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HEALTHCARE CAREER GUIDES

Nurse Case Manager Career

OVERVIEW

What is a Nurse Case Manager?


 

Are you already a registered nurse and considering moving into another role where you can work with patients for the entire course of their treatments or illnesses? Or are you thinking of turning your passion for helping others into a career by earning your nursing degree? Either way, becoming a case manager is an excellent choice with great pay, fantastic job growth, and a fulfilling role that provides a holistic approach to health care.

Nurses are caring individuals that want to make a difference in people’s lives, and as a nurse case manager, you can make a huge impact. Often working with people that require ongoing medical care, RN case managers oversee their long-term care plan and can develop rich, rewarding relationships with these patients.

RESPONSIBILITIES

What Does a Nurse Case Manager Do?

A nurse case manager develops, implements, and reviews healthcare plans for patients that are geriatric, recovering from serious injuries, or dealing with chronic illnesses. Case managers work both within and outside of a hospital or medical facility. And these registered nurses (RNs) collaborate with doctors and other medical professionals to give their patients the comprehensive care that they need. This includes advocating for their patients, coordinating their care, and providing other healthcare services and education.

Unlike specialized healthcare professionals, case management nurses perform a variety of tasks across a wide range of disciplines. Case management nurses are responsible to:

  • Create and manage the plan of care for patients with chronic or serious conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and cancer.
  • Advocate for personalized treatment options that address a patient’s unique care needs.
  • Schedule their patients’ medical appointments and follow up to ensure they attended them.
  • Communicate about a patient’s health condition with the patient and their family.
  • Offer education and guidance for navigating complex medical decisions.
  • Serve as a liaison between patients and their insurance providers to promote quality, cost-effective care with the best patient outcomes.

RN Nurse Case Manager Specialization

Case management nursing is a unique RN occupation because it provides a more holistic approach to health care. As an RN case manager, you’ll have the opportunity to address your patients’ physical and psychosocial care needs

You’ll also have the opportunity to specialize in an area that you’re the most passionate about. Here are some of the most common case management nursing specializations:

  • Patient specialty—focuses on a specific patient population such as the elderly (geriatrics) or children (pediatrics).
  • Service specialty—focuses on a specific service area such as hospice, home healthcare, or rehabilitation.
  • Duration specialty—focuses on the length of patient care such as short-term injury rehabilitation or long-term illness management.
  • Disease specialty—focuses on patients suffering from a specific disease or chronic illness such as diabetes, cancer, substance abuse, or mental illness.

EDUCATION & BEST DEGREES

How Do I Become an RN Case Manager Manager?

Pursuing a career in nurse case management often requires a higher degree. Enrolling in Bachelor of Science in Nursing programs is a good option for RNs looking to transition into a case manager position. However, if you’re new to the nursing field, you may want to start with a nursing prelicensure program.

After finishing your bachelor’s degree program, you can further advance your career with a certification program from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). This professional certification isn’t required for continued employment, but it makes you a better case manager, can increase your pay, and will make you more desirable for future job opportunities. To qualify you’ll need:

  • An active RN license.
  • Two years of full-time practice.
  • 2,000 clinical hours.
  • 30 hours of continuing education in your field.

Another way that you can progress your career as a case manager is to earn your master’s degree. WGU has seven master’s degree programs specific to nursing—all of which can be completed online. This is another great option for working registered nurses because they can fit in program coursework around their busy schedules. Our RN-to-MSN programs work well if you’re new to the nursing profession and want to get an advanced degree faster—which will increase your hire-ability within case management. For those who have earned their master's degree and want to further their education, the post-master's certificate in nursing leadership & management can be beneficial.

Best Degrees for a Nurse Case Manager

Nursing (Prelicensure) – B.S.

A one-of-a-kind nursing program that prepares you to be an RN and a...

A one-of-a-kind nursing program that prepares you to be an RN and a baccalaureate-prepared nurse:

  • Locations: Due to in-person clinical requirements, students must be full time residents of FL, GA, ID, IN, IA, KS, KY, NE, NV, NM, NC, OH, OK, SC, TN, TX, UT to enroll in this program. The coursework in this program is offered online, but there are in-person requirements.
  • Tuition: $6,430 per 6-month term for the first 4 terms of pre-nursing coursework and $8,755 per 6-month term for the remaining 4 terms of clinical nursing coursework.
  • Time: This program has a set pace and an expected completion time of 4 years. Certain coursework may be accelerated to finish faster.
  • WGU offers the prelicensure program in areas where we have partnerships with healthcare employers to provide practice sites and clinical coaches to help teach you and inspire you on your path to becoming a nurse.
  • If you don't live in one of our prelicensure states or don't qualify to apply, consider getting our Bachelor's in Health and Human Services instead. This degree allows you to work inside the healthcare industry, while also working directly with patients who need help.

Nursing (RN-to-BSN Online) – B.S.

An online BSN degree program for registered nurses (RNs) seeking the added...

An online BSN degree program for registered nurses (RNs) seeking the added theoretical depth, employability, and respect that a bachelor's degree brings:

  • Time: 77% of graduates finish within 24 months.
  • Tuition: $4,685 per 6-month term.
  • Courses: 23 total courses in this program.
  • Transfers: Students can transfer up to 90 credits.

With over 35,000 BSN alumni, this is one of WGU's most popular online degree programs. View our RN to BSN degree guide. If you are an RN ready to earn your BSN, this program will help you accelerate to earn your degree.

If you don't currently have an RN and don't qualify for your nursing prelicensure program, consider getting our Bachelor's in Health and Human Services instead. This degree allows you to work inside the healthcare industry in a unique way.

