AURORA, CO – In the age of healthcare reform and the advent of coordinated care models such as accountable care organizations, nurses have an increasing number of career opportunities, say industry insiders. Topping the list are care managers and leadership roles in the C-suite – positions key to controlling healthcare costs.
Nurse navigators and care coordinators are becoming an integral part of the coordinated care models healthcare reform supporters are saying will improve quality of care and keep healthcare costs down. Nurses are uniquely positioned to take up care coordination roles because they are trained holistically, said Catherine Garner, PhD, RN, dean of health sciences and nursing at American Sentinel University, an online academic institution based in Colorado.
“They have knowledge of disease processes and treatment, but they also understand and are really schooled in theoretical foundations of human behavior. Why people would comply or not comply based on their health beliefs,” she said.
They are also taught how to assess through data collection and analysis and how to create and monitor a plan of care. If nurses communicate with patients on a level they can understand, there are greater chances of medication compliance and if they follow up and monitor patients, it reduces costly hospital readmissions. That’s the kind of systems-based thinking that will be needed in the coordinated care models of the near future, Garner pointed out.
Elaine Tagliareni, EdD, RN, chief program officer, National League for Nursing, agrees. “It’s that holistic approach that really is required when you’re looking at community based care and what it takes to manage people in the community,” she said. “It’s not just their disease and their medications, it involves all those other (psychosocial) components. I think nurses more than any other (medical professional) are really focused in on that communication piece and how you promote wellness as well as manage disease.”
As healthcare facilities transform themselves into coordinated care models, nursing directors are increasingly finding themselves in expanding leadership roles, Garner noted. They are moving beyond patient care into executive level positions in which they are responsible for coordinating medical staff teams and for levels of financial management far beyond basic budgeting. With additional leadership education, she said, nurses may move into executive level operations roles.
Advance practice nurses, said Tagliareni, are already leading federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) for underserved populations across the country. In order for nurses to take advantage of the career opportunities afforded by the coordinated care models evolving out of healthcare reform – such as leading FQHCs – nurses must get advanced education, