Continuing Competency

During the September, 2010, Nursing Care Quality Assurance Commission (NCQAC) meeting, the final rules related to continuing competency requirements were adopted. These rules went into effect on January 1st, 2011. Registered Nurses and Licensed Practical Nurses is required to maintain documentation/verification of compliance illustrating at least 531 hours of active practice and 45 hours of continuing education every three years. The three year period began with the nurse’s 2011 birthday date. Audits for compliance began in 2014. Licensure renewals will continue to be on an annual basis; however, nurses will be expected to sign an attestation every three years to reflect that they are compliant with the requirements for both practice and continuing education hours.

Definition of Active Practice

The Commission defines “active practice” as engagement in paid, unpaid, or volunteer activity performing acts requiring a nursing license as described in RCW 18.79.040. This may include working as a nursing administrator, nursing quality manager, nursing policy officer, public health nurse, parish nurse, home health nurse, nursing educator, nursing consultant, nursing regulator or any practice requiring nursing knowledge and a nursing license. In other words, active practice is NOT limited to the provision of direct patient care. The Commission recognizes that nurses use their nursing knowledge in a variety of positions and roles.

“Unpaid practice” is defined as providing uncompensated services considered within the scope and domain of the nursing profession. Examples include: A nurse volunteering time to a church (parish nurse), or a nurse volunteering nursing services at a community clinic. There is a wide range of opportunities within the nursing profession to participate in unpaid service to the community.

Verification of Compliance with Active Practice

Verification of compliance with the active practice hours requirements may include such evidence as:

  • Pay stubs showing hours worked;
  • A statement including description of the practice setting, duties and responsibilities, and the signature of a supervisor;
  • A log book documenting active nursing practice and the signature of a supervisor verifying the hours;
  • Verification from an appropriate health care provider documenting the number of hours of home care for a friend or family member.

Need practice hours? Look here for volunteer opportunities!

Definition of Continuing Nursing Education

The Commission defines “continuing nursing education” as systematic professional learning experiences obtained after initial licensure designed to augment the knowledge, skills, and judgment of nurses and enrich nurses’ contributions to quality health care…. The education hours should relate to the nurse’s area of professional practice or areas identified through reflection and self-assessment for professional growth and development. If the nurse is audited, questions may arise requiring the nurse to explain how the selected continuing education activity is relevant to their practice or desired professional growth and development.

Verification of Continuing Education

Evidence of compliance with the continuing education hours requirements may include the following:

  • Certificates of satisfactory course completion;
  • A current certificate from a nationally recognized certifying body;
  • Meeting minutes or meeting attendance rosters documenting participation in professional nursing organizations or employer sponsored committees;
  • A final transcript or transcript of classes documenting current progress towards an advanced degree in a field related to nursing practice;
  • Documentation of completion of a nursing research project as the principal investigator, co-investigator, or project director, such as summary of findings, thesis, dissertation, abstract, or granting agency summary;
  • Publication or submission for publication a health care related article, book chapter, or other scholarly work;
  • Presentations on a health care or health care system related topic with documentation such as a program brochure, agenda, course syllabi or a letter from the offering provider identifying the nurse’s participation;
  • Documentation of independent study.

Get Organized


The WSNA Continuing Competency Record Keeper Kit will help you keep track of your documents verifying compliance with the new NCQAX licensure renewal requirements.

This kit is flexibly designed to enable you to create a record keeping folder that fits your needs. Select the tab dividers (included) that are pertinent to your practice / education, and use them with the record keeper folder to create a customized kit for storing the important documents that verify your compliance with Washington State’s continuing competency requirements.

Cost: $10.

More materials and tools to facilitate documentation of compliance are under development. WSNA will be providing a series of educational offerings to help nurses better understand these new requirements. Both the Nursing Commission and WSNA web pages will have information for quick reference. If you have specific questions, please contact WSNA at:

Founded in 1908, WSNA is the professional organization representing more than 17,000 registered nurses in Washington State. WSNA effectively advocates for the improvement of health standards and availability of quality health care for all people; promotes high standards for the nursing profession; and advances the professional and economic development of nurses.

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Washington State Nurses Association CNEPP (OH-231, 9/1/2018) is an approved provider of continuing nursing education by the Ohio Nurses Association (OBN-001-91), an accredited approver by the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Commission on Accreditation.