After several years of clinical experience, some professional nurses choose to advance their careers by becoming RN case managers. These healthcare specialists often work as liaisons between doctors, patients, family members and insurance companies. They are typically considered the key component of individual health care teams because they ensure patients obtain all the medical services they require.
Nurses considering a career as an RN case manager should have a keen understanding of medical practices and terminology as well as a deep desire to help patients. Due to the complexities of the job, the role of an RN nurse manager can be both hectic and stressful. Excellent time management and the ability to work well under pressure are must-have skills for this position.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for healthcare professionals in the United States is anticipated to grow by 15% over the next ten years. This includes the role of case management nurses since they play a pivotal role in various healthcare specialties, including surgery, physical and occupational therapy, mental health, geriatric, pediatrics, and hospice.
If becoming an RN case manager seems like the right career option for you, this guide can help. It will provide more information about the role of a case management nurse and discuss how much they are paid in comparison to other nursing professions.
Role of an RN case manager
RN case managers are not your typical healthcare professionals. While these skilled workers are licensed, registered nurses with years of experience, they don’t usually provide direct treatment to patients. Instead, the average case management nurse often works as a coordinator, educator, patient advocate and social worker. They are basically the glue that holds the care team together because they coordinate with every medical care professional working with the patient. They also work as a liaison between the patient and these professionals.
As a nurse case manager, you can expect to earn an average of $79,490, although exact wages vary based on several factors, including experience, education and location. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for RNs is expected to grow by 7% over the next ten years. With a high demand in the nursing field as a whole, it’s safe to assume that the demand for RN case managers will grow as well.
Case management nurses work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, senior living communities, hospice care agencies, cancer centers, outpatient clinics and rehabilitation centers. Additionally, some case managers work for insurance companies, including government-run Medicaid and Medicare as well as large manufacturing and industrial plants. Despite their work environment, their primary goal remains to ensure patients obtain all the care requires to treat the condition in the most affordable way possible.
Healthcare case managers typically work with patients facing long-term serious, or even life-threatening, illnesses or catastrophic injuries. For example, they may work with patients struggling with diabetes or Alzheimer’s Disease, children born with a birth defect, individuals dealing with cancer diagnoses, patients with mental health diagnoses or car accident survivors. Some nursing in case management specializes in a specific type of care, such as geriatrics or oncology.
Despite their specific illness or injury, most of these patients require services from multiple healthcare providers. For example, an accident victim may require medical services from a primary care physician, surgeon, physical therapist and mental health professional. A nurse case manager is responsible for setting up appointments for the patient, collaborating with each medical professional on the care team, patient education and communication between patient and medical staff as well as constantly monitoring and assessing their patient’s individual care plans.
A typical RN case manager’s job description would include tasks, such as:
- Determine medical needs of patients
- Create and implement health care plans based on doctor’s orders
- Monitor patient care plans and update as necessary
- Assess patient’ care plans and provide follow-up
- Schedule necessary medical appointment for patients
- Provide patient education to patient and family members
- Assist with the transfer process between care facilities
- Develop a discharge plan for each patient
- Serve as a liaison between patient and care team
- Update family members in accordance with state and federal regulations
Most case managers maintain standard business hours, meaning daytime hours, Monday through Friday. However, if they work at a location that provides 24/7 care, such as a hospital or rehab center, they may be required to work shift hours. As a case manager, you will likely spend a portion of your day interacting with patients, family members and medical professionals and that other part of the day creating and updating care plans and making phone calls.
Most case managers work directly with patients for several years before transitioning to an RN case manager. These years of experience give RNs an in-depth understanding of medical practices, terminology and treatments, which is necessary in a case management career. Nurse case managers should also have good computer skills because they will be maintaining patient health records and developing individualized care plans.
Additionally, RNs who work as case managers must have strong communication skills, both written and verbal. They serve as the main communication source for patients, family members, physicians and sometimes insurance companies. They must provide patient education, develop and explain treatment plans, and remain in constant contact with the care team.
Due to the demands of these jobs, caseworkers must also have strong organizational skills and be extremely detailed oriented because patient care plans must be accurate. They must also be able to multitask well because they will be working with dozens of patients at a time. Additionally, it’s desirable for these professionals to have a high level of empathy and compassion for patients and their family members. It’s also important to realize that many of these patients are facing life-or-death situations.
