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Lifelong learning is a timeless pursuit
EDITOR'S NOTE: Eileen Williamson, MSN, RN, is the former senior vice president and chief nurse executive at OnCourse Learning. Williamson continues to write for Nurse.com and serve in an advisory role.
Learn for life with our CE offerings
By Eileen P. Williamson
MSN, RN
Nurses are fortunate in terms of many ways available to us to advance our education and keep on learning forever. The term “lifelong learning” is one that can be defined in different ways, but to me it’s continuing to find new ways, both professionally and personally, to keep furthering our education and gaining knowledge throughout our careers and our lives. Continuing nursing education can be a big part of our lifelong learning. There are countless ways we can access it to strengthen our expertise and enhance our professionalism. As nurses, it is something we cannot and should not allow ourselves to do without. Our profession keeps growing and changing and so must we. A 2017 article in the Harvard Review said “…it is easier than ever to make a habit of lifelong learning,” and nowhere is that habit easier to acquire than in nursing. Not only does our profession encourage and invite us to continue our learning, but in most states our boards of nursing mandate us to complete continuing education hours on certain topics and to renew our licenses to practice. We don’t always have the time, finances or the life circumstances to get an advanced degree, but taking a continuing education course is something all of us can do. CE is always there for us, available in myriad ways, whether in a classroom or on a laptop. It would be difficult to say we can’t get it done or don’t have the time it takes to earn a contact hour. Opportunities for us to learn and grow are always available, and our learning can never be at an end.
We all start out as new grads, and as time passes we gain experience, increase our salaries, and move on to new and different specialties. We take pride in our progress, but money and titles do not bring true professional fulfillment — at least not to me.

Learning new skills and holding old ones, being experts in our field and having a voice are things that do bring fulfillment. Continuing education helps us with all of them.
Savor the possibilities
Professional organizations, as well as nursing and healthcare leaders encourage continuing education. In its 2010 landmark report on the future of nursing, the Institute of Medicine recommended that nurses, nursing students and faculty “continue their education and engage in lifelong learning”. Among the goals the IOM put forth was a recommendation that called for nursing to ensure member engagement in lifelong learning that would promote collaboration between nursing, healthcare organizations and educators. Lifelong learning empowers us to move our profession forward. The seat we have at the healthcare table and in decision making, as well as the role we play in shaping policy and adding to the body of knowledge come from our continued learning. At 87, not long before his death, Michelangelo is quoted as having said, “I’m still learning.” We need to keep on educating ourselves, learning, and increasing our knowledge — forever. And continuing education is one of the best ways to do it all.
It's a lifelong pursuit
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