Nurse navigator, nurse case manager and health coach are just some of today’s nursing positions focusing directly on what the American Nursing Association says has long been a core nursing function: coordinating patient care.
Amid a renewed emphasis on care coordination throughout medicine, Kathy Mertens, MN, MPH, RN, has been among the nursing experts working to develop educational resources to help nurses prepare for new realities in care coordination. She serves as assistant administrator of ambulatory nursing practice, quality and safety at UW Medicine’s Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. She also serves on the boards of the American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing and the Northwest Organization of Nurse Executives.
Recently, she offered these tips to those interested in moving into some of these new positions.
New job opportunities
New opportunities for nurses in care coordination are emerging from across the spectrum of the nursing profession, including those in specialized roles and in leadership positions, Mertens said.
“Care coordination roles cross public and private, inpatient and outpatient, and specialty practice sectors,” she said. “The primary differences in these roles often include the population of focus, the practice setting and length of time the nurse coordinates the care.”
Nurses in hospital settings, for instance, will be focused on their patients’ first 30-60 days after discharge. Clinic-based care coordinators and others who deal with patients on a longer-term basis may focus more on preventing unnecessary hospitalizations. Others may focus on specialty populations.
Required skill set
While new positions emerge regularly, Mertens said the positions generally require a basic skill set: nurses who are excellent communicators and interprofessional team players who are willing to learn and clarify the role. They also are “keenly aware that the care plan is patient-centered,” Mertens said.
“Patient perspectives and needs drive the care plan,” she said.
New credentials for new roles
Nurses at every level may be called upon to help coordinate patient care, Mertens said. But as with many other nursing functions, more education and certification prepares nurses to take on a greater role.
Nurses with BSNs and more advanced degrees are often preferred to provide care coordination and fill specialized roles, Mertens said. To fill the need, new certifications, such as the new Care Coordination and Transition Management for nurses, offered by the Medical-Surgical Nursing Certification Board, are being offered to “provide professional recognition and credibility and supports career advancement.”
There are more online resources than ever and more are being added regularly to “jump start a nurse’s exploration of care coordination and transition,” Mertens said.
Nurses interested in taking a next step into care coordination should start locally, looking to their practice settings, professional nursing organizations and local schools to find educational and networking opportunities that might fit their needs best.