What Is a Nurse Care Coordinator?

A nurse care coordinator is a nurse who specializes in organizing patient care and treatments by incorporating all members in the care team. They usually focus on patients with specific diagnoses such as diabetes, asthma, heart failure, etc. Care coordination helps prevent fragmented care and helps patients seamlessly transition from one care area to another. In today's complicated world of healthcare, patients need someone to help navigate them throughout the care continuum. Nurse care coordinators help to:

  • Improve patient care outcomes
  • Improve access to care
  • Decrease healthcare cost
  • Prevent hospital readmissions
  • Promote continuity of care

Becoming a Nurse Care Coordinator

Nurse care coordinators are typically bachelor's-prepared nurses with several years of clinical care experience. Formal education in care coordination is generally not part of nursing school, however, nurses do perform some level of care coordination during their shift (for example, contacting nutrition services for dietary needs). Nurse care coordinators are more specialized and focus on an individualized plan for their patients.

What Are the Education Requirements?

Nurse care coordinators usually hold a minimum of a bachelor's degree in nursing. Of course, every employer has specific requirements - some may even prefer a master's degree in nursing. Several years working in a clinical care area may also be required.

Are Any Certifications or Credentials Needed?

While it may not be required for employment, the American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing (AACN) offers certification in Care Coordination and Transition Management. The course covers nine dimensions of care coordination and touches on topics such as:

  • Patient advocacy
  • Patient and family education and engagement
  • Coaching and counseling
  • Patient-centered care planning
  • Nursing process
  • Teamwork and collaboration
  • Population health management
  • Nursing informatics

Where Do Nurse Care Coordinators Work?

Nurse care coordinators can work in a multitude of care settings. They can work in emergency departments, inpatient units, ambulatory care, and specialty units. They can also work in long-term care facilities and home health. Basically, any time patients need assistance navigating the healthcare arena, care coordinators are needed.

What Does a Nurse Care Coordinator Do?

Nurse care coordinators are, in a sense, patient representatives. Patients have very individualized needs depending on their health and diagnoses. Nurse care coordinators help obtain and utilize healthcare services based on those needs. For example, a patient hospitalized with congestive heart failure may require dietary education from a nutritionist, home monitoring via cardiology or telehealth, and activity/exercise counseling from physical therapy. The nurse care coordinator helps by collaborating with any members of the healthcare team that will help improve outcomes.

What Are the Roles and Duties of a Nurse Care Coordinator?

The specific roles and duties of a nurse care coordinator may include:

  • Educating patients and families
  • Developing care plans to involve the entire disciplinary team
  • Rounding on patients to monitor progress
  • Evaluating progress
  • Maintaining quality, safety, and patient privacy
  • Serving as a liaison between the interdisciplinary team

Nurse Care Coordinator Salary & Employment

Compensation for nurse care coordinators is extremely variable. Salary depends on the state, city, and organization of employment. According to glassdoor.com, the average base pay for RN care coordinators is $76,710 per year. Additionally, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), some of the highest paying states for RNs include California, Hawaii, the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, and Oregon.

The BLS does not have specific data for RN care coordinators, but they do predict an increase in demand for nurses by 15% until 2026. Experts contend that the increased demand is a result of an aging population, recent healthcare legislation, and an increased demand for healthcare services. Additionally, healthcare organizations are continually looking for ways to reduce costs - RN care coordinators are extremely valuable in that sense.

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