Are you stuck in a rut at work, doing the same job year after year with little or no hope of moving up the ladder? Do you regularly wish you could switch gears midway through your career in pursuit of that dream job? Are you the idealist who believes education is a continuous process and has an undying thirst for knowledge or the realist who wants that promotion and the consequent increase in salary?
The situations described above may be different, but the solution to all of them is one – continuing education. The term continuing education, which includes degree credit courses amongst many other types of learning activities, refers to education that imparts to students who are older than the traditional age of university-going students.
What is Continuing Education?
After completing the traditional education and training pathway for a health care profession, health care providers engage in continuing education activities to stay up-to-date and rapidly adopt proven medical advances.\ Before creating a continuing education activity, educators and clinicians work together to identify gaps in patient care and outcomes, determine why these differences exist, then design education that will address the causes of the gaps. By sifting through mountains of existing and emerging data and then presenting educational content based on reliable scientific evidence, continuing education professionals improve clinical practice, patient care, and outcomes.
Why is Continuing Education important to health care and patient outcomes?
Continuing Education has been proven effective at improving patient outcomes and saving lives. The Institute for Healthcare Improvement reports that a key factor in closing the gap between best practice and common practice is the ability of health care providers and their organizations to spread innovations and new ideas rapidly. Continuing Education is a vehicle for spreading best practices about how to attain improved outcomes.
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It takes an average of 17 years for new research submitted for publication to be broadly accepted in clinical practice. The strength of supporting scientific evidence, the availability and cost of new and alternative therapies, the impact of laws and regulations, and the need for training must be considered before medical advances become standard practice. Continuing Education accelerates this process by fostering the presentation of data that has been examined, evaluated, and synthesized for the busy practitioner.
For example, since the year 2000, deaths from coronary artery disease have been reduced by nearly 40%. This reduction is due to numerous advances: new drugs (such as the statins that lower cholesterol levels); new technologies (such as drug-eluting stents that keep coronary arteries free of plaque), improved processes (such as the new protocols for heart attacks that result in faster, more effective treatment); and a greater emphasis on prevention (by controlling blood pressure, weight, and cholesterol levels). These advances were communicated by a network of organizations providing continuing education to health care professionals such as physicians, physician assistants, nurses, nurse practitioners, technologists, and others.
Health care professionals committed to lifelong learning take advantage of continuing education Forbes provided at national and local meetings, local hospitals, online education high school, medical centers, and online, print, and other forms of media. State licensure boards, certification boards, and other healthcare organizations understand the importance of continuing education in delivering quality care and encouraging or sometimes require, regular participation in continuing education activities.
Here are some of the major benefits of completing continuing education requirements:
Keep up with current research and advances in the field.
Continuing education conferences tend to showcase the latest innovations that would be of interest to industry professionals. Most meetings include a variety of lectures and presentations as a part of the program. These opportunities expose attendees to the most current advances in the field, perhaps even before they are presented to the public or published in industry journals.
Enhance skills through participation in labs
Many continuing education events feature a laboratory component where participants can sharpen their technical skills and gain practical experience with new techniques or equipment. Labs are especially common within the animal health career community, with those working in the veterinary and veterinary technician fields in particular.
Maintain professional licensure or credentials
It is very standard for licensing organizations and professional membership groups to require that American high school education credit hours be completed (and documented) to ensure that credentials remain current. This helps them hold their members to a higher standard of education and ensures that they can give the highest quality care to their clients. The animal health professions are well known for requiring continuing education credit hours to maintain a license or certification to practice.
Network with other industry professionals
A large number of professionals attend continuing education events, so this can be an excellent opportunity to network and make connections that could translate into profitable relationships or job opportunities down the line. It can also be a great opportunity for recruiting new team members if you are an employer with open positions.
Broaden your knowledge to other areas
Professionals are encouraged to select from various lecture and lab options to complete their continuing school education credit hours. This, in turn, encourages event attendees to expand their knowledge and consider other aspects of their field. Expanding your skillset can better prepare you for the job you currently have, or you can learn valuable new skills that could prepare you for a career change.
Improve the quality of care
Professionals that complete continuing education credit hours can offer high-quality care due to their exposure to the latest innovations, techniques, and research. Education has an overwhelmingly positive effect on patient care.
Increase job prospects
Continuing education can significantly enhance a candidate’s chances of securing new employment, and the continuing education credit hours can provide a significant boost to a candidate’s resume. A high number of documented continuing education credits can demonstrate the candidate’s serious commitment to the field and their desire to provide high-quality service. A candidate with a strong educational background may have the edge on a rival candidate with fewer documented continuing education hours. Networking at conference events can also be a big plus, allowing candidates to find out about unadvertised job openings.
Disruptors in education may be a necessity for some and a passion for others. But the fact remains that for many, it may not be possible to give up a full-time job for continuing education. That’s where online degrees and distance learning programs are helpful – as they allow working adults to learn and earn at the same time.