How Can I Become a Case Manager?

Many nurses work shift-to-shift or day-to-day, often with a different set of patients each time. This career path appeals to some nurses, especially those who like the triage aspects of the emergency room or the work in a doctor’s office or clinic. However, some nurses prefer to focus on a patient’s case from start to finish, and for these nurses, case management may be the specialization that brings the most satisfaction.

What Do Case Management Nurses Do?

Case management nurses can choose to work with patients in a narrow field of medical care or branch into more than one field. However, many case management nurses prefer to refine their skills with a specific subset of patients and focus on only one type of case.

One of the biggest jobs a case management nurse handles is the management of resources for a patient. Case management nurses manage recovery plans after surgery, help patients find affordable medication, and even arrange for social services intervention for elderly or disabled patients who need help with independent living. These nurses communicate with doctors, hospitals, nursing homes, and other providers to ensure that patients have seamless and integrated care.

Becoming a Case Management Nurse

Case management nurses often have a master’s in nursing beyond their regular registered nurse four-year degree. Many case management nurses choose this career because of previous work experience in teaching, social services, or other personal service professions, so many of them have undergraduate degrees in areas other than nursing.

Case management nurses will need to focus some of their studies on the financial components of nursing as well as the personal care aspects. Many case management nurses are called upon to integrate available insurance and financial resources to ensure that their patients are served, so having some knowledge of the financial aspects of healthcare is a big benefit in this career.

What Courses or Certifications Must I Have to Work In Case Management?

While you are not technically required to have any certification to be a case management nurse, many hospitals and doctors prefer it when they choose case management specialists. Most nurses who are case managers in large clinical settings have a master’s in nursing in a particular field as well as certification for their skills. In addition to passing an exam, a case management certification usually requires that nurses have a minimum of two years experience as an RN and 2,000 hours in the case management field, and have completed a minimum of 30 hours of continuing education or graduate coursework.

What Are My Job Prospects as a Nurse Case Manager?

While the Bureau of Labor Statistics’s Occupational Outlook Handbook does not segregate nurse case managers from other nursing and healthcare management professions, the growth rate for health care managers in general is 22 percent, about double the rate for most jobs. The median salary in 2010 for this job category is $84,270.

While the BLS’s category includes hospital administrators, many nurse case managers find themselves in administrative positions as they pursue their careers. Nurse case managers may find themselves managing not only cases but other healthcare professionals as they work with various aspects of a patient’s care management.

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