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Heinz: Continuing education for nurses would benefit patients
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Heinz: Continuing education for nurses would benefit patients

Requiring continuing education for nurses would improve patient safety in Arizona, a Tucson lawmaker said.

Matt Heinz, a Democrat who works as a hospital physician, is spearheading HB 2091, which would mandate 20 hours of instruction each year for nurses to keep their licenses.

"The nursing profession truly represents the people that are right there at the bedside with the patient for hours and hours a day," Heinz said. "I think it is especially important for them to demonstrate that continuing competency as a matter of public health and safety."

Heinz said 34 states already require continuing education for registered and licensed practical nurses.

The Arizona State Board of Nursing, which oversees licensing, currently requires that nurses accrue 960 hours of work over four years to keep their licenses.

Heinz said most acute-care hospitals and nursing homes throughout the state already provide continuing education for nurses, instruction that he said could be documented with the state board if his bill becomes law. He estimated that 25 percent of Arizona nurses aren't part of that group.

The bill doesn't specify what would constitute the format continuing education but offers examples such as individual or group training, electronic and video instruction and teleconferencing.

House Health and Human Services Committee has yet to schedule a hearing on the measure.

Dave Hrabe, associate dean for academic affairs at Arizona State University's College of Nursing and Health Innovation, said there is controversy regarding whether mandatory continuing education really works.

"One of the things [studies] have found in states that have mandatory continued education is a pattern where many nurses will wait until it's close to the time that they need to renew, then they will end up taking continuing education not related to their particular specialty," he said.

Robin Schaeffer, executive director of the Arizona Nurses Association, said some nurses have registered concerns about the bill.

"They're concerned that they're going to have to pay for it. They're concerned about the time they're going to have to put on their days off," she said.

Schaeffer said her organization has a goal of lifelong learning for nurses and is in favor of the bill, but she said wants the bill to be clearer about the types of education that would be required.

Heinz said he is working closely with the nurses association and nursing board.

"We're going to make changes on the language to make sure that everybody is on the same page," he said.

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