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My facility is considering collaboration with an online education company to gain access to programs that offer contact hours. How do I ensure I'm choosing a company that will successfully suit my facility's needs?

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The Internet is filled with sites offering information about continuing education for nurses. Just type the phrase “continuing education for nurses” in your Web search engine, and you’ll come up with literally millions of hits. If you are looking for an online partner, carefully evaluate the services and quality of education that the sites offer. Ask the following questions:

  • Are the programs approved by acceptable accrediting bodies? Make sure that the company offers contact hours that are approved and accepted by your state licensing boards and accrediting agencies as appropriate.
  • What is the fee per contact hour? Some sites offer a flat fee for unlimited hours within a specific period of time. Others require payment per program. Still others offer a fee for a certain number of programs. If you partner with an online company, you may be able to negotiate for a better rate for your organization’s nurses. 
  • What is the company’s target audience? Some companies may indeed offer approved programs, but be sure that the offerings meet your needs. Does the company offer programs that are of interest to certain specialists? Are they too basic? Are they too complex? Review several courses to be sure that they meet your needs.
  • Will the company’s offerings meet your specific needs? Don’t partner with an online company simply to save time or money. You really want to partner with a company that can offer services that you can’t. Otherwise, why bother?
  • Does the company have a process to maintain records of which nurses have accessed education offerings? This type of process will make it easier for you to maintain accurate records. If you have to track down who takes what course and when, you will be assuming an added burden that will take too much of your valuable time.
  • Are you able to check the company’s references? Never partner with an online company until you have checked their references carefully. Talk to your colleges in staff development. Access chat rooms under the control of your professional associations, find out who is using this type of company, and ask what their experiences have been.

Adrianne Avillion, DEd, RN

(October 2010)