A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) in Care Coordination and an MSN in Case Management are both advanced nursing degrees that focus on optimizing patient care delivery and ensuring efficient utilization of resources within healthcare settings. While there are similarities between the two, there are also distinct differences in their scope, focus, and the roles they prepare nurses to fulfill within the healthcare system.

The Care Coordinator Role

Care coordinators focus on individualized patient care and follow-up based on a patient's needs. They utilize resources to ensure all patient care needs are met efficiently and affordably. For example, if a patient is hospitalized for congestive heart failure, a care coordination nurse can help arrange follow-up in cardiology, set up telemonitoring, bring in a nutritionist for education, and a pharmacist for medication adjustments. The care coordinator identifies the needs of the patient and arranges the necessary specialists to facilitate healing and recovery. MSN-prepared care coordinators are especially skilled in research and evidence-based practices which helps to improve overall patient outcomes.

The Case Management Role

Case managers tend to follow patients for specific conditions. For example, there are case management nurses for diabetic patients, patients with congestive heart failure, asthma, etc. Some conditions are high-risk and require more routine follow-up care to prevent complications, such as diabetes. Case managers help monitor the patient and collaborate with physicians to change treatment plans when needed. For example, a patient may be followed for diabetes management. The diabetes case manager may check in on the patient to review blood glucose levels, lab work, and diet, and assess for the presence of any hypo or hyperglycemia symptoms. MSN-prepared nurse case managers may also be able to adjust or change medications as needed, depending on their scope.

Two Essential Nursing Providers

Both care coordination and case management nurses work to individualize patient care and improve outcomes. Their main focus is the general health of the patient, but also to help prevent hospital readmission and lower overall healthcare costs. Both are essential in healthcare, and MSN-prepared care coordinators and case managers operate at a higher scope, which helps reduce the burden on primary care providers.

How to Enroll

Regardless of which type of career path you decide to go with, you’ll need to follow the basic master’s degree enrollment steps in order to become either a case manager or case coordinator:

  1. Research programs: Look for accredited options that match your goals.
  2. Meet prerequisites: Ensure you have a BSN and meet GPA and experience requirements.
  3. Prepare application materials: Gather transcripts, letters of recommendation, a resume, and any required test scores.
  4. Submit application: Complete the online application and pay the fee by the deadline.
  5. Attend interviews (if required): Prepare and participate in any interviews as part of the process.
  6. Await admission decision: Check your email regularly for updates on your application status.
  7. Accept offer of admission: Review and accept the offer, following the program’s instructions.
  8. Complete pre-enrollment requirements: Fulfill any health, background, or orientation requirements.
  9. Register for courses: Consult with advisors to select your first semester’s courses.
  10. Prepare for program start: Familiarize yourself with program expectations and resources for success.