UA Little Rock Professional Development Center Provides Continuing Education Training for Healthcare Professionals

The jouRNey never ends at the University of Arkansas Little Rock for our students. Whether you are expanding your knowledge base in your specialty, branching out on new topics, or updating your skills, the Professional Development Center can help you reach your goals.

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock School of Nursing has launched the Professional Development Center (PDC) to provide continuing education opportunities for nursing students, healthcare professionals, and emergency response professionals. 

The Blue & You Foundation for a Healthier Arkansas, which is funded by Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, awarded the UA Little Rock School of Nursing a $68,357 grant in January 2020 that provided the seed money for the Professional Development Center.

“In 2019, Dr. Sloan Davidson took over the chair position for the school. She had a vision to offer continuing education to the nursing population after they graduated UA Little Rock,” said Dr. Anita Joyce Simmons, assistant professor of nursing and coordinator of the Professional Development Center.  

The center’s mission is to provide state of the art, expert educational content delivered in multiple formats to meet the needs of healthcare professionals while fostering evidence-based practice for their patients.

“Nursing is a lifelong learning process. You never learn everything you need to know in nursing school,” Simmons said. “The most important thing you learn is that if you don’t know something, or have never performed a procedure, you must ask for guidance. This gap in knowledge is where the Professional Development Center’s educational modules fill in. We also have one of the largest schools in the state for graduating RNs which makes this need even more applicable .”

Over the past year, a team from IT Services and the School of Business have collaborated with the School of Nursing to promote and facilitate the continuing education platform.  

The field of healthcare and medicine is constantly evolving through advancements in research and technology. Education is vital to evidence-based care and positive patient outcomes. The courses provide continuing education credits that healthcare professionals need to licensure.

Members of the Blue & You Foundation and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock celebrate a grant to build a new continuing education center in the Department of Nursing. Photo by Brad Sims.
Members of the Blue & You Foundation and UA Little Rock celebrate a grant to build the School of Nursing Professional Development Center in 2020. Photo by Brad Sims.

“Evidence shows that patients’ mortality rates improve when they are cared for by nurses with higher education,” Simmons said. “Continuing education courses for nurses can also affect the quality of care and patient outcomes by providing necessary opportunities to improve practice skills and knowledge.”

The UA Little Rock School of Nursing is in the early process of receiving accreditation for the PDC from the American Association of Colleges of Nurses (ANCC). The ANCC is the accrediting body for Schools of Nursing and continuing education. The Professional Development Center also works in conjunction with the School of Nursing’s Center for Simulation Innovation, where they can participate in a simulation to learn new skills to complement the knowledge learned through the continuing education courses. 

“As the center grows, more varied online education formats will be offered, including virtual reality and hybrid courses with simulation activities,” Simmons said. “Interdisciplinary collaboration and negotiations with local community business partners are in plans.”

The Center for Professional Development website went live in January with several continuing education courses that are free until the end of the year. Some of the continuing education courses available on the PDC’s website cover dementia, consumer health informatics, self-care for nursing students, and a series on leadership and management.

“Nurses characteristically are passionate about providing quality care, and have an insatiable thirst for knowledge. They thrive on learning something new,” Simmons said. “Our goal is to help keep those educational flames burning, even for those nurses working full time, in remote areas, or outside of Arkansas.”

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