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Nurse Case Manager Career Guide

Nurse case manager handing paperwork to person

What is a Nurse Case Manager?

Are you already a 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.  

What Does a Nurse Case Manager Do?

Case managers typically establish care for patients that are geriatric, recovering from serious injuries, or dealing with chronic illnesses. They 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 health 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.

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 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.

“My WGU degree will give legitimacy to what I'll be doing over the course of my career.” Christina Carey,
BS Nursing RN-BSN

How Do I Become an RN Case Manager?

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

After earning your bachelor’s degree, you can further advance your career with a certification 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 an RN 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 coursework around their busy schedules. And 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.

Best Degrees for Nurse Case Managers

Nursing (Prelicensure) – B.S.

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

A one-of-a-kind nursing program that prepares you...

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

  • Locations: offered in FL, IN, TX, and UT only.
  • Tuition and fees: $5,925 per 6-month term.

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 Degree in Health Services Coordination instead. This degree allows you to work inside the healthcare industry, while also working directly with patients who need help.

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

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

This program for RNs includes a BSN component and...

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 and fees: $3,545 per 6-month term during undergraduate portion, $4,135 per 6-month term during graduate portion, plus a Health Professions Student Fee of $350.

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.

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 by clicking the button below.

Compare Similar Degrees

Nursing (RN-to-BSN Online) – B.S.

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

An online BSN degree program for registered...

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

  • Time: 66% of graduates finish within 18 months.
  • Tuition and Fees: $3,225 per 6-month term, plus a Health Professions Student Fee of $350.
  • Transfers: On average, students transfer 81 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 don't currently have an RN and don't qualify for your nursing prelicensure program, consider getting our Bachelor's Degree in Health Services Coordination instead. This degree allows you to work inside the healthcare industry in a unique way.

Nursing – Leadership and 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...

For registered nurses with a bachelor's degree who are ready for greater responsibility:

  • Time: 82% of grads finish within 24 months.
  • Tuition and fees: $4,135 per 6-month term, plus a Health Professions Student Fee of $350.

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 by clicking the button below.

Compare Similar Degrees

Next Start Date

Start the 1st of any month—as soon as you complete enrollment!

Apply Today

Our online university degree programs start on the first of every month, all year long.

No need to wait for spring or fall semester. It's back-to-school time at WGU year-round. Get started by talking to an Enrollment Counselor today, and you'll be on your way to realizing your dream of a bachelor's or master's degree—sooner than you might think!

Learn about online college admissions at WGU.


Compare BSN and MSN Degree Options

If you're a current RN there are many BSN and MSN degree options to choose from. Compare them to find the best fit for you.

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Nurse practitioner helping a patient

What Skills Does a Nurse Case Manager Need?

Nurse case managers need many skills and attributes beyond those common to traditional nursing 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

How much does a nurse case manager make?

$73,300

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median average salary for a registered nurse is $73,300. That’s nearly double the salary of the average U.S. worker! And due to the specialized nature and demands of their positions, case management nurses can make even more than general RNs—along with many added benefits, including overtime and retirement pay, health insurance, paid time off, and flexible scheduling.

What is the job outlook for nurse case managers?

7%

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 7% 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.

Where do RN case managers work?

Varies

Because case managers work in such a wide variety of roles, they also work for a wide variety of employers. Depending on your specialty (or preference), you could do case management in a more traditional healthcare environment like a hospital or managed care facility. Or you could work for an outpatient facility, home healthcare agency, or private medical practice. There are even case management jobs offered within government-sponsored programs.

Interested in Becoming a Nurse Case Manager?

Learn more about degree programs that can prepare you for this meaningful career.

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