What Are the Education Requirements for an RN Case Manager?

RN case managers create long-term treatment plans for patients.
RN case managers create long-term treatment plans for patients. (Image: Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

An RN case manager coordinates care and treatment plans for patients. Case managers usually work with patients recovering from injuries or serious illnesses, or with patients suffering from long-term or chronic conditions such as AIDS or Alzheimer’s Disease. They often specialize in a specific area of medicine, such as rehabilitation, post-transplant care, cardiovascular disease or elder care. Unlike nurses in a hospital, RN case managers usually don’t provide hands-on care to patients. Instead, they create and oversee treatment plans, ensuring the patient receives the most efficient, effective care available.

Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing

An RN case manager needs at least a bachelor of science in nursing, required both for employment and for certification. Case managers often work in clinical settings for several years before transitioning to case management. They need training in administering care directly to patients, so as a case manager they understand the needs and concerns of patients, the treatment options available and the effectiveness of these treatment options. After completing their undergraduate degree, they must also pass their state’s RN licensing exam.

Master’s Degree in Nursing

In many cases, nurses need only a bachelor’s degree to qualify for both employment and certification as a case management. However, with a master’s degree, nurses can qualify with less professional experience than if they have only an undergraduate degree. They can also concentrate on management or administration for their graduate work, preparing them for the management aspects of coordinating patient care. Many nursing schools offer graduate and post-graduate programs in case management, healthcare management and administration.

RN Case Manager Certification

After receiving a nursing degree and gaining clinical experience, nurses can earn certification in case management. Candidates need a combination of a degree and professional experience to qualify. The American Nurses Credentialing Center offers certification to nurses with a current RN license, the equivalent of at least two years full-time experience, at least 2,000 hours of clinical experience in case management within the last three years, and at least 20 hours continuing education in case management within the last three years. Candidates must then pass a certification exam. The American Case Management Association offers certification designed for nurses who work in a hospital setting. Candidates must past a two-part exam that includes a section on general case management principles and a section that includes clinical simulations.

Specialized Training

Case managers often specialize in a specific illness, injury or type of patient. If they want to focus on caring for children, they need additional training in pediatric nursing. Some professional associations offer certification in specific areas of nursing, such as geriatrics or mental health. Many graduate nursing programs allow students to concentrate on a specific area of nursing, teaching both the clinical and management aspects of providing care.

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