Home > CNA Certification Program > Maintaining Your Certification > Continuous Learning

Continuous Learning

CNA’s Certification Program offers a great deal of flexibility on the type of continuous learning (CL) activities you can count toward renewing your credential.

Examples include:

  • taking formal college or university courses
  • attending conferences, workshops, seminars and employer in-services
  • organizing and leading certification study groups
  • becoming a member of your national specialty association
  • making presentations
  • publishing articles

General guidelines

  • Each CL activity must relate to improving knowledge and skills in your nursing specialty or area of nursing practice.*
  • Each CL activity must be completed within the five-year certification term.
  • Count one CL hour for each clock hour.
  • Count any CL activities that are 30 minutes or longer.
  • You don’t need pre-authorization from CNA to count your CL activities.
  • Count the same CL activity only once during the five-year term, unless it’s at a higher level.**
  • CNA accepts CL activities earned outside Canada.

*E.g., the primary responsibilities in your job description would not count (i.e., if you’re a nurse educator responsible for orientating new staff, orientations or teaching would not count as a CL activity).
**E.g., you can only count “basic cardiac life support” once over the five years (i.e., if you take it more than once). But “basic cardiac life support” and “advanced cardiac life support” would count as two separate CL activities.

Activity guidelines
The following list provides details on CL activities you may wish to count, including the maximum number of hours you can use.

Academic courses

  • Content must apply to your area of certification.
  • Count a course taken toward completing a bachelor or advanced degree when it applies to your certification area (e.g., if you’re an emergency nurse taking an ethics course as part of your nursing degree, you must focus your assignments on ethical issues in emergency nursing for it to qualify).
  • Academic credits or courses outside your nursing specialty or area of nursing practice, such as English literature, history, music or general computer courses, cannot be used for CL hours.
    • In general, a college or university semester course (e.g., from September to December) is equal to 36 CL hours. This also applies to a distance education course.
    • As a rule of thumb, count one CL hour for every clock hour you spent attending the course (e.g., 3 hours per week × 12 weeks = 36 CL hours).

Conferences, teleconferences, seminars, workshops

  • Activities must apply to your area of certification.
    • Calculate the total hours attended. On average, claim 6 hours for each day spent at a conference.

Employer in-services

  • These are generally short CL activities of 30 minutes or an hour.

TIP: For in-services that are offered regularly (e.g., nursing grand rounds once a month), decrease your CL calculations and paperwork by keeping a running list of the sessions you attended (including all pertinent information). Then, once a year, ask your nursing supervisor or nurse educator to sign your list. Use the list as proof of your CL activities, in case CNA wants to see your supporting documents when you apply to renew your credential.

CNA certification exam development

  • Activities include:
    • sitting on a certification exam development or translation activity session
    • serving as an item writer or item reviewer
  • CNA will provide you with proof of participation.

CNA Certification Mentorship Program

  • You’ll receive 10 CL hours for each year you participate as a certification mentor.
  • CNA will provide you with proof of participation.

Independent study

  • Reading articles and answering test questions in professional nursing journals (e.g., continuing education unit (CEU) articles).
    • To count, you must complete the questions and have the activity scored. CNA will grant the same number of CL hours stated in the journal.
  • Participation in a journal club related to your nursing specialty or area of nursing practice can also be considered for CL.
    • Count the same number of CL hours as the journal club meetings.
  • Participation in e-learning tutorial programs, online courses, discussion groups and forums related to your nursing specialty or area of nursing practice.
    • As proof of your participation, print and retain hard copies that clearly show your involvement.

Leading a study group to prepare for the certification exam

  • Organizing and leading a study group to help other RNs prepare for the CNA certification exam in your nursing specialty or area of nursing practice.
    • Claim up to 40 CL hours for this activity.

Professional specialty committee/association membership or participation

  • Committee activity related to your certification nursing specialty or area of nursing practice.
  • Examples include: serving on the planning committee for a specialty conference or on the executive of the association for your area of nursing practice (by election, appointment or volunteering).
    • Exclude activities that are part of your job description’s regular responsibilities.
    • Claim up to 25 CL hours for this activity.
  • Membership in the national association representing your specialty.
    • Claim an additional 4 CL hours per year.

Presentations, lectures, posters

  • Presentations to other health-care professionals on topics related to your area of certification.
    • Includes a two-to-one formula for your preparation time (e.g., add two hours of preparation time for a one-hour presentation for a total of three CL hours).
    • If you repeat a presentation with the same content within the five-year term, you can only count it once.
    • Claim up to 10 CL hours for oral or poster presentations to a provincial or national conference.
    • Remember: one clock hour equals one CL hour when calculating your participation.

You can count a presentation more than once if you change it significantly or offer it at a different level.


  • A preceptorship in your specialty or area of nursing practice.
    • Claim up to 40 CL hours for this activity.

A preceptorship is:

  • a widespread teaching and learning method that uses nurses as clinical role models
  • a formal, one-to-one relationship (of pre-determined length) between an experienced nurse (preceptor) and a novice (preceptee)
  • designed to assist the novice in successfully adjusting to a new role (the novice may be a student or an already practising nurse moving into a new role or setting)

Organizations or departments involved in preceptorship programs provide an administrative plan based on a needs assessment and organizational philosophy. Administrative support for the program and its participants is essential for its success.

The preceptor:

  • acts as clinical teacher, professional role model and colleague
  • facilitates the preceptee’s introduction into the organization
  • collaborates with the preceptee to assess learning needs and set learning goals
  • consults with the preceptee to determine client-care responsibilities appropriate to his or her preparation
  • provides encouragement and guidance to the preceptee
  • evaluates specific learning outcomes and the overall program with the preceptee

The preceptee:

  • participates in the program as an active learner and colleague
  • consults with the preceptor in assessing learning needs and setting learning goals
  • clearly states when assigned client-care responsibilities exceed his or her preparation
  • evaluates specific learning outcomes and the overall program with the preceptor

Articles, book chapters, research projects

  • Publication of materials relevant to your area of certification that are completed during your five-year certification term.
  • Your manuscript, research paper, book chapter or book can appear in a recognized professional journal or newsletter, or it can be issued by a recognized publishing house (a copy may be requested).
  • To count as CL hours, you must be one of the recognized researchers, and the research must apply to your area of certification.
    • For a book chapter, manuscript article or paper, allot 15 CL hours.
    • For authorship or co-authorship of a book, allot 25 CL hours.
    • Remember: one clock hour equals one CL hour when calculating your participation in research.

Other activities

  • Being an external examiner for a thesis defense.
  • Learning activities completed as part of your annual continuing competence/quality assurance requirements for your provincial or territorial colleges or regulatory body.
    • Claim up to 15 CL hours for this activity.
  • Volunteering activities related to your nursing specialty or area of nursing practice (e.g., with a not-for-profit organization or charity, serving as a board member or delivering presentations to clients).
    • Claim up to 15 CL hours