In 1908, the Chautauqua School of Nursing boasted that graduates were earning $10 to $25 a week after just a few months of study (by correspondence, even) [source: American Association for the History of Nursing]. Those schools were the bane of serious nurses at that time, when the young profession was struggling for respect and recognition.
Today, some nurses might wish for those good ol' days of minimal study. Very soon, some experts predict, the rate of advance in medical science will double every year [source: National Advisory Council on Nurse Education and Practice]. Thus, keeping up with trends, technology and research -- and learning the new technical skills that go with them -- means continuing education (CE). In some states, CE is required to maintain a nursing license. In Illinois, for example, a nurse must complete 20 hours of approved CE over the two-year span between license renewals. Approved CE may include attending or teaching classes or seminars or having articles published in medical journals.
In addition to satisfying state laws, nurses must maintain any credentials they've earned in specialized skills or practice. A pediatrics nurse, for instance, might be tested on neonatal resuscitation.
Employers may provide (and pay nurses to attend) state-mandated CE or training that's valuable to their job effectiveness, which eases the time and money crunch. Taking advantage of other types professional development -- traveling to a conference, for example -- would come out of a nurse's own schedule and wallet.