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How to Document Nursing Continuing Education Credits

Kristen Hamlin
Updated November 29, 2022
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    This guide offers the pros and cons of different methods of documenting nursing CEUs. Learn about these options and general information about nursing continuing education.
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    Because nurses often complete continuing education requirements over several years, staying organized and keeping track of each course or activity can be challenging. Many states require continuing education for nurses to renew their license.

    In most cases, nurses complete requirements every 2-3 years and submit proof of continuing education units or credits (CEUs/CECs) to the state with their license renewal application. This means having a detailed record of CEUs.

    Keep reading for some ideas on how to document your nursing CEUs to streamline the renewal process.

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    3 Ways to Keep Track of Your Nursing CEUs

    CEUs and CECs are designed to keep nurses up-to-date with best nursing practices. Without proof that you earned required CEUs, you may face delays or other problems when renewing your nursing license.

    Continuing education for nurses can include multiple types of paid or free CEU courses and activities, so it’s easy for the details, like certificates of completion, to get lost in the shuffle. Busy nurses have to spend time searching email records or reaching out to CEU providers to request documentation.

    By using one of the following methods to document nursing CEUs, you’ll have an easily accessible record when you need it.


    Self-managing your own nursing CEUs using a spreadsheet is a simple, effective method. Each time you complete a CEU activity, you only need to enter the details into the document.

    • Pros: Self-management allows you to develop a system that works for you, and access it whenever you need it. It’s also easy to document many activities from different providers. You don’t need to purchase a new application or software and can use tools you already have available.
    • Cons: You have to keep up with data entry. It’s easy to lose track and forget to add CEUs. You will also need to develop a system for storing certificates of completion.

    Education Site Tracking

    When you take CEUs through an organization like the American Board of Family Medicine or the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, your account contains a record of the courses you’ve completed. You can access your data by logging into your account and gathering the information you need.

    • Pros: You don’t have to do anything extra to keep track — all the information you need is stored for you. The details are accurate, and when you need to submit documentation, it is easy to access.
    • Cons: If you take CEU courses from other organizations, you will have information in multiple places that needs to be consolidated.

    Mobile App Tracking

    Mobile apps like CEU Tracker or the CE App streamline the process of recording CEUs, allowing you to use your mobile device to add information. You can keep track of courses from multiple providers and in different states in one simple location.

    • Pros: Apps have an easy-to-use interface. They often include additional features like setting goals and tracking your progress, alerts when your CEUs are due, and access to CEU courses.
    • Cons: CEUs still need to be manually tracked.

    Frequently Asked Questions: Documenting Nursing CEUs

    What qualifies as a CEU?

    Activities that advance the practice of nursing, such as academic courses, professional development activities, and attending conferences, may qualify for CEUs.

    Activities must be accredited by the state board of nursing (BON) or the American Nurses Credentialing Center; they should contain content that goes beyond the basic knowledge and skills required for entry-level nursing.

    What is the difference between contact hours and CEUs?

    Contact hours determine the number of CEUs offered by an individual course. A contact hour is defined as 50-60 minutes of instruction. Ten contact hours equal one CEU. A semester-long college-level course is equivalent to 15 contact hours, while a quarter-long course is worth 10 contact hours.

    How many nursing CEUs do I need?

    Requirements for nursing CEUs vary by state and are based on contact hours. Several states (Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Indiana, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wisconsin) do not require any continuing education for nurses. Other states, like Louisiana, base annual continuing education requirements on the nurse’s number of practice hours.

    In the remaining states, requirements range from 5-30 contact hours every two years; in Washington, nurses complete 45 contact hours within three years. Some states also require specific topic or course requirements for nursing CEUs.

    How do you keep track of CEU hours?

    It is a nurse’s responsibility to keep track of CEU hours and submit proof of completion to the state for license renewal. This can be done using a spreadsheet, mobile application, or by using tools offered by CEU providers.

    At minimum, you need to record the name and date of the course taken, the number of CEUs completed, and the provider’s identification number. Maintain both digital and paper copies of certificates of completion. Keep records for as long as your state BON requires.

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    Portrait of Brandy Gleason, MSN, MHA, BC-NC

    Brandy Gleason, MSN, MHA, BC-NC

    Brandy Gleason, MSN, MHA, BC-NC, is a nursing professional with nearly 20 years of varied nursing experience. Gleason currently teaches as an assistant professor of nursing within a prelicensure nursing program and coaches graduate students. Her passion and area of research centers around coaching nurses and nursing students to build resilience and avoid burnout.

    Gleason is a paid member of our Healthcare Review Partner Network. Learn more about our review partners.

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