Four Ways to Encourage Continuous Learning in Nurses

When thinking about the importance of nurses’ career-long commitment to learning, HealthStream partner EBSCO Health reminds of the 2011 Institute of Medicine publication, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, which “recommended healthcare education to match the transformation occurring in U.S. healthcare, both in terms of the care environment and in the practices clinicians follow to achieve improved outcomes. The IOM report emphasized the need for ‘equally profound changes in the education of nurses both before and after they receive their licenses.’ Because nursing is one of the many professions that is changing rapidly in terms of complexity and the technology involved, this report emphasizes that ‘creating an expectation and culture of lifelong learning for nurses is therefore essential.’”

Four Ways to Promote a Commitment to Lifelong Learning in Nurses

1. Reinforce Training as a Solution for the Constantly Changing Nature of Healthcare – Nursing is a continuous learning process. In support of this idea, Eastern Illinois University offers that “Healthcare is complex and practices are always evolving. A large segment of the patient population is over the age of 65, and older patients tend to suffer from one or more chronic health conditions. Nurses must have the necessary expertise to treat elderly patients and help them manage illnesses such as heart or kidney disease, diabetes, arthritis, cancer, dementia, Alzheimer's and obesity.

Lifelong learning gives nurses the critical-thinking and problem-solving skills needed to resolve issues they may encounter while taking care of patients. When nurses are up to date on new techniques, policies and procedures, they may influence healthcare in these ways:

  • Build strong collaborative relationships with patients and coworkers.
  • Improve patient outcomes.
  • Decrease mortality rates.
  • Reduce the chance of errors.

Lifelong learning is another component that builds nurses’ competency and supports better outcomes.

2. Invest in High Quality, Evidence-based Training and Promote It – High Quality training and learning can make an outcome-oriented difference in a care a nurse provides. Crating and maintaining high standards for educational materials clearly contributes to the promotion of continuous learning in nurses. According to Nurse Journal, “Nursing best practices and standards of care are continually changing. As more evidence is gained and new advances in technology emerge, there are more ways that patients’ nurses can help to improve mortality and quality of life. Continuing education gives nurses fresh information that can be implemented to improve patient outcomes. Nurses don’t practice by the same standards they did 20 years ago or even 5 years ago so it’s important for nurses to make an effort to stay informed of impending changes to their nursing practice.” Even better, offer free learning access that is also CE eligible is a tangible way to offer nursing staff something valuable for which they might otherwise have to pay.

3. Link the Completion of Learning to Career and Salary ObjectivesConsider making the achievement of learning objectives a requirement for position advancement, moving to different positions, or salary increases. Many healthcare organizations claim that being a learning organization is one of their primary values. When you make specific employee job goals contingent on completing regular educational milestones, you reinforce this commitment to ongoing training for staff. A best practice is for healthcare leadership to advocate nurses’ continuous learning and visibly reward staff who embody this value.

4. Make Learning Options Convenient, Demonstrating You Understand the ‘Busy-Ness’ of the Nursing Profession – Nurses have very little free time, which makes it very hard to concentrate of learning requiring a significant amount of uninterrupted focus. In addition, nurses’ required training is not insignificant when you factor in education about new equipment, changes to evidence-based practice, etc. Many organizations can help nurses learn by offering them training in smaller doses. Smaller bursts of purposeful education can make a big difference in changing nurses’ attitude about learning and improve outcomes for everyone involved.


HealthStream provides multiple options for healthcare organizations to improve outcomes through employees’ clinical development, from improving perinatal outcomes and supporting responsible opioid administration to decreasing ED errors and helping the MedTech industry provide new pharmaceutical and medical device training. In addition, access to HealthStream’s CE options for nurses helps healthcare providers support their lifelong learning.

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