Tips for staying on top of continuing education
By Lisa Phillips, RD
If you were to ask me what my least favorite thing about being a registered dietitian is, keeping up with my continuing education units (CEUs) would be at the top of the list. Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand the purpose of CEUs, the importance of them, and I even enjoy continuing to learn. Let’s be real though, it can be a cumbersome process finding CEUs, keeping track of them, making sure you obtain the minimal limit requirements for all areas (i.e. CDR, state licensure, specialty certifications, etc), time consuming, and even costly. Over the years I’ve tried different things to help minimize the CEU burden on my shoulders and this is what I’ve found to be most helpful:
BE ORGANIZED: I see more often than not, dietitians who procrastinate getting their CEUs until the last minute, which in turn causes them a great deal of stress. In order to avoid this, I literally write on my calendar “Get CEUs” every month (except November and December because realistically just getting my job done is hard enough with all the holiday parties). After I obtain my CEU(s), I go and log it into my CDR plan (which takes two minutes) pretty much right away, then file it in a folder labeled “CEUs” for safe keeping and reference. This process breaks down obtaining and logging CEU’s into a smaller chunks, minimizing the overwhelming feeling they can cause many dietitians.
KNOW HOW TO GET CEUs: I utilize several ways to obtain CEUs. I do webinars, attend conferences, or attend CEU educational opportunities with the local dietetics organization. If I’m looking to knock out a huge chunk of CEUs at once (with an added bonus of a resume booster) there is always the option to get a new certification (i.e. Serve Safe, CPR, Weight Management, etc), obtain an advanced certification (i.e. Board Certification as a Specialist in Pediatric, Renal, Gerontological, Oncology, Sports Dietitian, etc), and even take college classes (work toward that master’s or PhD).
MINIMIZE COST: There are a plethora of opportunities to obtain free CEUs via webinars. I find it helpful to sign up to receive emails from different organizations (i.e. Today’s Dietitian, Nestle, Abbott, local dietetic association, etc) allowing opportunities for free CEUs to come straight to me so I don’t miss out. Some facilities offer in-service opportunities for nurses to get free CEUs (i.e. CPR certification, guest speaker, classes, etc) and many times will extend the offer to dietitians if they ask. I also find it helpful to speak with my employer to inquire about stipend or reimbursement opportunities. Many employers will pay for certifications that benefit their facility and can be justified as a need (i.e. ServSafe when working in the kitchen, diabetic educator when working with diabetic patients, etc). Employers want their employees to be abreast of the most recent information in their fields, so some employers have tuition reimbursement programs; others may have a yearly allowance toward educational opportunities.
It’s important to not let CEUs drive us crazy, but allow them to benefit us as they are intended to do. Just remember: stay organized, plan ahead, use them to boost your resume, and find ways to minimize the potential financial burden.
Lisa is a Registered Dietitian whose home base is in Ruston, Louisiana.
She’s worked travel consultant RD positions for Dietitians On Demand since 2014.
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