Becoming a Care Support Nurse: Salary Information & Job Description

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Get the truth about a career as a care support nurse. Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary information to see if becoming a care support nurse is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Care Support Nurse Career

Care support nurses (RNs) take on the roles of both care coordinators and nurse navigators. Find out the pros and cons of being a care support nurse to see if it is the right career for you.

Pros of a Care Support Nurse
High job growth field (19% growth between 2012-2022)*
Some positions offer signing bonuses*
The need for 24-hour patient care creates flexible work schedules that can be family-friendly*
Benefits may include paid vacation, life insurance and tuition reimbursement**

Cons of a Care Support Nurse
Nurses are often in close contact with patients who have infectious diseases*
Nurses often come in contact with radiation and dangerous chemicals*
Schedules may incorporate on-call work, which includes nights, weekend and holidays*
Work environment can be stressful as nurses navigate heightened patient and family emotions*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Payscale.com.

Career Information

Job Descriptions and Duties

Care support nurses most often hold job titles as care coordinators and nurse navigators. These registered nurses serve as guides and advocates for patients who are undergoing medical treatments. Care coordinators may also assess the competence of the nursing and administrative staff and develop care improvement plans where needed.

Working in hospitals and other healthcare facilities, nurse navigators and care coordinators help patients understand their disease, as well as make decisions about treatment options. They also provide patients with emotional support and counseling. Care support nurses often give administrative assistance helping patients navigate the bureaucracy of hospitals to get needed appointments.

Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), registered nurses in the United States earned an annual mean wage of about $67,000 as of May 2014. Nurses who work for private hospitals can expect to earn a greater salary on average than their counterparts in nursing homes or local hospitals. For patient care coordinators specifically, Payscale.com reported that as of September 2015, salaries for most of these positions ranged between $24,000 to $60,000.

Career Paths and Specializations

Not all care coordinators work in a hospital setting. They can be found in nursing homes and other residential facilities where a nursing staff is needed to care for inhabitants. If working in a nursing home appeals to you, you may need to have additional experience, such as familiarity working with elderly patients and understanding of long-term care.

All registered nurses must be licensed and pass the National Council Licensure Exam in order to practice. Additionally, many pursue professional certification in an area of specialization. For example, the American Nurses Credentialing Center, part of the American Nurses Association, awards certification in gerontological nursing. This designation could be useful to care support nurses interested in working specifically with the elderly.

Career Skills and Requirements

A RN can find entry-level positions in the field with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, an associate's degree in nursing or obtaining a diploma in nursing from a recognized program. Courses in nursing programs generally include anatomy, chemistry and social sciences. Students often participate in supervised clinical programs at hospitals and other health care facilities. A bachelor's degree program typically takes four years to complete while diploma and associate's degree programs can typically be completed in 2-3 years.

Useful Skills

Because of their close relationship with patients, it is important that care support nurses demonstrate a high level of patience and sympathy. Above and beyond having a strong medical and science background, you should invest in developing administrative and counseling skills that can help facilitate patient interaction. Based upon the BLS, qualities that make a successful care support nurse include the following:

  • Strong communication skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Calm under pressure, especially during emergencies
  • Good time-management and organizational skills

Job Postings from Real Employers

Employers advertise for care support nurses on company websites, through online job search engines and professional nursing organizations. Job titles vary but may include descriptions like nurse navigator or care coordinator. While not a complete listing, below are some examples of job openings during April 2012:

  • A national chain that provides senior living facilities is looking for a resident care coordinator to work in one of their Minnesota developments. Applicants must be a licensed RN or licensed practical nurse (LPN). Candidates should have experience in long-term care as well as working with the elderly.
  • A hospital in Ohio is seeking a nurse-patient care coordinator to help manage care for patients as well as oversee nursing staff. Applicants must be a RN with a current nursing license or interim permit.
  • A medical center in Florida is looking to hire a nurse navigator who can provide both patient support and work as a RN educator. Applicants must be a licensed RN with at least five years experience and hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Teaching experience is also preferred.

How to Maximize Your Skills

While a bachelor's degree, associate's degree or diploma is ample for many entry-level positions in nursing, obtaining a master's degree in nursing can often open up more career opportunities. Positions at the management level often require a master's degree in either nursing or health service administration.

Many nurses take advantage of tuition reimbursement programs offered by their employer to pay for graduate classes. In addition to classes, care support nurses can showcase their leadership and technology skills in order to advance their career.

Get Certified

Some care support nurses seek voluntary certification to advance their career in a particular field. For example, the National Consortium of Breast Centers administers the Breast Patient Navigator Certification Program for nurse navigators. This shows both employers and patients your commitment to a helping people combat a particular disease and your depth of understanding of the illness.

Other Careers to Consider

If working as a nurse sounds appealing, but you prefer administering only basic medical care while tending to patients, consider a career as a licensed practical or vocational nurse (LPN or LVN). Working under the supervision of RNs and doctors, LPNs and LVNs help patients bathe, provide emotional support and help maintain patient records. Their annual mean wage of about $42,000, as reported in May 2011 by the BLS, is significantly lower than a RN. The job outlook for this career, however, is very promising as the BLS predicted a 22% job increase from 2010 to 2020.

You might also consider a career as a physician assistant (PA). Similar to RNs, a PA must also be licensed to practice medicine. PAs practice medicine under the supervision of a doctor or surgeon. As an example of job duties, they might set broken bones or administer vaccines. In some health care clinics, a PA may be the primary care provider if the physician works an abbreviated schedule. The BLS predicted job growth for PAs to be higher than that of nurses at 30% between the years 2010 and 2020. As of May 2011, the BLS reported that PAs earned an annual mean wage of about $89,000.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

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    2. Regent University

    Program Options

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      • Doctor of Strategic Leadership - Healthcare Leadership
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      • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN)
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    3. Penn Foster High School

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    High School Diploma
      • HS Diploma
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    4. Colorado State University Global

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      • Graduate Specialization - Healthcare Administration
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    5. Queens University of Charlotte

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Nursing: Undecided
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    Goodwin College

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    9. CDI College

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      • Diploma in Assistance in Health Care Facilities - Assistance la Personne en tablissement de Sant
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Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • Master of Science - DNP Executive Leader
  • Accelerated BSN to MSN
  • Bachelors of Science in Nursing - RN to BSN (RN License Required)
  • Family Nurse Practitioner Graduate Certificate

Which subject are you interested in?

Regent University

  • Doctor of Strategic Leadership - Healthcare Leadership
  • Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership - Healthcare Management
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN)

What is your highest level of education completed?

Penn Foster High School

  • HS Diploma

What is your age?

Colorado State University Global

  • Graduate Specialization - Healthcare Administration

What is your highest level of education?

Queens University of Charlotte

  • Master of Science in Nursing: Undecided
  • Master of Science in Nursing: Nurse Administrator
  • Master of Science in Nursing: Clinical Nurse Leader

What is your highest level of education completed?

Southwestern College