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How do I Become a Nurse Case Manager?

By D. Jeffress
Updated Jan 27, 2024
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Nurse case managers are essential members of health care teams at hospitals, clinics, doctors' offices, and home health companies. They keep track of patients' medical records, bills, treatment schedules, and other important documents to ensure that they receive accurate, timely services. A person who wants to become a nurse case manager usually needs to obtain at least a bachelor's degree in nursing, pass a national licensing exam, and gain experience working directly with patients to qualify for the position. Additional requirements to become a nurse case manager are region-specific, but most professionals need to pass additional certification tests before they can start working unsupervised.

The first step to become a nurse case manager is to earn registered nurse (RN) credentials. An individual can choose to complete a two-year associate's or four-year bachelor's degree program in preparation for the licensing test, though most future case managers opt for bachelor's degrees. While enrolled in nursing school, a student receives detailed instruction in a number of topics related to the profession. A graduate can take a national test to become an RN and begin applying for entry-level nursing jobs at hospitals.

A new RN who wants to become a nurse case manager usually begins his or her career in another nursing position to gain practical experience in the field. Most new nurses start in emergency rooms and critical care centers, where they are exposed to many different types of patients suffering from any number of conditions. An experienced RN can determine if he or she wants to perform case management in a particular specialty, such as pediatrics, oncology, or acute care, and inquire with hospital administrators about how to enter the field.

Depending on the region and hospital, an RN may need to take specialized training courses before he or she can become a nurse case manager. A person who is able to obtain a position usually receives formal training from established case managers for several months to learn about policies and techniques. After fulfilling training requirements, an RN can take a certification exam administered by a regional or national governing board to officially become a nurse case manager.

A successful nurse might decide to pursue continuing education courses in order to earn clinical nurse specialist (CNS) credentials. As a CNS, an individual can assume important administrative duties. He or she can help to create new hospital policies and determine how to improve the current practice of case management.

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Discussion Comments
By tolleranza — On Sep 29, 2011

A nurse case manager seems like a great career for a nurse who decides they would rather work with policies and papers more than people on a regular basis. It seems like you would have to be a very organized person to keep track of all the patients records, bills, treatments, etc.! This seems like a really difficult job actually!

Becoming a CNS, clinical nurse specialist, seems like the way to go before a nurse becomes a nurse case manager, if the nurse wants more say so in what goes within her job. It sounds really neat that clinical nurse specialist's get to make new policies and polish old policies. That sounds like a lot of responsibility on one person's shoulders though! I love the fact that a nurse's have so many options to choose from, it really has become a big field of vast opportunities!

By robbie21 — On Sep 29, 2011

@jennythelib - I think that if she decides to become a nurse, then once she enrolls in nursing school, the other decisions will fall into place.

My sister is a nurse. She got into it planning to become a midwife. But first she had to work as a nurse, and she didn't get hired by labor and delivery right away. (Apparently, that's one of the harder specialties to get into because there's a lot of responsibility. New nurses usually work something else first.)

So she got a job in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) so that she could still go to deliveries. But guess what? She loves taking care of preemies. Now she's thinking of becoming a neonatal nurse practitioner instead of a midwife.

Anyone in a health field will have options. Tell your niece to head for nursing school and see where it takes her! (Nursing over medical any day, in my book. Soooo much cheaper, good earning potential - nurse anesthetists in particular make as much or more than some doctors - and someone else worries about the insurance companies.)

By jennythelib — On Sep 28, 2011

My niece is really interested in nursing as a career, but there seem to be such a bewildering array of choices out there. Forget about just deciding whether to become a doctor or a nurse; there's physician assistant, doctor of optometry, pharmacist, and then down through the jobs that take less education, like ultrasound technician.

If she does decide on nursing, how can she narrow down her choices? It seems like there are so many, many ways to go with nursing (nurse manager, nurse practitioner, nurse case manager, nurse anesthetist. and on and on!).

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