Nursing – Leadership & Management (RN-to-MSN) – M.S.

This program for RNs includes a BSN component and is a substantial leap...

This program for RNs includes a BSN component and is a substantial leap toward becoming a nurse leader.

  • Time: 75% of RN-to-MSN grads finish within 42 months.
  • Tuition: $4,685 per 6-month term during undergraduate portion and $4,795 per 6-month term during graduate portion.
  • Courses: 32 total courses in this program.

Some careers and jobs this degree will prepare you for:

  • Director of Nursing
  • Chief Nursing Officer
  • Quality Director
  • Clinical Nurse Leader
  • Project Manager

If you're driven to lead, this online nursing degree will provide you everything needed to make that career a reality. This program is ideal for current RNs who are interested in earning both their BSn and MSN in an accelerated program.

Compare degrees

This program is not the only degree WGU offers designed to create leaders in the field of healthcare. Compare our health leadership degrees.

Nursing – Leadership & Management (BSN-to-MSN) – M.S.

For registered nurses with a bachelor's degree who are ready for...

For registered nurses with a bachelor's degree who are ready for additional career opportunities.

  • Time: 68% of grads finish within 24 months.
  • Tuition: $4,795 per 6-month term.
  • Courses: 15 total courses in this program.

This program is ideal for current RNs who have a BSN and are ready for the next step in their education.

Sample careers and jobs this degree program will prepare you for:

  • Director of Nursing
  • Chief Nursing Officer
  • Quality Director
  • Clinical Nurse Leader
  • Project Manager

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment of medical and health services managers to grow 17% by 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Compare degrees

This program is not the only degree WGU offers designed to create leaders in the field of healthcare. Compare our health leadership degrees.

Nursing Leadership and Management – Post-Master's Certificate

A certificate for registered nurses with a master's degree in nursing who...

A certificate for registered nurses with a master's degree in nursing who are ready for greater responsibility in a leadership and management role.

  • Time: 12 months.
  • Tuition: $4,795 per 6-month term. The cost to sit for the NAHQ Certified Professional in Healthcare Quality (CPHQ) exam is included in tuition.
  • Courses: 8 total courses in this program.

Sample careers and jobs this degree program will prepare you for:

  • Director of Nursing
  • Chief Nursing Officer
  • Quality Director
  • Clinical Nurse Leader
  • Project Manager

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment of medical and health services managers to grow 17% by 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (BSN-to-MSN) – M.S. Nursing

This program for BSNs who have an active, unencumbered RN license prepares...

This program for BSNs who have an active, unencumbered RN license prepares you to become a board-certified Mental Health Nurse Practitioner.

  • Locations: Due to the clinical requirements of this degree program, the PMHNP program at WGU is currently NOT open to students who have a permanent residence in the following states: Arizona, California, District of Columbia, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Tennessee, Washington, and Wisconsin.
  • Time: 2½ years.
  • Tuition and fees: $6,625 per six-month term.
  • Courses: 17 total courses in this program.

This program is for current RNs who have earned their BSN and are ready to move forward in their career. This MSN program prepares students to become licensed as a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner in select states. 

Students must have a permanent and active license from a state that is not listed above, must complete the internships in that state, and intend to obtain initial APRN licensure in that state. See more state-specific information related to nursing licensure. Compact licenses must be endorsed by your state of residence. More about compact licenses.

Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner – Post-Master's Certificate

This program is for current RNs who already have earned an MSN and are...

This program is for current RNs who already have earned an MSN and are wanting to become a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner through a post-master's certificate program.

  • Locations: Due to the clinical requirements of this degree program, the PMHNP post-master's certificate program at WGU is currently NOT open to students who have a permanent residence in the following states: Arizona, California, District of Columbia, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Tennessee, Washington, and Wisconsin.
  • Time: 2 years or less
  • Tuition and fees: $6,625 per six-month term.
  • Courses: 11 total courses in this program.

This program is for current RNs who have earned their MSN but are wanting to add a specilization to become a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. This post-master's certificate program is only available in select states.

Students must have a permanent and active license from a state that is not listed above, must complete the internships in that state, and intend to obtain initial APRN licensure in that state. See more state-specific information related to nursing licensure. Compact licenses must be endorsed by your state of residence. More about compact licenses.

How Much Does a Nurse Case Manager Make?

$81,220

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median average salary for a registered nurse is $81,220. That’s nearly double the salary of the average U.S. worker! Nurse case managers enjoy a good salary, along with many added benefits, including overtime and retirement pay, health insurance, paid time off, and flexible scheduling.

 

What Is the Projected Job Growth?

6%

As for their job outlook, qualified RNs are more in demand than ever due to a nationwide nursing shortage. In fact, jobs for registered nurses across all disciplines are predicted to grow by 6% over the next 10 years. Case managers, in particular, may experience an even faster growth rate because they’re becoming an invaluable asset in helping our healthcare system find a balance between patient needs, costs, and resources.
 

SKILLS

What Skills Does a Nurse Case Manager Need?

Case managers need many skills and attributes beyond those common to traditional nursing care roles. They must be able to work autonomously and make quick decisions. They also need to be excellent communicators to effectively relay critical information to their patients, clinical teams, and insurance providers.

Here are other top skills of successful case management nurses:

  • Time management

  • Organization

  • Delegation

  • Clinical practices

  • Cultural sensitivity

  • Political savvy

  • Conflict resolution

  • Problem-solving

  • Teaching

  • Tolerance

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Interested in Becoming a Nurse Case Manager?

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