Minimum Data Sets (MDS) are rules mandated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) affecting federally funded health and mental health services. Resident Assessment Coordinator certificate programs are offered through the American Association of Nurse Assessment Coordination (AANAC) and can give healthcare professionals working knowledge of MDS rules. Certain healthcare professionals, especially working nurses, need to have a solid understanding of MDS. Distance learning for MDS can be completed at a number of institutions at both undergraduate and graduate levels, leading to either a bachelor's or a master's degree. There are both online-only and hybrid programs available.
MDS Education Opportunities
Medical programs in universities are active in research and commentary on rules related to MDS. RNs seeking advanced training through bachelor's or master's degree programs in nursing would likely study Minimum Data Sets. A number of four-year institutions offer online or hybrid degree programs to registered nurses who are looking to expand their credentials. These include the online RN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program and, at the graduate level, the Master of Science in Nursing.
Additionally, some schools provide online continuing education options specifically focused on MDS. These programs are also generally geared towards nurses and other healthcare professionals. Distance learning MDS training may take place as a series of self-paced online modules or as a webinar.
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Program Information and Requirements
The HHS mandates comprehensive reporting on functional capabilities of residents of Medicare and Medicaid-certified nursing homes. MDS assessment is an important part of this process, which involves Resident Assessment Protocols. Assessments are normally performed by Registered Nurses (RNs), so these healthcare professionals are often the focus of certification opportunities.
Nurses performing assessments send data to their state; the data is then pulled from state databases into a national database. MDS rules are periodically revised, so ongoing training on current assessment and coding processes is essential. Certification opportunities are available to RNs through their professional associations working in conjunction with the nursing facility industry, such as the American Association of Nurse Assessment Coordinators and the HHS, as well as through formal education.
The American Association of Nurse Assessment Coordinators (AANAC) is a professional organization promoting long-term care education in nursing. AANAC offers multiple MDS-related online courses that also qualify for continuing education units. AANAC-member nurses may take individual courses, or earn Resident Assessment Coordinator - Certified (RAC-CT) or Certified Nurse Executive certification by taking ten courses (www.aanac.org). Distance learning coursework might include the following:
- MDS coding
- Medicare Part A
- Care area assessments
- Timing and scheduling
- Quality rating systems
In addition, multiple AANAC industry partners provide three-day MDS workshops based on organization curricula. These are sited at various locations across the country, but are not online. Related industry organizations, like the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists (ASCP), provide links to MDS materials (www.ascp.org).
Additionally, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides MDS 3.0 training materials virtually. These include manuals, videos, instructor guides, training slides and satellite broadcasts (www.cms.gov). Technical information and conference information is also provided.
Online MDS courses can be taken as part of university-based RN-to-BSN or MSN programs, or they may be offered as standalone courses from professional organizations such as the AANAC. Registered nurses and other healthcare professionals learn how to prepare and submit MDS assessments so that they can become MDS coordinators.