Industries are constantly changing. Continuing education is required for workers to stay current with the latest developments, skills, and new technologies required for their fields.
Certain professions also require continuing education to comply with laws, remain licensed or certified, or maintain membership in an association or licensing body. Overall, continuing education is considered a way for professionals to keep abreast of their fields so they don’t lag behind.
Many careers require continuing education. For example, teachers, real estate agents, and engineers are required to have a base of education and then receive updated education as they continue to work in their fields. Nursing, pharmacy, accounting, and criminal justice are additional fields in which professionals must continue to develop the skills necessary for ever-changing environments.
Importance of Continuing Education
For nurses, there are typically two types of continuing education. The first is required for them to remain licensed in their states. The second type of continuing education allows them to get more advanced degrees and qualify for higher-level nursing positions.
In the fast-paced pharmacy field, continuing education is important for career growth and licensure. Pharmacists need continuing education to renew their state licenses. Continuing education focuses on subject areas in health care, including pharmacology, patient counseling, regulatory issues, and other topics that contribute to professional pharmacy practice.
Certified public accountants (CPAs) must meet continuing education requirements established by the State Board of Accountancy of the states where their CPA licenses are held. The requirements vary from state to state. The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) also requires certain continuing education for CPAs to maintain membership.
Today’s professionals must, therefore, commit to a ‘life-long learning’ philosophy that enhances effectiveness, diagnose and more quickly solves problems, while moving away from the traditional autocratic management styles.
Meanwhile, criminal justice professionals need to stay up-to-date on the new laws, procedures, and technologies to reinforce the knowledge they have already gained.
“Today, law enforcement, probation and parole, juvenile justice, and emergency management officers are asked to ‘prevent’ as well as confront,” says Dr. Melvin L. Howard, Ph.D., program director of Criminal Justice at South University, Columbia. “This requires critical thinking, addressing unique community or individual problems, enhancing quality of life, serving an ever-changing, multicultural society, and coordination of sensitive multi-agency operations.”
“It is therefore, critically important that professionals stay current and in compliance with changes in laws and regulations, as well as technological advancements; particularly, forensic science, intelligence gathering and analysis, surveillance, financial crime detection, and investigation techniques,” Howard continues.
Education requirements for criminal justice professionals are established mainly at the agency level. According to Howard, professionals working in the legal arena have education requirements established by the state, or in some cases the federal level.
Criminal justice and legal fields include a variety of jobs, such as probation and parole officers, summary court officials, emergency management personnel, and crime scene technicians. Many of these careers require an undergraduate degree for entry, and then professionals must complete continuing education courses as they progress in their careers.
Crime scene investigators and evidence technicians must maintain certifications specific to the collection, processing, and maintenance of evidence. Traffic crash reconstructionists must maintain accredited certifications. Emergency management professionals must complete and maintain certifications for their respective states and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
“In many agencies, continuing education is essential in advancement above the first-line supervision levels,” Howard explains. “Criminal justice professionals must consider and debate thoughts that are sometimes immensely different from their own. Today’s professionals must, therefore, commit to a ‘life-long learning’ philosophy that enhances effectiveness, diagnose and more quickly solves problems, while moving away from the traditional autocratic management styles.”
Continuing Education Formats
Continuing education is offered in different formats, with many being flexible to accommodate work schedules. These programs can take place at colleges and universities, training centers, or at the workplace. Continuing education is often delivered as degree-completion programs, certificate programs, and diploma programs at colleges.
“Non-traditional higher and continuing education programs are available now to a greater degree than ever,” Howard says. “In addition to the formats mentioned, e-learning (Blackboard and WebEx) is becoming more widespread, along with other technology-based, interactive instruction, and electronic conferencing.”
Whether it is required or not, continuing education can be important for career satisfaction. Continuing education can boost confidence and lead to opportunities for career advancement.
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EBSCO Health is a preferred partner of HealthStream, the leading provider of workforce development solutions for the healthcare industry. HealthStream is focused on improving patient outcomes through the advancement of healthcare institutions’ employees. This article takes a look at the importance of lifelong learning in Healthcare and provides a perspective on how HealthStream is helping customers make this a priority for clinical staff.
In 2011, the Institute of Medicine published The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health. It recommended healthcare education to match the transformation occurring in U.S. healthcare, both in terms of the care environment and in the practices clinicians follow to achieve improved outcomes. The IOM report emphasized the need for “equally profound changes in the education of nurses both before and after they receive their licenses.” Because nursing is one of the many professions that is changing rapidly in terms of complexity and the technology involved, this report emphasizes that “creating an expectation and culture of lifelong learning for nurses is therefore essential.”
Trisha Coady, HealthStream’s Vice President of Clinical Development, shares below how HealthStream is helping our customers make lifelong learning a priority for clinical staff:
How could lifelong learning benefit patients and outcomes?
Nearly 70% of the healthcare workforce is involved in direct patient care. That’s 3.1 million of HealthStream’s 4.5 million subscribers, who complete over one million courses each week. If each of those healthcare professionals could prevent harm or death for only five people in their lifetime as a result of acquired knowledge, over 15 million lives would be saved.
How would you advise healthcare learning managers incorporate and promote a stronger focus on learning?
Decisions made after 20 years of experience differ drastically from what we would make in our first year after college. To get there, we’ve likely pursued formal education or courseware, attended conferences, volunteered on committees, leveraged peers and mentors, etc. There will always be a need for mandatory, regulatory or focused training, but I also believe it’s just as critical to offer opportunities for self-development.
How does continuing education relate to lifelong learning?
Continuing education as a component is defined by the Alliance for Continuing Education in Health Professions as, “the process by which health professionals keep up to date with the latest knowledge and advances in health care. Substantial literature exists indicating that continuing education (CE) in the health professions is effective in improving healthcare, patient outcomes and population health.”
In the Macy Report, the Expert Panel urged an emphasis on CE for:
- Validating individual practice and competence
- Engaging learners in new knowledge and skill acquisition
- Reducing/closing practitioner-identified performance gaps
- Improving patient outcomes
- Integrating knowledge, performance, competence and judgment
- Generating professional satisfaction and identity to prevent burnout
How should learning options differ according to the generations in the workforce?
According to PwC’s ‘Millennials at Work,’ an online survey (2011) of 4,364 graduates across 75 countries, 50% of the workforce will be made up of millennials by 2020. In relation to lifelong learning, PwC noted that a focused response from employers will be needed to satisfy this generation’s ambition and desire to keep learning and progress upwards in an organization faster than previous generations. Otherwise, they are far more willing to change employers or careers. One quote from a millennial that I think summarizes this generation’s view of their workplace is “My career will be one of choice. It will align who I am with what I do.”
Lifelong learning may be one of the most important competencies our healthcare staff must possess, and it will be up to employers to engage our new generation in new and different ways. If we’re not thinking about this now, we may be very challenged in the next few years to reduce the already high turnover rates in healthcare and the negative effects on quality care that follow.
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