The Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing


Signe S Cooper

RECOGNITION of the significance of continuing education within the American Nurses' Association (ANA) came with the establishment of the Council on Continuing Education in 1973. Events leading up to the creation of the C ou nei I have been described in a previous issue of this Journal.1 The purpose of this paper is to detail recent accomplishments and developments.

Within the ANA structure, the Council is located under the aegis of the Commission on Nursing Education. This provides for unity of action on matters relating to nursing education - basic, graduate, and continuing education.

The Council is composed of individual ANA members with a primary interest in and responsibility for continuing education including inservice education and staff development. As with other ANA Councils, membership fee is $25 per year.

The work of the Council is carried out by a five-member executive committee and several other committees whose work is described in this paper. Much has been accomplished in a short period of time, and credit must go to many dedicated and hard-working committee members and supportive ANA staff.


Involvement of members in various activities of the Council is actively sought. From the beginning, the Council members have had an opportunity to review drafts of various documents and offer suggestions for change. These contributions are seen as most significant to the work of the Council.

Standards for Continuing Education. The development of standards for nursing practice and nursing education is one of the significant activities of the ANA. The Standards for Continuing Education, which evolved out of an earlier "Interim Statement on Continuing Education," was prepared by an ad hoc Council committee in 1974 and revised and republished in 1975.

The Standards provide a means of assessing the quality of continuing education. Nursing as a profession has a responsibility not only to set standards, but to design methods to assure their acceptance and implementation through appropriate channels. This is one of the responsibilities of the Council.

Accreditation of Continuing Education in Nursing. As states moved in the direction of establishing voluntary or mandatory systems o1 continuing education, the urgent need for accreditation of continuing education offerings became apparent. Extensive planning for a mechanism and model for accreditation was accomplished by a Council subcommittee, and the ANA's accreditation program for continuing education was inaugurated in late 1975.

Dafa Bank. Both voluntary and mandatory continuing education systems require some system of recording individual participation in continuing education; thus, the idea of a nationwide system appeared to be a viable one. Another committee developed a project proposal for the creation of a national data bank for continuing education. Since the proposal was not approved for federal funding, alternate funding is now being sought.

Sfafe Continuing Education Approval and Recognition Programs (CEARP). Nurses - as other people - are highly mobile, so the acceptance of continuing education from one state to another in meeting both voluntary and mandatory requirements was another concern identified by the executive committee. The ad hoc committee on recording and interstate mobility developed guidelines to provide assistance to states and to minimize differences between the various state continuing education programs.

The document developed by the committee (see publication listing) went through many revisions to assure its usefulness. Five regional workshops were held prior to completion of the final draft to secure adequate input from potential users and to assure its applicability to all states.

Staff Development. A majority of Council members are engaged in providing inservice education/ stall development, and a committee was appointed to examine their needs and explore ways of meeting them. The committee saw an urgent need for written guidelines for staff development and took this task as its first assignment. These guidelines have been completed and are now available.

To facilitate and encourage the use of the Guidelines, ten regional workshops are planned for this year in various parts of the country. These workshops are funded in part by the 3M Corporation.

Educational Offerings to Members

In addition to the conferences and workshops previously mentioned, the Council has cosponsored a National Conference on Continuing Education the past two years. This conference is provided cooperatively with a university; in 1976 it will be held in Austin, Texas.

Business meetings of the Council are held at each national conference; a business meeting is also held at the ANA Biennial Convention. Program sessions of interest to nurses in continuing education are designed - sometimes in cooperation with other ANA units. Several "rap" sessions are also held to provide a forum for discussion on timely topics and current issues.


The Council has just inaugurated a quarterly newsletter titled Update. It is designed to help carry out the Council's functions in providing a means of communication among nurses responsible for providing continuing education.

The newsletter is one method of getting information out to Cou nei I members. It also provides an opportunity for members to share their ideas and concerns with others.

Other Activities

The urgent need for more adequately prepared nurses in continuing education led the executive committee to explore the possibility of establishing a scholarship fund to assist nurses in this educational preparation. This is currently being investigated.

The Council has worked closely with other groups including other units in the ANA as well as with other organizations. For example, several guidelines for short-term educational programs for preparing nurse practitioners have been reviewed by the executive committee and suggestions made to the unit developing them. The Council is represented on a special committee of the National Foundation of the March of Dimes set up to develop self-contained study modules on neonatal nursing designed for inservice use.


Events relating to continuing education continue to occur at a breathtaking pace. A number of concerns have been identified by the present executive committee to refer to the new committee when it takes office after the ANA Convention in June.

One important issue relates to the question: How does self-directed learning fit into voluntary recognition or mandatory systems of continuing education? The question of nontraditional approaches to learning must be examined in depth.

This question also relates to another one: What is the ANA's responsibility to provide continuing learning opportunities to members (District 99) and other nurses who are employed overseas? And how can this be done effectively?

Another largely unexplored area relates to the impact of continuing education on nursing practice and to the cost effectiveness of continuing education,

In its formative years, much of the activity of the Council has related to professional and organizational responsibilities for continuing education. In the future, more attention must be directed to the needs of individual members.

This brief review of the activities of the ANA's Council on Continuing Education has identified some outstanding accomplishments. These are a credit to all members of the Council whose belief in the importance of continuing education led them to support the Council and to the large number of committee members who devoted many hours of volunteer time to the activities described earlier.


  • 1 Cooper SS: Why A cuunci[ on continujng education? JCEN 5(3):7-9, 1974.


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