Advanced medical practitioners newer to continuing education and advanced credentialing opportunities may wonder what the difference is between two common acronyms in healthcare: CME and CNE.
What is CNE?
CNE stands for Certified Nurse Educator®, a voluntary credential earned by those who desire to teach nursing professionally. Certified Nurse Educators are considered a separate area of nursing practice and share expertise in both practical nursing skills and teaching clinical knowledge. Any nursing professional at the RN level or above can earn a CNE credential.
A CNE must hold a post-graduate degree or certification in advanced nursing (a master’s degree or above) such as a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP).
Candidates for this credential must have an active nursing license and earn clinical hours. CNEs demonstrate proficiency in nursing and nursing pedagogy by passing a standardized exam and earning nursing education-focused continuing education hours.
These qualifications denote competency in nursing education and the ability to train other nurses by facilitating learning, socialization and adaptation to the healthcare environment. These professionals can serve as mentors to small groups of nurses and nursing students or lead the educative advancement of entire healthcare organizations like hospitals.
A certified CNE may work on behalf of a healthcare organization or an education provider to build a healthcare curriculum for multiple settings. CNEs working with or for an ACCME-approved organization could design content approved for continuing medical education (CME) credits. CNEs also have separate CME requirements for the maintenance of their nursing licenses.
The professional body overseeing the administration of CNE certification is the National League of Nursing (NLN), an organization dedicated to the professional development of nurses through their CNE credentials as well as research, public policy initiatives, research grants and assessment services. Its goal is to help build educated, compassionate and inclusive nursing workforces.
This mission can be compared to that of medical professional bodies such as the ANA and the AMA, as well as the primary medical continuing education board, the ACCME. The ACCME aims to “assure and advance quality learning for healthcare professionals by creating and enforcing criteria for continuing medical education standards.”
The NLN offers two different certifications for nurse educators: Certified Nurse Educator (CNE) and Certified Clinical Nurse Educator (CNEcl). Unlike CME requirements, neither is necessary to practice as an RN or Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN). A CNE has earned an advanced credential and can become a member of the APRN professional body.
What is CME?
CME refers to educational activities that have been approved for CME credits. Each state requires a specified number of credits annually or biannually to maintain medical licenses. CME is required for any practitioner with a clinical role to maintain licensing and medical facility credentialing. This includes nurses, physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and other advanced care professionals. Credit is designated and earned on an hour-for-hour basis. For every hour a participant spends on an educational activity like a conference, webinar or online course, they receive one hour of credit towards the total number required.
Individual CNEs are part of a professional organization that serves as an administrative body overseeing a mission of nursing-focused continuing education, a certification process and the professional well-being of its members.
CNEs and practitioners with separate CME requirements (including CNEs) are subject to the unique continuing education requirements of their state.
There are multiple types of CME credits. For example, physicians can earn AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™ and AMA PRA Category 2 Credit™ towards their state’s CME requirements. Separate credits also exist for nurse practitioners and physician assistants.
Renewal cycles for CNEs and nurses meeting CME requirements differ. CNEs are required to renew their certification every five years, including renewal fees, an ethics review and evidence documenting educational activities where the CNE credential was applied. CME requirements are defined by state licensing boards and vary by state, although they are typically biannual.