What is a Nurse Case Manager?
Nurse case managers are medical professionals who are responsible for the creation of care plans for patients, updating them according to the patient's condition, and teaching both patients and their families how to follow the plan. All nurse case managers are also registered nurses, meaning they are fully licensed to provide other healthcare services that a nurse might provide, such as administering medication or using medical equipment to take readings.
While they are considered a specialized type of RN, what a nurse case manager does day-to-day can be quite different; they often have a stronger focus on taking information from new admissions to develop the best possible care plan and working with patients to ensure that they fully understand all that a care plan might require of them. They also communicate with doctors and specialists to incorporate their recommendations, and may even need to interact with insurance to ensure that the care plan is covered.
Educational Requirements for Nurse Case Managers
To become an RN case manager, an individual will first need to complete a degree program in nursing. Nursing degrees are commonly available as both associate's and bachelor's degrees, which can be completed in 2 or 4 years, respectively. The material covered in such educational programs may include:
- Anatomy and physiology
- General microbiology
- Pharmacology across lifespans
- Public health and nursing in the community
Regardless of degree level, nursing programs must include a clinical component, often offered at hospitals, clinics, or other healthcare facilities nearby, where students are given the chance to observe and gain hands-on practice.
Classes and courses in case management are also an option and may be offered outside the contexts of a traditional university setting, such as in the form of continuing education. Experts recommend these courses but also advise students to wait until they have more work experience as an RN.
Licensure and Certification for Nurse Case Managers
Nurse case managers must hold a valid license as a registered nurse to work. While licensure requirements for nurses can vary from state to state, all states require that nurses pass the National Council Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) to qualify, and must have completed a recognized nursing educational program. Licenses must be renewed periodically, which may require continuing education.
Certification for nurse case managers is an option that can help to reinforce their specialties and may be viewed positively by potential employers. The Accredited Case Manager (ACM) credential is offered by an organization known as the American Case Management Association (ACMA) and is available to both RNs and social workers. The credential tests for knowledge are common to both occupations as they relate to case management. RN candidates must be able to prove they hold a valid nursing license, as well as 1 year of case management experience, under supervision, although candidates with less than 2 years will need more documentation. ACM certification must be renewed every 4 years, with 40 hours of continuing education, of which at least 30 must be case management-related.
Nurse Case Manager Salary and Career Info
According to Payscale.com, the median annual salary for nurse case managers is $71,131, with the bottom 10% making $57,000 or less, and the top 10% making $89,000 or more. The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not collect data on nurse case managers specifically, but the projected rate of growth for RNs between 2018 and 2028 is at 12%, higher than the national average for all occupations. Much of the need for workers in medical professions is driven by the large aging population in the US, and this need is likely to apply to nurse case managers as well.