Refresher Courses for Nurses: Course Descriptions

Nursing refresher courses are designed to prepare inactive nurses for reentry into the healthcare workforce by getting them up to speed with recent medical developments. Some working nurses enroll in refresher courses to meet continuing education requirements needed to renew or maintain their licensure. Refresher courses are available for both registered nurses (RNs) and licensed practical nurses (LPNs). Both program levels follow a similar 2-phase structure.

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Didactic Nursing Refresher Course

Generally, curricula of nursing refresher programs aren't broken down into definite subject areas. Instead, all subjects are covered in one didactic, or theoretical, classroom course. Because the students have already completed nursing school, the focus of nursing refresher programs is on the most recent developments in medical care and nursing management.

Nursing refresher courses that are designed to meet academic credential requirements for state licensure usually cover state laws and regulations regarding the profession. This portion of the nursing refresher program can take 3-6 months to complete. Most states require that nursing refresher programs include 72-120 hours of classroom instruction. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing has information about licensure requirements and offers some continuing education classes. Nurses should check with their state board of nursing because requirements vary by state.

Course Topics

Lecture topics in a nursing refresher course may include the following:

  • Pain management
  • Nutrition
  • Medical legal issues
  • Hospice care
  • Charting and documentation
  • Medical terminology
  • Surgical updates
  • Medication
  • Diagnostic methods
  • Home health care
  • Medical ethics
  • Wound care
  • Public health

Clinical Course

Following successful completion of the classroom component, which usually includes an examination, students complete a supervised clinical practicum at a hospital or long-term care facility. The community college or university running the refresher course usually assists students in obtaining a position at a nearby medical facility, and some allow students to secure their own positions in accordance with their interests or career aspirations. The clinical component gives student the opportunity to put their sharpened skills and new medical knowledge to use in a direct patient care setting. Clinical supervisors evaluate the overall performance of students and make sure that students are applying their new skill set. Most refresher programs require students to complete 100-150 hours of clinical work.

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