Pros and Cons of a Patient Care Coordinator Career
Patient care coordinators are typically registered nurses with years of experience who manage the patient care services of a healthcare facility or department. Evaluate the pros and cons of this career to decide if you want to become a patient care coordinator.
|Pros of a Patient Care Coordinator Career|
|Opportunity to help people manage and recover from illnesses and injuries*|
|High earning potential (90th percentile earned around $70,000 as of January 2016)***|
|Multiple education options (diploma, associate's degree or bachelor's degree)*|
|Needed in a wide range of settings (hospitals, clinics, home healthcare, etc.)*|
|Cons of a Patient Care Coordinator Career|
|Often requires years of experience as a registered nurse**|
|Need registered nursing licensure*|
|Continuing education may be required to maintain licensure*|
|Stress involved with being around human suffering*|
|Work hours depend on the needs of patients and may require nights and weekends*|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **May 2012 CareerBuilder.com job postings, ***PayScale.com.
Essential Career Information
Job Description and Duties
Patient care coordinators are typically registered nurses (RNs) who act as liaisons between healthcare providers and patients. As a coordinator, you may supervise caregivers, manage patient cases and provide direct patient care when necessary. Care coordinators support patients and their families emotionally, provide education and facilitate communication between doctors and patients. Coordinators work closely with physicians to develop patient care and rehabilitation plans. You can expect to work with professionals in all areas of patient care, including doctors, nurses, rehabilitation therapists, social workers and nutritionists.
As of January 2016, PayScale.com reported that most patient care coordinators earned between about $24,000 and $60,000 per year, including overtime, bonuses and commission. Those with 5-10 years of experience reported earnings of $37,000 per year, while experienced individuals with 5-10 years of experience made $39,000. Entry-level patient care coordinators, who have 0-5 years of experience, earned $32,000.
What Are the Requirements?
Employers typically want experienced registered nurses to fill patient care coordinator positions. Each state requires registered nurses to be licensed, which includes completing an approved nursing education program and passing the National Council Licensure Examination. Registered nurses may fulfill the education requirement by completing associate's or bachelor's degree program in nursing or by graduating from an approved 2-3-year nursing diploma program.
No matter the level of education, you can expect to complete coursework in anatomy, physiology, nutrition, psychology, chemistry and microbiology; however, bachelor's degrees tend to include more advanced social science training, such as courses in leadership, communication and critical thinking, than associate's and diploma programs. Your curriculum will also include clinical training in hospitals and other patient care settings. After completing a nursing program and obtaining licensure, You may need to meet continuing education requirements throughout your career in order to maintain licensure.
Since this is a coordinator position, you'll need strong organizational skills to manage cases and patient services. This is also a supervisory position, so you'll need solid leadership skills. You may also need:
- Knowledge of healthcare regulation
- Computer proficiency
- Physical fitness for navigating the healthcare facility
- Excellent communication skills
Job Postings from Real Employers
While employers may not emphasize a specific level of education from patient care coordinators, they often require applicants to be licensed and experienced nurses and may require a year or more of supervisory experience in a healthcare setting. Some facilities also require you to have nursing experience specific to the department in which the position is available or expertise in specific aspects of healthcare. Below are some real job listings for patient care coordinators available in May 2012:
- A home care and hospice service in North Carolina is seeking a patient care coordinator to oversee care staff, manage patient cases and assist the operations manager. The candidate must have a current state RN license, CPR certification and five years of experience in clinical nursing. In addition, the employer prefers candidates with three years of experience in the home healthcare field.
- A Wisconsin home healthcare provider is looking for a patient care coordinator with an active Wisconsin RN license and at least two years of experience as a staff nurse in an acute care or home health facility. The employer also requires candidates to have experience working with dying patients, competency in IV therapy and at least one year of experience in a supervisory role.
- A Hospice facility in South Carolina is seeking a licensed RN for a patient care coordinator position. Applicants need a minimum of an associate's degree and at least two years of experience in a supervisory role in a healthcare facility.
- A Tennessee hospital is looking for a patient care coordinator with a bachelor's degree, an active Tennessee registered nurse's license and three years of nursing experience. In addition, the employer requires the candidate to hold certification in nursing administration or a clinical specialty to qualify for the position.
How to Stand Out in the Field
While not mandatory, certification can help you get the attention of prospective employers. The BLS even notes that professional credentials can show devotion to a superior standard of nursing and is required by some employers. Certifications are available through various professional organizations. The American Nurses Credentialing Center, for example, offers credentials in a wide range of specialized area of medicine, such as pediatrics or gerontology. Additionally, Registered Nurse RN offers the Certified Nursing Assistant to qualified applicants.
Alternative Careers to Consider
Licensed Practical Nurse
If providing care to patients is an appealing career for you, but the educational requirements for a patient care coordinator position is a deterrent, consider a career as a licensed practical nurse (LPN). LPNs provide direct patient care, such as monitoring vital signs, ensuring the comfort of patients and reporting health issues to physicians or registered nurses. An LPN must hold a license, but the education requirement is only a certificate, which can be completed in about a year, according to the BLS. The BLS also reports that jobs for LPNs were expected to grow by 22% from 2010-2020, and these professionals earned a mean salary of about $42,000 as of 2011.
If the administrative work involved in keeping a healthcare facility running smoothly is appealing, but you don't want to work directly with patients, a career as a healthcare administrator may suit you better. Healthcare administrators oversee the quality and efficiency of the services a facility provides to patients. You might oversee the finances of the facility, ensure that the facility complies with healthcare regulations and laws, develop work schedules for staff and organize the facility's records. Healthcare administrators usually have at least a bachelor's degree in health administration and must be licensed to manage care facilities; however, the career offers much higher earning potential - the BLS reports that these workers earned a mean salary of about $96,000 as of 2011. Jobs in this field were expected to grow 22% between 2010 and 2020.