NEW YORK NURSE: March 2009
Q.: I need 30 hours of continuing education or credits to maintain my certification, but I am confused by the “alphabet soup.” What are CEUs, CMEs, and CHs?
A.: American Nurses Credential Center (ANCC) Commission on Accreditation uses the term “contact hours” or “CH” for continuing education credits. One contact hour provides “60 minutes of an organized learning activity, which is either a didactic or clinical experience.” The course must be related to nursing practice, be above basic training level (as given in nursing school), and approved by an accredited provider.
Courses or workshops from an ANCC-accredited provider have met strict criteria for quality content, are recognized by most states and agencies, and provide an avenue through which nurses can maintain professional competence.
ANCC-accredited courses, certifications, and workshops promote a commitment to high-quality nursing practice.
The term “continuing education unit” (CEU) was established in 1970 when a national task force set out to establish a form of continuing education credit that was different from the academic system used in universities and colleges. The International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET) determined that one CEU would involve “10 contact hours of participation in an organized continuing education experience under responsible sponsorship, capable direction, and qualified instruction.” This term is used by many licensed professions, including architects, engineers, teachers, and paraprofessionals.
The term CEU is in the public domain and any organization may award CEUs without strict criteria to assure a quality program. Employers and organizations can decide on an individual basis whether or not to accept CEUs.
Continuing medical education (CME) is the unit defined by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME). It is equal to one hour and relates to education utilized primarily by physicians to keep competent, current, and up-to-date in their medical knowledge.