Idaho nurses now required to have continuing education

The Idaho Board of Nursing is now requiring nurses to track and report their continuing education and training to stay licensed.

The new rules, which take effect when the Idaho Legislature adjourns, will affect nurses who are scheduled to renew their licenses starting in 2018 for licensed professional nurses, and in 2019 for registered nurses.

Until now, nurses in Idaho did not have to show evidence of continuing education. Physicians and other health care providers were required to report a certain number of hours of training or education, when seeking to renew licenses.

“In my tenure, about every five to seven years, someone would ask the board to revisit that: Is there a reason we don’t require continuing education for nurses?” said Idaho Board of Nursing Executive Director Sandra Evans. “And over the years, the board would undertake a study. ... Every single time, the conclusion was continuing education, in and of itself, is no guarantee of competence.”

The board couldn’t build a strong argument for continuing education that would justify the cost to licensees or their employers, or the extra workload for the board’s own staff, Evans said.

But in 2010, a “national conversation” about the variations in criteria for nurse licensure among states sparked the board’s interest, Evans said.

“The Board of Nursing did agree that the public was really looking for some form of something that would show that nurses remained competent as long as they’re in their licensed careers,” she said.

The board eventually decided to come out in favor of what it calls “continuous professional development” that would ensure nurses in the field are “relevant and knowledgeable.”

The new rules are fairly open. Nurses can fulfill their requirements in various ways that include traditional courses, online education, in-house workplace training and “professional activities” such as research, publishing articles, running for office in nursing organizations and participating in committees, Evans said.

Working as a nurse for 100 hours or more would fulfill one of the two required activities that nurses must complete in a two-year period before applying for a license renewal, she said.

Audrey Dutton: 208-377-6448, @IDS_Audrey