MDS Nurse Training, Degree and Certificate Program Information

Read about educational programs that place emphasis on Minimum Data Set (MDS) nurse training, and explore the typical coursework. Check prerequisites for enrolling in these programs. See career info for graduates, including the job outlook and salary potential.

Essential Information

A Minimum Data Set (MDS) nurse - more commonly called an MDS coordinator - ensures the accuracy of patient charts through compliance and reliability. These professionals make care assessments and treatment determinations in conformity with privacy standards and typical treatment standards, and they are responsible for submitting necessary information to third parties. MDS coordinators must generally be licensed practical nurses (LPNs) or registered nurses (RNs).

The American Association of Nurse Assessment Coordinators (AANAC) offers training and certification in MDS ( Individuals interested in acquiring certification must successfully complete the AANACs MDS 3.0 RAC-CT training program, which is composed of several courses tailored toward the Residential Assessment Instrument (RAI)/MDS process. The AANAC offers the courses through various formats - including workshops, online, and print - to offer enrollees the flexibility and ability to choose courses based on their unique learning styles.

Education Prerequisites

According to the AANAC, healthcare professionals and clinicians, such as nurses, utilizing the RAI process are eligible for RAC-CT certification. Individuals must successfully complete an approved nursing program, in accordance with their chosen nursing path, and acquire licensure before entering the MDS 3.0 RAC-CT training program. Several employers sought RNs and LPNs with AANAC certification eligibility for MDS coordinator positions on in October 2013.

LPN certificate programs are generally a year long and, at times, bridged with RN degree programs. Those pursuing an RN education may work towards a diploma, associate's degree in nursing (ADN), or Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).

Both LPN and RN graduates must sit and pass the license exam tailored to their study. The National Council of the State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) has developed both the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN) for LPNs and the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) for RNs ( Licensing requirements can vary and specific information is provided by every state's nursing board.

Program Coursework

Program students can gain a deeper understanding of how the RAI/MDS process facilitates long-term care and management, as well as other processes developed and created by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and authorized by the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1987 (OBRA). Such training will prepare them for the role of an MDS coordinator.

Certificate enrollees are required to complete ten courses: seven core and three electives. Core courses generally cover areas such as the following:

  • Precise long-term care coding
  • Resource Utilization Groups classification (RUG -IV) system comprehension
  • Medicare Part A overview
  • Care Area Assessment (CAA) process and assessment requirements
  • MDS assessment compliance under OBRA
  • PPS (Prospective Payment System) assessment education
  • Care-planning elements and procedures

Enrollees must choose and complete three of the four following electives:

  • Understanding the Five-Star Quality Rating System
  • Accurate activity status assessment
  • Quality Indicator Survey (QIS) use in long-term care facilities
  • Accurate pain assessment and management

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that employment opportunities for RNs are expected to increase by 26% from 2010 to 2020, creating 711,900 jobs, while employment for licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses is projected to grow by 22% during this same time frame ( According to, a certified MDS coordinator working in the U.S. in December 2013 earned a median annual salary of approximately $60,732.

Continuing Education Information

The AANAC notes that RAC-CT 3.0 recertification is open to individuals whose certification is approaching expiration; the RAC-CT certification is valid for two years. Recertification consists of five courses, including some of the core courses under the initial certification program. Students must pass with a score at or above 80% and training is offered through the AANAC.

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