Career Change Update: Go From Nurse to Care Coordinator

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If you’re an older nurse looking to make a career move, you might want to consider becoming a Care Coordinator. The proliferation of patient-centered medical homes makes this an ideal position for experienced nurses.


Janet Duni, RN, CCM, MPA, and Director of Care Coordination at Vanguard Medical Group in Verona, N.J., notes that nurses have the clinical understanding, the expertise, and bedside nursing skills to do the job. "I think a nurse is the best suited to this type of work," says Duni. "A lot of the care coordination job is about understanding a continuum of care that a patient will go through."


Like many of today’s busy nurses who provide for and prioritize the needs of many patients amidst constant interruptions, care coordinators "have many, many irons in the fire each day and keep all patients in [their] line of site," says Duni.


Duni notes that experienced nurses develop a particular skill set that makes them ideal for the care coordinator role. "That type of stop-and-go [environment], and yet getting it all done, and keeping it all afloat… that particular skill set is what you learn as a nurse," Duni says. "You're always doing 10 things at one time, and I think that's unique to nursing."


Duni describes patients as the center of a wheel, with the care coordinator connecting all the “spokes”--community services, insurance, rehab, and social services--to make the wheel turn. "A care coordinator needs to be able to establish and utilize a network of resources," says Duni.


Training programs are already surfacing as more experienced nurses take on the role. Duni received her training through Horizon Healthcare Innovations, a subsidiary of Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, and Duke University School of Nursing and Rutgers College of Nursing. The program seeks to provide more than 200 New Jersey nurses with a formal “population care coordinator” education. For Duni, the two-phase program began at Duke and ended at Rutgers, where students received hands-on training.


Duni noted that for care coordination to grow as a career alternative, more nurses need to enter the field and payers need to introduce plans to support it. The hope is that a new Medicare rule will pay nurses when they help patients successfully move from hospitals to other settings. Many patients, especially the growing population of seniors, need help in scheduling appointments, managing medication, and monitoring health. Providers and payers benefit too. Duni notes that the acute care facilities they work with show that the readmission rate for Vanguard Medical Group is far lower than for similar practices.


If you’re a nurse with a decade or so of experience behind you, you might consider putting your skills and knowledge to work as a Care Coordinator. For more information, check out Duke University’s Population Care Coordinator Program (PCCP).


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  • Denise N
    Denise N
    This interests me.  I have 34 yrs. experience as a Float Pool Nurse in a hospital setting. Floating between several units. I would like to know more.
  • Dora B
    Dora B
    Do we have to have an RN license to enroll?
  • Mary B
    Mary B
    I am an ED nurse with 30 yrs of experience but not physically capable of direct patient care in search of a job tailored to my needs. I am definitely interested in taking my career in a new direction.
  • Dianne C
    Dianne C
    I live in Texas and LVN for 23 years.  Currently studying billing and coding.I would love some more info.
  • Alex Kecskes
    Alex Kecskes
    Thanks for your comments. You can get more info on Care Coordinator Programs by visiting Duke University's site: out their fact sheet:
  • Emma m
    Emma m
    Sounds interesting Will like to evaluate programWhat is required and is this accredited
  • Janet F.
    Janet F.
    Perfect for the older, experienced nurse.Is there anything in California?
  • Corina De S
    Corina De S
    I am an R.N.(greater than 40yrs ,experiencing nurse -burnout). receiving Medicare, but I can still work; just cannot do the 12 hour shifts.I would like additional info on care coordinator program.
  • Susan W
    Susan W
    I would like additional info on care coordinator program.
  • Mary-Loving H
    Mary-Loving H
    is this along the same path as RN Advocate?
    Wow! This is a great idea. Just what I've been looking for! Thank you!
  • Diane w
    Diane w
    This is a great position for nurses, that are ready for a change in career path.Especially with the aging baby-boomers,nurses roles will change,due to all the changes in medicare.Hopefully,nurses will be used and paid,as valued healthcare providers in the near future!!(greater than 20yrs ,experiencing nurse -burnout).
  • Barb T
    Barb T
    How does  this position differ from that of case manager?I am interested, have a BSN/MSN w/ many yrs exp & cannot get a job ( as so many are in same boat).  
  • Geraldine G
    Geraldine G
    Definitely a great career path for RN's with experience, critical thinking skills, and compassion.  As an RN with more than 30 years in critical care, it is a challenge to move ahead in the acute care setting unless you are in the right place at the right time.   I will definitely check into this.
  • Susan W
    Susan W
    very interesting concept. It sounds similar  to a health coach. How is it different . s program open to diploma nurses?
  • Kia H
    Kia H
    I wanted know how can I  transition from the behavioral health field to somthing else, possibly management, finance communications. I want a career change.
  • Marilynn P
    Marilynn P
    This is something I am very interested in.  I have been looking for a job for over a year and have been unable to find employment, this would make me more marketable. I am an RN with a MHA.  I wonder are there any alternatives for clinicals for unemployeed nurses?  
  •  Pamela S
    Pamela S
    I would be interested in speaking with  a staff member re this program .  Thank you,Pamela
  • Zandra C
    Zandra C
    So many nurses already do care coordination especially in home care and hospice.
  • tsarina s
    tsarina s
    Do you have to be an RN or can LVN's do this program too? I have 14 years experience as an LVN
  • Susan W
    Susan W
    I agree with Carol, I've 30 + years working as an RN.  I have another year a half before Medicare kicks in but I want to work.  I work full time in a PACU, Pre Admit, Day surgery dept.  I would like to cut back to part time but not willing to give up my job at hospital after 27 years with same hospital.  Interesting article.
  • Barbara A. M
    Barbara A. M
    This is a great idea! I do home care at Visiting Angels and enjoy this type of eldercare bu feel,with my experience and education, not to mention my curiosity, I could do much more.What's new in Ohio?
  • Linda R
    Linda R
    This is great!  Can RN do this independently, or have to work through hospital?
  • Carol  S
    Carol  S
    Definitely something to give thought to, as I am having NO luck with any Private Duty in the Home,LTC,ALF,Hospices, etc., and I am an R.N. eligible and receiving Medicare, but I can still work and want to work; just cannot do the 12 hour shifts. Thank you for the interesting article.Regards,Carol

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