying late into the evenings, taking exams, or listening to lectures.
That is what many students on the cusp of starting their careers believe. However, earning an associate’s/bachelor’s degree is the first step for many entering the workforce because continuing education (CE) is essential to the labor landscape. CE has become very important in training and keeping healthcare professionals in the loop regarding the current landscape.
What is continuing education?
CE refers to course credits given to professionals after they have taken classes in any given topic. Most medical professionals, including nurses, occupational and physical therapists, speech pathologists and other clinicians, must enroll in CE courses to work in healthcare. Furthermore, each occupation requires professionals to earn a certain number of CE credits to practice in their field. Most professions consider CE an integral part of healthcare, but there are other reasons why CE is critical to healthcare.
Why is continuing education important in healthcare?
CE allows healthcare professionals to open avenues to career growth. It presents opportunities for personal and professional development and other benefits discussed below. CE has also played a role in helping professionals adjust to the ever-changing landscapes within this massive industry. The following points explain why CE has become important in healthcare.
- Improve skills and remain up to date on practices
CE offers courses that allow healthcare professionals to build on existing skills or get updated on new practices. In either case, the information disseminated in these classes helps individuals refine the skills and training they obtained while earning their degrees or through work experience in the clinical setting. When the course focuses on getting the professional up to speed on current practices or innovations, patients can get the best care possible.
- Remain competitive
By staying current on the latest technologies and healthcare practices, professionals in any practice area increase their skills and knowledge. Whether making lateral or upward moves, the professional earning CE credits remains competitive because healthcare organizations, which always need top talent, seek professionals who can fulfill more roles than the primary job duties. Sometimes, these courses lead to certifications that edge out the competition.
- Earn credits toward other certifications
CE classes are similar to college credit courses. After the student finishes the course, they earn a certain number of credit hours. In the case of CE, students can apply these credit hours toward earning certification in some fields, such as a degree program, depending on the certification program. This ability to earn credit hours as a part of professional training can shorten the time that the person spends becoming certified. This enables them to quickly move into another part of the profession and possibly earn more income.
- Keep certifications current
Professionals also rely on CE courses to remain current on present certifications. Most certifications and credentials require the professional to complete a certain number of professional development hours before they expire. Professionals can apply their CE coursework to satisfy their professional development requirements toward certification or credential renewal. In this way, the professional gains the knowledge needed to work in their field and maintains their certification.
- Evolve the healthcare landscape
Healthcare organizations have become more than hubs of patient care in the last few decades. In the past, patients might only have sought treatment; today, the healthcare landscape provides the individual and community with so much more.
While patient care is the central mission, many organizations engage in research and community-related activities, which are now a part of the healthcare landscape. CE plays a role in helping healthcare professionals adapt to healthcare organizations’ needs so that whether the healthcare worker is dealing with patients or the public, they have research-based content knowledge they can apply to real-world applications.
- Address employee disengagement
Many hospitals employ hundreds of employees. For the individual employee, connecting with other professionals can be difficult. In terms of numbers, healthcare worker engagement is lower than in most other fields, which has translated into a higher turnover in this field and cost the healthcare industry billions of dollars.
However, CE provides professionals with the chance to engage each other. CE allows healthcare organizations to nurture their employees in a safe environment. CE coursework motivates employees to work in healthcare, build relationships and foster engagement. Finally, employees are more motivated to stay with the healthcare organization if they feel that their supervisors are committed to investing in CE to help them become better workers.
Benefits of continuing education for healthcare organizations and professionals
CE also offers healthcare organizations and professionals several benefits outside of its importance to the industry. Below are just a few of the benefits of offering or enrolling in CE.
- Have a prepared healthcare staff
In healthcare, remaining up to date on current practices and technologies can impact patient care. CE regarding procedures and practices that reduce patient wait, recovery times and discomfort levels improve the quality of patient care. Moreover, these new practices create well-prepared healthcare teams with the know-how to address the present challenges in healthcare.
- Contribute to cost-savings
Several studies have found that CE impacts cost savings for hospital organizations because more knowledge translates into practices that cost less money. While CE programs can be expensive, if just a few physicians change their treatment approach as a result of CE, it results in savings for the hospital or organization.
For example, in the case of CE concerned with teaching physicians how to address bleeding-related complications during thoracic/cardiac surgery, researchers found that if 30% of the physicians used the procedure in 2% of their surgeries annually, it would translate to savings of between $1.5m and $2.7m based on the complications. These findings were similar during clinical trials. Ultimately, CE programs can save money for healthcare organizations because they teach practitioners new methods that improve care and positive patient health impacts.
- Retain in-house specialization
Another advantage for healthcare organizations is that CE allows them to train professionals to take on additional roles. In this way, healthcare organizations prepare their employees to assume roles that specialists might in this setting. By offering CE, healthcare organizations reduce the work they must outsource because they now have an in-house specialist.
- Increase income
While having a prepared workforce and saving money benefit the healthcare organization, professionals also benefit from the potential to earn more income. More education typically translates into making more money. With the extra training, the professional can advance up the career ladder and achieve a higher salary. CE can make a difference when an employee negotiates their salary upon being hired.
- Open doors to networking and job opportunities
CE gives healthcare professionals access to others seeking to advance their careers or learn more about their field. By engaging the healthcare community, professionals meet people, learn more about the area, and gain access to groups and memberships, which opens the door to employment opportunities. Furthermore, professionals can list their CE credits on their resumes. A resume can catch an employer’s attention if they are looking for specific skills.
- Develop new interests within your field
Taking CE courses also allows healthcare professionals to explore new interests in their fields. While many begin their careers in one area, some choose to change areas or professions mid-career. CE courses can be the launch pad for looking into something new.
- No prerequisite exams required
The best aspect of CE is that in many cases, participants do not have to take preparatory exams to enroll. Course designers create these courses to assist the professional in becoming better in their current role. For this reason, no GRE or GMAT scores used for entrance into graduate programs are required.
How can CE be accessed?
Typically, the professional can access CE through their employer. In the healthcare setting, however, professionals can get information regarding the various CE courses available through different sources, including professional memberships or groups. Furthermore, students can take these classes in various formats. In addition to taking courses in the traditional face-to-face form, CE students might find themselves enrolled in CE webinars, conferences or e-learning classes.
These alternative course formats allow healthcare professionals to learn new practices without disrupting their workday because the student can do them during more convenient times for them. Regardless of the CE class structure, learning more about your vocation presents numerous benefits.