MDS Nurse Training, Degree and Certificate Program Information

A Minimum Data Set (MDS) nurse - more commonly called an MDS coordinator - ensures the accuracy of patient charts through compliance and reliability, and that all necessary information is provided to required third parties. This profession requires interested individuals to complete certification programs in order to enter the field.

Essential Information

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 (www.aanac.org). 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. Once completed, graduates are prepared to create care assessments and treatment determinations in conformity with privacy standards and typical treatment standards.

  • Prerequisites: Must be a licensed nurse
  • Online Availability: Online classes are available
  • Program Length: One year
  • Other Requirements: Must pass 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

MDS Certification

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:

  • Precise long-term care coding
  • Resource Utilization Groups classification (RUG -IV) system comprehension
  • 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 Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that employment opportunities for RNs are expected to increase by 19% from 2012 to 2022, creating 526,800 jobs, while employment for licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses is projected to grow by 25% during this same time frame (www.bls.gov). According to PayScale.com, a certified MDS coordinator working in the U.S. in August 2015 earned a median annual salary of approximately $60,674.

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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