Health Care Coordinator Career: Pros and Cons
Health care coordinators--also referred to as patient care coordinators, case managers and patient representatives--help people get their medical and social service needs met. Here are some of the pros and cons of working as a health care coordinator.
|Pros of a Health Care Coordinator Career|
|Help patients get the best health care possible*|
|Employment outlook is good **|
|Job opportunities in a variety of settings*|
|Ability to use a variety of skills for a broad range of patients*|
|Cons of a Health Care Coordinator Career|
|Determining needs and finding resources for patients with complex issues may be difficult***|
|Potential exposure to persons with illness or infectious disease**|
|Work may be stressful, especially if there is a heavy caseload**|
|Long training requirements - at least a bachelor's and often a master's degree required**|
Sources: *iseek.org, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), ***ONet Online.
Essential Career Information
Job Description and Duties
Persons who are elderly, have chronic physical or mental illness or are disabled often need a high level of medical and social services, which they and their families might find hard to access on their own. Health care coordinators help clients in all age groups by finding and coordinating necessary services. A care coordinator may help the family of a child who has a developmental disorder find an appropriate school, for example. A health care coordinator may arrange for adult clients to get rehabilitation and mental health services. A nurse health care coordinator in a nursing home may help a family arrange visits to a doctor for outpatient care.
Career Paths and Specializations
Nurses who work as health care coordinators often work in nursing homes or assisted living centers. Most are registered nurses, and they supervise other nurses and nursing assistants in caring for patients. They also assess residents, provide care and provide guidance to residents and their families about health care needs. Nurses working in pediatrics may provide similar services for young patients with chronic diseases in a children's clinic or residential home.
Social workers hired as health care coordinators may help coordinate health care, mental health services and rehabilitation services for clients returning to their communities from a hospital or other kind of medical facility. They also coordinate care services for senior patients and persons with substance abuse issues. These social workers are often hired by hospitals, nursing homes and community health clinics.
Psychology, health care management and rehabilitation are other fields that use health care coordinators. These types of workers coordinate mental health or rehabilitation services with other services, depending on what best meets clients' needs.
Job Prospects and Salaries
If you want to be a health care coordinator, the good news is that jobs in this area are likely to increase, given the increasing age of the population and increasing technological advances in health sciences. Occupations that produce health care coordinators tend to be growing faster than average, but salary likely depends on your education or degree. For example, according to the BLS, the median wage for registered nurses was about $66,640 in May 2014, and employment was expected to grow 19% between 2012 and 2022. The median wage for social workers in health care was approaching $51,930 in 2014, with a predicted employment growth of 27% expected between 2012 and 2022.
What Are the Requirements?
Most jobs for health care coordinators require at least a bachelor's degree, although there may be some positions that require only an associate degree. Nurses, psychologists or social workers may need to have a master's degree in their field. According to ONet Online, supplied by the U.S. Department of Labor, and job postings from CareerBuilder.com, other qualifications include:
- Strong communication skills
- Management of more than one priority at a time
- Being service-oriented
- Strong problem-solving abilities
- Genuine interest in, and desire to, serve persons who are disabled, elderly or chronically ill
Job Postings from Real Employers
Care coordinators are in demand in nursing and other fields as well. Strong communication and problem-solving skills, as well as a willingness to work directly with patients and clients, are recurring themes in job listings for health care coordinators. Here are a few of the job listings posted in April 2012:
- A senior living organization in Kansas was looking to hire a nurse (RN preferred) as a health care coordinator. Duties included performing assessments, providing direction on patient care and supervising staff. Two to three years of experience with residents in senior living were preferred.
- A medical center in New Hampshire was hiring an RN to be a health care coordinator for adult and pediatric patients with chronic illnesses. At least three years of community-based experience and passion for taking care of chronically ill patients were also required.
- A residential treatment program in California was looking for a health care coordinator with a master's degree in social work. The ideal candidate needed to be able to speak Spanish, have good oral and written communication skills and have at least one year of experience in direct patient care in a hospital or mental health setting that used interdisciplinary care teams.
- An employment agency that specializes in entry-level positions was seeking to hire a health care coordinator to provide case management for injured or chronically ill clients. Candidates needed to have a bachelor's degree in a health field such as physical therapy, psychology, sociology or nursing. Strong communications, organizational and problem-solving skills were also needed.
How to Stand Out in the Field
Since health care coordinators can come from a number of occupations, standing out would include excelling in your occupational area. For example, nurses and psychologists might take the extra step of becoming certified in a specialty area through their professional organizations, such as the American Nurses Association or the American Board of Professional Psychology. With continued experience, moving up to a supervisory position may also be possible.
Alternative Career Paths
If you like the idea of helping people make the best choices but are less interested in care coordination and case management, you may prefer to become a health educator. Health educators need at least a bachelor's degree, and some positions may require a Certified Health Education Specialist credential. Health educators teach people how to stay well and implement educational programs. They also help people find health services and information. Travel to meetings and teaching sites may be required, and health educators may need to work nights or weekends. The median salary for health educators was about $48,000 in May 2011, and expected job growth was 37% between 2010 and 2020, according to the BLS.
School or Career Counselor
If helping people still appeals to you, but maybe not within the environs of the health care field, one position to consider might be a school or career counselor. Career counselors help students and adults choose a career path that is right for them, while school counselors help students develop socially and make successful choices while in school. Persons in these positions work in government, career centers, public schools and private schools. A master's degree is usually required. School counselors need to be state licensed, while career counselors may need a license for some jobs or for private practice. Expected job growth for school and career counselors was 19% between 2010 and 2020, according to the BLS. The BLS also reported that, as of May 2011, the median salary for educational, guidance, school and vocational counselors was around $54,000.