Nursing Refresher Courses and Classes Overview

Nursing refresher courses are available for licensed vocational nurses, licensed practical nurses, registered nurses and nurse practitioners. These are usually taken as comprehensive standalone courses.

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Essential Information

Available at community colleges, universities and nursing institutes, nursing refresher courses help inactive nurses catch up with the latest developments in patient care so they can return to work. Working nurses who need to meet continuing education requirements for licensure renewal also take these courses. Courses are often available in an online format and may be self-paced, although schools may normally have a time limit for completion for such courses. Other nursing refresher courses take place on campus and may last as little as a few weekends.

While there are separate programs designed for registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, licensed vocational nurses and nurse practitioners, courses are typically divided into a theoretical and clinical component. Each state sets requirements for the number of hours required for both of these components. Students completing either an on-campus or online refresher course have to do their supervised clinical work at a local healthcare facility. Upon completion of all requirements, students get a certificate of completion and can proceed with the process for reviewing or reinstating their license in their state.

List of Courses

Descriptions of theoretical and clinical refresher courses for nurses are shown below.

Theoretical Course

The theoretical classroom component of a nursing refresher course reviews nursing management basics and educates students on recent medical and therapeutic advances. Coursework is designed to build on the foundational knowledge students already obtained in nursing school or at work, and courses may be taken on-site or online.

Course instructors deliver lectures and lead discussions on topics like medical care decision-making strategies, nursing management of patients with different ailments and state laws regulating the nursing profession. Students enrolled in online nursing refresher courses read articles and other electronic materials on these subjects and participate in discussions in online forums. While each state sets its own requirements for nursing refresher courses, most refresher courses must include 70-120 hours of theoretical instruction.

Lecture topics

Lectures and classroom discussions in a nursing refresher course may focus on the following subjects:

  • Medical terminology
  • Home health care
  • Surgical advances
  • Medical law and ethics
  • Diagnostic methods
  • End-of-life care
  • Nutrition
  • Wound care
  • Medication

Clinical Course

After passing an examination on the material covered in the classroom portion of the nursing refresher course, students start a clinical practicum. The school administering the nursing refresher course usually secures positions for students in hospitals or other long-term care facilities; however, students enrolled in online programs are sometimes required to seek out their own position with a nearby facility that meets program requirements.

Under the close supervision of a licensed nursing professional, students in a nursing refresher program use their polished nursing skills and newly updated medical knowledge in a direct patient care setting. Generally, both the registered nurse and licensed practical nurse refresher programs require that students complete 80-100 hours of clinical work within a set period of time.

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