How much the average RN case manager makes
According to the Economic Research Institute, the average salary estimate, including overtime and bonuses, for case management nurses in the United States is $79,490. However, these salaries vary greatly based on experience, education and location.
As with nearly all careers, experience significantly affects salaries. For example, an entry-level case manager nurse can expect an average base salary of $66,077, whereas a seasoned professional with over 20 years of experience has an average salary expectancy of $78,352. The difference is due to the fact that an experienced nurse not only shows a high level of stability and professionalism, but they are able to provide a higher level of patient care with minimum supervision.
However, case management nurses don’t have to wait 20 years to see a salary increase. Here’s a look at the average salaries for RN case managers at different stages in their careers.
- Less than 1 year of experience: $66,077
- Between 1 and 4 years of experience: $69,048
- Between 5 and 9 years of experience: $72,437
- Between 10 and 19 years of experience: $75,422
- Over 20 years of experience: $78,352
Note: These salaries estimate do not include overtime pay and bonuses.
RN case managers must be licensed registered nurses, which required either an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. While both an associate degree and a bachelor’s degree allow nurses to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam to become a licensed registered nurse, those with a BSN tend to be paid more than those with an ADN degree.
The same is true for nurses who move on to obtain their Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or even a Doctor of Nursing Practices (DNP) degree. Basically, the higher level of education you obtain the more you can expect to earn. Even continuing education classes geared toward medical case managers can help to boost your salary. Additionally, nurses who work towards becoming a certified case managers can expect to earn more money once they have their certification.
The important thing is to remember to tell your employer as you advance your education level and training advances. This step will ensure you receive every raise you’re entitled to due to your education.
Location also plays a role in how much a nurse care manager can expect to earn. In fact, there is more than a $20,000 difference in average annual salaries between the highest paying state (New Jersey – $92,163) and the lowest paying state (Oklahoma – $70,940).
Below is a breakdown of the ten states with the highest RN case management salaries as well as the ten states with the lowest salaries.
Highest care management nursing salaries (including overtime and bonuses).
- New Jersey: $92,163
- California: $90,226
- New York: $88,701
- Connecticut: $87,589
- Massachusetts: $86,450
- Alaska: $85,916
- Maryland: $85,119
- Rhode Island: $83,943
- Washington: $83,888
- Delaware: $83,731
Lowest case management nursing salaries (including overtime and bonuses).
- Oklahoma: $70,940
- Mississippi: $71,583
- Montana: $71,909
- Arkansas: $72,305
- South Dakota: $72,549
- Nebraska: $72,634
- Kansas: $73,246
- West Virginia: $73,313
- Tennessee: $73,366
- Iowa: $73,676
There are several reasons why there is such a high discrepancy between wages in the United States.
First, the cost of living in a specific area plays a major role in wages. The cost of living represents the amount of money a person needs to earn to maintain a standard quality of life. Employers in areas with a higher cost of living tend to pay higher salaries. For example, California, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Jersey all have higher than the average cost of living and therefore offer some of the highest wages in the country. On the other hand, states with a lower cost of living, such as Mississippi, Oklahoma, Kansas and Arkansas, offer some of the lowest nursing salaries.
Secondly, demand also affects nursing salaries. States that have a high demand for qualified nurses, such as New Jersey, Alaska and California are often willing to pay higher salaries. These states hope that the higher pay will entice more nurses to move to their states.
Finally, minimum wages can influence salaries at all levels. For example, states with the lowest mandated federal minimum wage of $7.25, such as Iowa, Tennessee, Mississippi and Oklahoma also have lower than average case management nursing salaries.
It’s important to consider all these factors when deciding where to apply for an RN case management job.
Benefits of becoming an RN case manager
There are many reasons why an RN may decide to become a medical case manager. Perhaps, they enjoy educating patients, developing care plans or working as part of a healthcare team. They may enjoy helping people and combining their nursing role with that of a social worker. Maybe, these nurses like being able to support patients through their medical journey by providing end-to-end care solutions.
