RN Refresher Course Information

Nursing refresher courses are designed for inactive registered nurses (RNs) who want to update their skills and knowledge in preparation for a return to the workforce. They are also popular among working nurses who need to meet continuing education requirements to renew or maintain licensure. While curricula of RN refresher programs aren't typically broken down into specific subject areas, they all consist of didactic and clinical components.

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Didactic Course

RN refresher courses begin with a didactic, theoretical classroom component. Instructors lead lectures and facilitate discussions on medical-surgical nursing skills, decision-making strategies and nursing management of patients with various diseases. The primary emphasis is on developments in medical knowledge and recent therapeutic advances. If an RN refresher course is designed to meet credential requirements for state nursing licenses, it will cover new state laws and rules that relate to nursing. Students enrolled in online nursing refresher courses read electronic materials on these subjects, participate in online discussions and digitally submit homework assignments and exams during the didactic portion of the course.

Depending on how often and for how long a course meets, this portion of the program may take 3-6 months to complete. Although requirements vary by state, most RN refresher courses must include 72-120 hours of classroom instruction.

Lecture Topics

Lecture topics in an RN refresher course might include the following:

  • Medication
  • Diagnostic methods
  • Pain management
  • Medical ethics
  • Nutrition
  • Wound care
  • Charting and documentation
  • Medical terminology

Clinical Course

After passing an examination, students in an RN refresher course participate in a supervised, hands-on clinical practicum. This experience allows students to integrate their new knowledge and sharpened skills by providing direct care to patients at hospitals or long-term care facilities. Refresher courses run at a university campus usually assign students to a nearby cooperating hospital. Online nursing refresher programs sometimes assist students in securing a position with a hospital or facility near their home that meets program requirements. Most nursing refresher programs require students to complete at least 100 hours of clinical work, although some require substantially more time.

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