The flag of continuing education in nursing flies high. Beneath it are gathered a milling mass of nurses and others. Closer scrutiny reveals that some are saluting whiie many still stand at ease. There is an attentive group of observers noting the direction of the wind and sensing the climatic conditions that produce it. A few forcefully, and others rather tentatively, seem to be marshalling for an attack.
Theodore Shannon," in addressing the Sixth National Conference on Continuing Education in Nursing, had this to say:
"Why missionary work? Because the time for continuing education has not arrived. We think it has but that's because we're talking to each other. We're hearing ourselves. A world outside remains to be convinced of it!"
JCEN as an avenue of communication makes it easy for us to talk to ourselves. But the manuscripts published reveal a vibrant will to solicit input from the learners. Participatory involvement in identifying needs and evaluating offerings is in fact, a credo. Hence, missiles aimed at the ivory towers of academe bombard undergraduate and graduate faculty more often than continuing educators.
Inservice and staff development educators are less removed since they are in the same institution and often under the same roof as their learners. Further, they can expect to hear from supervisors and head nurses who do not willingly release staff from their central responsibilities in patient care unless they consider educational offerings relevant and subsequently valuable to the departmental enterprise.
Recently a university colleague (not of the licensed health professions) challenged me with dual questions. Where does the push toward mandatory continuing education originate? Why, when so many of you seem to be opposed, do you consider it inevitable?
Some of my conferees in staff development in a number of different states have raised these same questions of nurses in the employment settings. The more frequent and emotional response is thatfftey are telling us what we have todo, foisting it upon us. Admittedly, they is a nebulous term. It appears to include the licensing boards, the extrinsic nursing leadership, and designers of educational programs they do not attend. In spite of repeated interpretive attempts at all levels, there appears to be a commonly held view that the CEU is a weapon to be used for or against the nurse in the health care setting.
A better understanding appears to exist among nurses who are active in their state and district nurses associations. Rarely however, are the successive actions of the House of Delegates mentioned as a source or a force. Infrequently does the action level nurse so attuned to the individual needs of patients realize that an increasingly informed public is demanding greater protection and provider accountability in a health system they perceive as chaotic and less than adequate. Nor do many nurses see that mandatory continuing education for relicensure is formalized by a legislature responsive to an alarmed public, but open to the informed and considered judgment of professional groups as well as the nurse's own individual input as a concerned citizen and part of the electorate.
A partial answer to the dilemma may be found as each of us plan time in every educational offering for a discussion of these concerns. A still better answer may be to encourage our enrol lees to be catalytic to full and informed discussion among those who are not found in the sphere of our activity.
In the meantime the ground swell of CERPt, sometimes CEARP, (A meaning approval and/or accreditation) activity at state and sometimes district levels, and the headlong rush down the CEU path by individual nurses who believe that laws not yet enacted may carry retroactive force, add up to a tidal wave that can overwhelm continuing education, or sweep it to a safer, higher level affording broad perspectives.
A NEW YEAR'S MESSAGE
Study all alternative routes,
Chart your course, out don'f expect
Batten down the hatches.
Use all relevant navigational aids.
Steady at the helm. . . .
Damm the torpedoes. . . .
And full speed ahead.
Dorothy J. Hutchinson