Another reason may be the great benefits offered to nurse case managers, such as:
One of the most common complaints nurses have is the long hours and shift work. These factors are particularly difficult for families and aging nurses. For example, nurses with young children may not like the idea of working second or third-shift rather than school time hours and aging nurses may no longer have the stamina to handle 10 to 12-hour shifts.
This complaint is one of the top reasons that RNs consider transferring to case management jobs. RN case managers typically work daytime hours, Monday through Friday. This is the time when most physicians are available and when medical appointments can be made. These nurses also find that daytime hours are the best time to meet with patients, especially in an inpatient care setting, such as a hospital.
However, because you have to be available to patients at a time that most convenient for them, it’s possible that you may have to work some evening hours. Overtime may also be necessary during high-demand timeframes. For example, many case management nurses were working overtime during the recent pandemic.
Nurses who love providing healthcare services but don’t enjoy standing on their feet for long periods of time should consider a career as a nurse case manager. Rather than standing on their feet all day, these nursing professionals spend their days meeting with patients, scheduling appointments, collaborating with other medical professionals and making necessary phone calls. While case manager nurses will likely need to stand when talking to patients and other medical staff, they also spend a large part of the day on their computers or talking on the phone.
Some case manager nurses even have the luxury of being able to work from home. While they still must perform all the necessary duties, such as scheduling appointments and updating patient’s care plans, they don’t have to spend travel time going to and from the office. However, they may need to travel to patients’ homes or even meet patients at various medical appointments.
Fortunately, RN case managers can make as much, or even more, as RN nursing providing direct care to patients. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average $73,300 per year. Comparing this figure to the national average salary of $79,490 for RN case managers, you can that these specialized nursing professional year, on average $6,190 more per year.
Care management nurses who move on to advance their career or earn their certification as a nurse care manager can earn even higher salaries.
The nursing field in general offers an array of diverse opportunities and the same is true for those in the case management nursing field. There are literally dozens of options available to these nurses. First, you can select from a variety of workplace environments, such as a hospital, rehabilitation center, outpatient clinic, hospice agency or insurance office. You can even decide if you prefer to work on the medical care side of case management or the billing side.
Many case management nurses also select a specialty field to work in, such as pediatrics, oncology or mental health. For example, a pediatric case management nurse will likely work at a children’s hospital or in the neonatal unit of a larger hospital, whereas a case manager specializing in oncology will likely work at a cancer center or a larger hospital with a separate cancer unit.
This variety of job options give registered case management nurses the flexibility to find a career path that best matches their skills, experience and interests. It also gives them the freedom to change specialties later if desired.
Most employers of care management nurses offer standard employee benefits, such as a 401(k), medical insurance and paid time off, which is great in and of itself. However, many of these employers also offer additional perks, such as flexible spending accounts, loan assistance and mileage reimbursement.
What really attracts nurses to these jobs is that many employers offer tuition reimbursement, paid training and/or career development opportunities. These benefits allow nurses to advance their skills and educational level without the added experience. Some employers require employees to remain employees with the company for a set number of years to qualify for these programs, so it’s important to check the details out before accepting these types of benefits.
How the salary for RN case managers compares with other types of nursing professionals
Nursing salaries vary greatly based on specific positions and specialties. If you are considering a career as a registered nurse case manager, it’s important to compare salaries with other nursing career options you may be considering.
For example, an RN makes more than a nursing assistant, licensed practical nurse or emergency medical technician, but less than an advanced practice nurse or physician assistant. Below is a breakdown of the average salaries for some of the most common nursing occupations.
- Nursing assistant: $29,640
- Emergency medical technician: $35,400
- Licensed practical nurse: $47,480
- Registered nurse: $73,300
- Nurse Instructor: $74,600
- Clinical nurse manager: $82,750
- Physician assistant: $112,260
- Advanced practical registered nurse: $115,800
- Nurse executive: $131,572
As you can see, licensed RN’s salaries fall in the middle of the list. The primary cause for these differences is education level. For example, licensed practical nurses (LPN) only require the completion of a one-year nursing school diploma program and the successful passage of the NCLEX-PN, whereas RNs must complete an accredited undergraduate program to earn their associate’s (Associate in Nursing Degree) or bachelor’s degree (Bachelor of Science in Nursing).
