June 5, 2018

Top Free Online Continuing Education Units for Nurses

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Brittany Hamstra
By: Brittany Hamstra BSN, RN, CPN

As most nurses realize during their careers, learning never stops. It’s essential to keep up to date with the latest medical technologies, standardized treatment protocols, and evidence-based nursing care. A formalized way of measuring these are CEUs.

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What are CEUs?

CEU stands for Continuing Education Unit. To keep a valid and active nursing license, nurses must participate in continuing education throughout their careers. State boards of nursing measure their hours of participation in continuing education by CEUs.

Exact requirements of CEUs vary by state, but most states do require some amount of CEUs for license renewal.

One CEU equals ten contact hours. For classroom education or activities to qualify for contact hours, they must be nursing board-approved. If your state doesn’t require CEUs for license renewal, check that your specific hospital or unit doesn’t have a CEU requirement of its own. 

How can nurses earn CEUs?

Nursing education credits can be earned in a variety of settings. Nurses who attend conferences, seminars, or workshops can be eligible for CEUs. Online educational classes or academic nursing courses can also count towards CEUs.

In addition, many hospital systems offer free CEUs at your place of employment throughout the year. Each state’s board of nursing may have slightly different criteria for CEU approval, so if you aren’t sure if your contact hours will be approved, check with your state board.

With each completion of continuing education, try to obtain a certificate of attendance in hard copy. Find a way to organize your paper and digital CEU certificate copies so when renewal period rolls around, you can easily submit credits. 

If you are interested in attending a conference for CEU credit, this website lists conferences by date and location. For a similar list of seminars, check out this website. You can even combine your CEU requirements with taking a vacation cruise! Check out a list of CE cruises by specialty here.

Hours that won’t count for CEUs include any activities that are part of your expected professional scope - hours you work in a clinical setting, employee orientation classes, or mandatory staff meetings. 

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How many CEUs do nurses need per year?

To determine how many CEUs nurses need by state, here is an informational website including CE requirements and state board contact information. Some states, like Florida, specify requirements for specific educational classes as part of the total mandatory CEU credits. On average, nurses will need to earn 20-30 contact hours with every nursing license renewal (typically every 2 years). Once your renewal window passes, your CEU accumulation starts over again. You cannot carry over CEUs from previous years and use them throughout your career. This forces nurses to truly educate themselves in a consistent manner year to year. 

Is it possible to get CEUs free of cost?

Yes! Absolutely. Some employers will offer free classes, universities often host guest lectures, and it’s especially easy with free online courses. See below for a list of free online CEU courses.

Here’s a list of 13 free online CEU courses:

  1. Keep It Clean: Hand Hygiene and Skin Antisepsis (CE Hours: 1.00)
  2. Managing Your Time (CE Hours: 1.00)
  3. Medication Reconciliation: Avoiding Dangerous Errors (CE Hours: 1.00)
  4. Transformational Leadership (CE Hours: 1.00)
  5. Substance Abuse and Women (CE Hours: 1.00)
  6. Empowering Your Nursing Career (CE Hours: 1.00)
  7. Knocking Out Pain Safely with PCA (CE Hours: 1.00)
  8. Medication Nonadherence (CE Hours: 1.00)
  9. Healthcare Worker Fatigue: Too Tired to Care? (CE Hours: 1.00)
  10. Increasing the Effectiveness of Suicide Prevention Strategies (CE Hours: 1.00)
  11. Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency (AATD) Genetics You Should Know (CE Hours: 2.00)
  12. Improving Outcomes in Oral Anticoagulation Therapy Management (CE Hours: 2.00)
  13. Integrating Therapeutic Advances to Improve Current Practices in Myeloma Patient Care (CE Hours: 2.50)

For access to additional free CEU courses, check out,, and 

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