Education doesn’t end after nurses graduate and become licensed RNs. Instead, they start on a path of lifelong learning that goes on throughout their nursing careers. It’s critical that they continue gathering information to keep abreast of changes in nursing.
What Is Lifelong Learning?
Nurses continue to learn throughout their careers to gain knowledge so they can competently fulfill their scope of practice and standards of care. It may include formal or informal educational opportunities such as:
- Enrolling in traditional or online degree programs.
- Watching online webinars and videos.
- Attending conferences.
- Joining nursing associations.
- Obtaining specialty certification.
- Receiving on-the-job training.
- Researching and reading nursing journals, articles and evidence-based literature.
- Collaborating with other healthcare professionals.
- Volunteering on committees.
Why Is Lifelong Learning Important in Nursing?
Healthcare is complex and practices are always evolving. A large segment of the patient population is over the age of 65, and older patients tend to suffer from one or more chronic health conditions. Nurses must have the necessary expertise to treat elderly patients and help them manage illnesses such as heart or kidney disease, diabetes, arthritis, cancer, dementia, Alzheimer’s and obesity.
Lifelong learning gives nurses the critical-thinking and problem-solving skills needed to resolve issues they may encounter while taking care of patients. When nurses are up to date on new techniques, policies and procedures, they may influence healthcare in these ways:
- Build strong collaborative relationships with patients and coworkers.
- Improve patient outcomes.
- Decrease mortality rates.
- Reduce the chance of errors.
Why Should Nurses Consider Continuing Their Nursing Education?
Nurses should pursue lifelong learning for a variety of reasons:
- Today, most patients and their family members demand exceptional care. Even though many patients educate themselves about their conditions, they expect their nurses to know more than they do about diagnoses, procedures and treatment options.
- Effective leadership in nursing requires nurses to possess not only management and interpersonal skills but also knowledge of current trends in healthcare and innovative technology.
- As a nurse’s career progresses over the years, some of what they learned in nursing school may become obsolete. While nurses accumulate on-the-job experience, it may not be enough to keep up with the rapid transformations in healthcare.
Well-informed nurses may be happier and more confident in their nursing role, which helps with job satisfaction and employee retention. Lifelong learning may also help nurses advance in their careers and earn a higher salary.
Kim Sikorski, a clinical documentation specialist at Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center in Mattoon, Illinois, and a graduate of Eastern Illinois University’s (EIU) online RN to BSN program, is an advocate of lifelong learning. “Nursing is a profession that requires a commitment to lifelong learning in order to be successful,” Sikorski says.
Learn more about the EIU online RN to BSN program.