Higher-level positions, such as an Advanced Practical Registered Nurse (APRN) require nurses to complete a graduate program at the masters or doctorate level. The top three types of APRNs with their corresponding salary estimates are:
- Nurse Midwife (NM): $105,030
- Nurse Practitioner (NP): $109,820
- Nurse Anesthetist (NA): $174,790
Salaries within the nursing field also differ based on specialty. On average, positions that require a higher level of skills and training tend to pay more. For example, critical care transport nurses must be able to stabilize patients facing life-threatening injuries or illnesses during transport on a helicopter or medical plane. Due to the extreme conditions, these nurses average $42 per hour. On the other hand, home health care nurses who provide limited medical services to elderly or disabled patients living at home earn about $14 less per hour because the level of care is not the same.
While there are dozens of medical specialties for nurses to consider, below is a look at several of these fields along with its average hourly pay.
- Critical care transport nurse: $42.00
- Neonatal nurse: $35.22
- Psychiatric nurse: $33.88
- Oncology nurse: $33.47
- Emergency room nurse: $31.85
- Forensic nurse: $30.01
- Ob-gyn nurse: $31.46
- Geriatrics nurse: $29.49
- Home health care nurse: $28.29
- Pediatric nurse: $27.85
Nurse case managers can also specialize in a specific field. For example, case manager that work at nursing home often specialized in geriatric case management.
RN nursing salaries even vary by industry. For example, an RN working for the government earns an average yearly salary of $79,790, while an RN working at a hospital or private practice earns an average of $75,030. Other Bureau of Labor Statistics reports shows that RN working in an Ambulatory care setting earn an average annual salary of $75,030 and those working in a nursing home environment earn an average of $66,250 per year. Additionally, nurse educators with an RN license can earn an average wage of $63,690.
While no breakdown for RN case manager’s average salary by industry is available, it’s safe to assume those working in government jobs or at a hospital will earn more than those working at a nursing home. However, insurance companies, including government-run Medicare and Medicaid agencies, also pay very well as do major manufacturing and industrial plants. If you are looking for a high-paying job, you may want to consider working at a government-run medical facility, such as a VA hospital or for an insurance agency or manufacturing plant.
Within the case management nursing field itself, RNs can improve their career and salary options by gaining their certification as a certified case manager. This certification demonstrates your knowledge in patient care, assessments and medical practices.
There are three main certifications for registered nurse care managers available, including:
Certified Case Manager (CCM)
Certification for Certified Case Managers (CCM) is administered by the Commission for Case Manager Certification (CCMC) and accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). This is the most popular registered nurse case management program and has certified over 44,000 RN case managers.
RNs interested in earning their CCM certification must have a current RN license in the state in which they want to practice and have 12 months of CCM-supervised case management experience or 24 months of unsupervised case management experience and meet the CCMC professional code of conduct requirements.
This CCM certification exam consists of 150 multiple choice questions and 30 pre-test practice questions. Successful passage of the exam is required for certification. The CCM certification must be renewed every five years.
Nursing Case Management Certification (CMGT-BC)
The Nursing Case Management Certification is administered through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). This is another popular certification program among nurse care managers with over 2,000 certified RNs.
Nurses interested in the certification must have a current RN license from the state in which they want to practice and have completed 2 years and 2,000 clinical hours of work experience. Additionally, they must complete at least 30 hours of continuing education credits before sitting for the examination.
This knowledge-based exam consists of 125 questions as well as 25 pre-test practice questions. Nurses must pass this exam to obtain their Nursing Case Management Certification. This RN certification must be renewed every five years.
American Case Management (ACM-RN) certification
The American Case Management certification is managed by the American Case Management Association. It is available to both RN (Registered Nurse) and SW (Social Workers) professionals. There are currently over 6,000 ACM-certified case managers.
RNs and SWs interested in taking the American Case Management examination must hold a current RN or SW license from the state in which they wish to work in and have completed at least 1 year or 2,080 hours of paid work experience in the case management field.
The ACM certification exam consists of a mixture of knowledge-based and clinical simulation questions. Successful passage of this exam is required to obtain an ACM certification. Nurses must recertify every four years.