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What’s the Difference Between CERPs, Contact Hours, and CEUs?

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In a previous post, I differentiated among L-CERPs, R-CERPs and E-CERPs, described requirements for submitting CERPs, and more. However the recent changes in the types of CERPs required for those who are recertifying by CERPs is described here. Now, in case you need to renew a license and/or a certification, let’s take a look at the differences between CERPs, contact hours, and CEUs.

What’s a CERP?

CERP is an acronym that stands for Continuing Education Recognition Point. One CERP unit is 60 minutes of professional education as determined by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE®).

Where can I use my CERPs?

If you are recertifying as an IBCLC® through continuing education, you’ll need CERPs.

Are CERPs accepted elsewhere?

CERPs absolutely must not be confused with other types of continuing education credits. A CERP is not a contact hour or a CEU or a CME or a CPE or anything else.

To the best my knowledge, CERPs do not “count” toward license renewals for those who hold a state-issued license and governed by a state Board. So, for example, if you are a registered nurse in a state that requires continuing education for a nursing license renewal, you’ll need to earn nursing credits for license renewal.

I have no idea how this works in countries other than the United States. If you’re a reader who is not US-based, please comment!

What are Contact Hours?

I’m painfully aware that many people say “CEUs” but if you’re a nurse, you’re decades behind the times. I began applying for my courses to gain credits around the late 1980s. I asked our director of professional development what I needed to do to apply for “CEUs” and at that time, she told me that I was woefully out of date.

One excellent article outlines the differences between CEUs and contact hours. Published in 2015, the most important point in this article is this:

“Both contact hours and CEUs measure the amount of time an individual participates in an organized educational experience for continuing education in a number of professions; however, they represent two completely different measurements.”

The details in that article boil down to these points, which I’ll summarize in a comparison table:

 Contact HoursCEUs
FunctionMeasure amount of time spent in an organized continuing education courseMeasure amount of time spent in an organized continuing education course
Used byNurses (and perhaps others)Officially recognized by many professions, but not nurses
Uses criteria established byAmerican Nurses Credentialing CenterInternational Accreditors for Continuing Education and Training
Accepted as recognition forNursesOther professions, (including Certified-Nurse Midwives)
“One” is equal to60 minutes (one clock hour) of an organized learning activity10 hours (or 600 minutes) of an educational activity

What are the differences in CERPs and Contact Hours?

Let me try to boil down the differences between CERPs and contact hours.

 CERPsContact hours
“Official recognition” forIBCLCs engaging in continuing educationNurses engaging in continuing education
Criteria is established byInternational Board of Lactation Consultant ExaminersAmerican Nurses Credentialing Center
Used toRecertify as an IBCLCRecertify in a nursing specialty, and/or to renew a state-issued nursing license
Associated with a government-issued licenseNoYes
Acceptable for entry into practice?YesNo
Specific “disciplines”Very stringent; only 7 disciplines/topics that are recognizedAll kind of disciplines and topics are recognized. This includes topics related to professional development, business ventures, and more.
Variations of the unit of measure?Yes. L-CERPs, E-CERPs, R-CERPsNo
Broad/narrowNarrowBroad

Many IBCLCs are also nurses. That’s great! But everyone needs to understand what “counts,” what doesn’t “count” and how to get the most bang for the buck.

Can a course or program count for both CERPs and contact hours?

Maybe.

I offer many programs that carry both CERPs and contact hours. So, if you’re wanting to do a little double dipping, check out my programs.

Here’s a question I sometimes get: “Why does this learning program offer CERPs but not contact hours (for my nursing license)?” Ah, yes. Good question. It has to do with your “original” education, and your roles.

Let’s say it’s a learning program on documentation. Ethically, I could not offer contact hours for the nurse, because all nurses would have had basic instruction in documentation during their basic entry-into-practice program.

However, that learning program could carry CERPs for the IBCLC, because CERPs make no distinction between what is acceptable for the person who is qualifying for the first time, or the 5th time.

Conversely, there are learning programs for which I might offer contact hours, but not CERPs. For example, I could offer a course on how to revise your résumé and get a new job, and that would qualify for contact hours, but not CERPs. (That topic is not on the Detailed Content Outline, and therefore would not count. According to IBLCE, “Education eligible for CERPs must cover subjects found on the IBCLC Detailed Content Outline.”)

Another example pertains to roles and scope or practice. Something might not qualify for CERPs if it pertained to something that is within the nurse’s scope of practice, but not within the IBCLC’s scope of practice.

For example, if I offered a learning program on how to start an IV infusion, that would qualify for contact hours because the content is within the nurse’s scope of practice. But it would not qualify for CERPs because it’s outside of the IBCLC’s scope of practice.

In short, it’s important that you know what you actually need to earn and what counts for that unit requirement.

What other questions do you have about recognition for continuing education and renewal of your certification and/or license? Let me know in the comments.

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2 Comments

    • Marie Biancuzzo

      I’m so glad it helped! (I actually had to do a fair amount of thinking to make those comparisons, but it is important.) We are also running some free webinars to help people with this whole new thing on re-certification rules, so please, DO join us if that will help you!

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