Much like learning leaders champion lifelong learning in their pursuit of professional and organizational development, workers in the health care field rely on continuing education to continuously enhance their ability to provide effective patient care. And for nurses in emergency settings, where seconds and minutes can mean the difference between life and death, high-quality continuing education  (CE) is even more necessary to ensure rapid — yet careful — decision-making and life-saving treatment.

Recognizing the need for engaging, high-quality continuing education content that promotes lifelong learning in the emergency nursing sector, the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing (BCEN®) partnered with WeLearn Learning Services to expand its offerings and design interactive, continuous learning for its network of certified emergency, trauma and transport nurses.

Of the almost 4 million registered nurses in the United States,  approximately 167,000 work in emergency settings, according to BCEN. For those nurses, the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing offers credentials in five areas of emergency care: general certification for emergency nursing (CEN), certification for flight-registered nursing (CFRN), certification for pediatric emergency nursing (CPEN), certification for transport-registered nursing (CTRN) and certification for trauma-registered nursing (TCRN). By partnering with WeLearn, BCEN hopes to reach nurses with content that will “[impact] their everyday practice,” says Janie Schumaker, executive director at BCEN and the president of the American Board of Nursing Specialties.

Let’s assess how BCEN is going beyond marking a regulatory checkbox to provide nurses with engaging, interactive continuing education content that transforms their ability to provide patient care.

Lifelong Learning in Nursing

Credentialed nurses through the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing are “strong advocates of lifelong learning,” shares Schumaker, “because in the health care profession — or really any profession — [education is] never a one and done.” Learning leaders and emergency nurses alike understand that the pursuit of continuous skill development and knowledge acquisition are critical to their ability to care for their people – whether in an organization, on a hospital floor or in an emergency transport vehicle. “The minute you think you know everything,” Schumaker asserts, “that’s not a good thing.”

This month, BCEN is rolling out 15 individual CE offerings through its online catalog. Previously, to maintain certification, certified emergency, trauma and transport nurses procured and documented their own continuing education. By creating engaging continuing education content in partnership with WeLearn, the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing is able to ensure consistency among and engagement with the learning offerings. Roughly one to two hours in length and accessible to any personal device, nurses anywhere will have access to continuous development when, where and how they need it.

“If nurses are committed to their professional practice, they should be lifelong learners,” says Schumaker. In addition to participating in continuing education and online learning to maintain their certification, “they’ll be doing lots and lots of practice hands-on [at work].” The offerings available to nurses through BCEN are primarily clinical content in nature — relevant to their everyday practice as well as high-risk but less frequent emergency situations. However, the offerings will also include content on leadership development for certified nurses interested in filling leadership roles in their hospitals and departments.

“There’s a lot of continuing education for nurses,” says Schumaker. But the look, engagement level, user friendliness and relevance of BCEN’s continuing education offerings set it apart from much of the on-demand continuing education currently on the market, Schumaker believes.

Personal, Engaging and Interactive Continuing Education

To better understand and more effectively engage certified nurses, WeLearn and BCEN conducted a survey to reveal their learners’ level of knowledge prior to the certification process as well as their feelings over the course of the process.

“We did a candidate mapping project to understand really who these people were and what their experience was as they went through the certification and recertification process,” says Brigid Flood, director of business strategy and operations for BCEN. This project resulted in four distinct personas that the BCEN and WeLearn leveraged in the development of the content.

In addition to persona-building, the development of BCEN’s CE offerings also included narratives and critical thinking exercises to engage learners. Flood asserts that learning starts to take place “when you make it more engaging and relevant to the learner”. In one of the offerings, learners’ interactions with another nurse, Emma, can illicit different reactions from her based on their answers — even making her cry. By engaging with characters and following a continuous narrative, learners are able to make stronger connections between the learning and the application of skills on the job.

The courses, says Schumaker, requires learners to think critically. “[The content] makes them answer questions. It gives them some scenarios to troubleshoot through. And it requires engagement and interaction. You can’t just click play, walk the dog, come back and print your certificate. You have to interact with the course.”

More Than a Regulatory Checkbox

The engagement and interactivity of BCEN’s continuing education offerings ensure that their certified nurses are equipped with the knowledge and skills they’ll need to effectively respond in emergency situations.

“If I’m a nurse walking into the emergency department, this content is super important to me. It’s not just some regulatory checkbox. This content is what I need to know to save a life,” says Schumaker. The BCEN seeks to ensure that its nurses are engaged in their development at every stage of the certification and recertification processes.

Emergency nurses and learning leaders alike must continuously build on their existing knowledge base to provide high-quality care, and both the medical field and learning industry rely upon engaged, lifelong learners. Learning leaders can take a page from BCEN’s book to go beyond simply checking the box on training and ensuring engagement in lifelong learning.