Continuing Education Credit Information FAQs
Continuing Education Terms and Requirements
What is the difference between a continuing education credit, contact hour, or continuing education unit?
Health care providers who have been in practice for many years are sometimes confused by the terms continuing education unit, contact hour, CE hour, CE credits or CEU. The confusion is understandable as many providers, some states, and marketing materials tend to use the terms interchangeably. There is in fact a difference between these terms.
First, all of the above terms apply to the measurement of continuing professional education activities both for live programs, such as conferences, seminars, or hands-on courses. The terms also apply to self-study courses or journal articles, which are used for independent study by reading, viewing instructional materials, such as DVDs, listening to audio seminars, or participating in distance learning activities, such as web-based instruction.
The marketing materials for a continuing professional education activity that you are considering should clearly state the number of hours which you can earn by completing the course and the course requirements. For longer conferences or seminars, the contact hours can be broken down by the sessions you wish to attend and may not require you to attend the entire conference or seminar.
- Contact hour — the amount of “seat time” or “learning time” that has been approved for a specific educational program. Nursing contact hours are usually reported as CNE — Continuing Nursing Education.
- Credit hour — the amount of “seat time” or “learning time” that has been approved for a specific educational program. Physician credit hours are usually reported as CME — Continuing Medical Education.
- Continuing education unit (CEU) — This terms is perhaps the most confusing and misused term in continuing education. The term is primarily used in academic settings at the college and university level. It is a designation of course time/instruction where one hour is equal to 0.10 CEUs. This division by 10 means that 10 hours of instruction (or participation) is equal to one CEU. If you see the term CEU used, it should always contain the decimal point to show the fraction of hours. Be sure to read the program content and ask questions if you are not sure.
The simple answer is no. While the standard of an instructional unit is generally 60 minutes, this can vary from program to program as well as from state to state. The Joint Commission/Joint Commission Resources uses 60 minutes as its standard instructional unit. Lunches, social hours, and other non-instructional time are not eligible for continuing professional education credit.
Because regulations and guidelines do change, it is a good idea to check for updates from your state, county, or city on a regular basis and always before registering for a specific course to make sure it will be acceptable for your license/certification renewal.
Most states and professional organizations have a minimum number of hours that are eligible for professional education credit. States that require continuing professional education will provide the number of hours and requirements on their websites in the licensing section. There is generally a link to a "Continuing Education" or "Renewal" section, which will provide a definition of what is accepted, the specific types of activities that are allowed, and what the unit of measurement is for your state.
If you are nationally certified or a member of a national organization that requires continuing professional education to maintain your membership or certification, you should become familiar with the organization’s requirements. In some cases, a specific course may meet all the requirements for a national organization, but it may not be acceptable to the guidelines of the state.
If you recently attended a face-to-face or virtual conference or seminar, you can download your CE certificate by logging into Joint Commission Resource’s Learning Management System using the attached instructions:
Check your program materials for access dates.
Please contact us at the below mailbox if you need assistance, or if your program access has expired.