Respiratory CEUs

Continuing education units are required by most state licensing boards to keep RTs on the cutting edge of care. But exactly how sharp that edge will be depends, in part, on logistics.

An online comparison of state licensure requirements for respiratory therapy continuing education units (CEU) credits help describe the varying requirements — some more intense than others — in states throughout the country. And while this online information is updated periodically, take nothing for granted. “This information can change very quickly,” said Shawna Strickland, PhD, RRT-NPS, RRT-ACCS, AE-C, FAARC, associate executive director-education, AARC. “We always advise respiratory therapists to confirm with their state licensing board to avoid wasting time or money or running the risk of losing the RCP license due to information that may be inaccurate or outdated. Case in point: Florida no longer requires bioterrorism continuing education credits but does require two hours of state law as of late last year.” While some states dictate a specific amount of CEUs in each year, others allow the CEU requirements to be spread across as much as three years.

Many states also dictate where some of that continuing education must be concentrated by requiring mandatory subject areas, as in the aforementioned Florida requirement. California, for example, requires three hours of California law and ethics taken from California Society for Respiratory Care or American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC) for every other license renewal. New Jersey mandates a mandatory one hour of infection control, medial errors/patient safety, and ethics; Nevada, two hours of ethics; Ohio, one hour of Ohio Respiratory Care Law or ethics; Pennsylvania, one hour of ethics and medical errors/patient safety; and Washington D.C., three hours of ethics.
So it is wise to heed the advisory offered on AARC’s website:

“Practice acts and respiratory therapy licensure laws contain exemption or exception sections. Be aware that different state laws may exempt different individuals, entities or services. Most licensure board websites have both the statute and regulations. It is important to know exactly what the law or regulations permit in each state. Also be aware that most licensure boards have the authority to make changes to the respiratory practice act through rules, regulations and advisory opinions, and they frequently do. To assure you have the most accurate regulations, refer to the respiratory therapy licensure boards’ sites.”

NBRC Requirements
When all the state requirements are met, RTs must also be mindful of ongoing requirements by The National Board for Respiratory Care (NRBC), the credentialing body for respiratory care practitioners. NBRC credentials (acquired after July 2002) are subject to continuing education requirements (30 hours every 5 years) in order to be maintained. The NBRC’s Continuing Competency Program “has been designed to enhance and/or contribute to the continuing competence of credentialed respiratory therapists and pulmonary function technologists and demonstrate concern for patient safety,” according to the organization’s website. “Credentials awarded by the NBRC on or after July 1, 2002 are valid for a period of five years and are subject to the Continuing Competency Program requirements. Individuals participating in the Continuing Competency Program are required to provide evidence they are continuing to meet current standards of practice and have successfully renewed their national credentials issued by the NBRC.”

The importance of this requirement cannot be overstated, given the fact that credentials are required for licensure in nearly every state (Alaska, however, does not have a licensure law) or even to maintain jobs in-good-standing at many facilities.

Brent Holland, BSRT, RRT-NPS, Mission Health, Asheville, N.C., has tasked himself with helping RTs stay on top of CEUs with a hand-out and reminders he gives to fellow staff members. “After checking on the number of required CEU hours in your state, you must also check on the number of those hours that must be ‘live’ or ‘interactive’ in nature – meaning you must have the ability to ask questions of the instructor,” said Holland. Some states have no limits on home study-obtained CEUs, while others cap it from 6 to 15 units.

“It’s really not that tough to get the required CEUs,” said Holland. “There are plenty of sources of free education credits out there.” In fact, ADVANCE has offered free CE courses during virtual events, and many vendors (Philips, Drager and others) offer online continuing education programs for RTs. Respiratory conferences offer a wellspring of CEUs, with a full year’s worth of continuing education events under a single roof over the course of just a few days. Various organizations (AARC, NBRC, Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America and others) provide continuing education opportunities both online and at conferences. Clearing house websites like Totally Free CEUs make finding available free CEU courses easy, by listing all applicable offerings by date.

CEUs on Land or Sea
“The RTs who have a problem are the ones who never go to a conference and wait until the last minute when all of their CEUs are due,” said Holland who advised that RTs be sure to log onto the NBRC website to report their credits in a timely manner, proving CEU compliance.

Holland also pointed out that those pursuing a BSRT program of study can take heart in the fact that some of their classroom efforts may be rewarded with CEUs along the way. But Strickland clarified this further, with some important caveats. “The ability to earn continuing education for college-level courses is entirely dependent upon the allowances made by the state licensing board. If the state licensing board accepts college-level courses for continuing education, the courses likely have to be directly related to respiratory care. The respiratory therapist should definitely check with the state licensing board before counting on those college credits for continuing education,” she explained. “If the state licensing board accepts college-level courses for continuing education, the number of continuing education credits per college course will differ significantly from state to state. Missouri, for example, describes: ‘Successful completion of college level academic course work in respiratory care with one credit hour equaling 12 continuing education hours.’ Texas, on the other hand, states that ‘completion of coursework at or through a respiratory care educational program … shall be credited on the basis of 15 clock hours for each semester hour successfully completed for credit or audit, evidenced by a certificate of successful completion or official transcript.’ Pennsylvania does not allow this method of earning continuing education at all.” Additionally, if a state licensing board accepts college-level courses for continuing education, Strickland said there is no guarantee that the credits would be counted as “live.” “Again, this requires verification directly from the respiratory therapist’s state licensing board,” she cautioned.

If you are still having trouble working CEUs into your life, there’s yet another option to consider: Earn CEUs while on vacation. Continuing Education Inc. provides a schedule of CEUs offered aboard a variety of cruise ships going to various locales. Ready to explore Alaska? If you go June 7 on Holland America Line’s Oosterdam you could pick up 14 CE hours on medical ethics and legal medicine. Other similarly CEU-laden cruises travel to destinations as diverse as the Caribbean, the Baltics and the Mediterranean. These CEUs are offered primarily by the AMA in association with a variety of medical schools, and many are respiratory-relevant. NBRC’s website states, “The NBRC will accept any course that is accepted by your state licensing board for purposes of respiratory care licensure.” Indeed most states accept relevant courses from AMA for respiratory education. Start packing.

Valerie Neff Newitt is on staff at ADVANCE.

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