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.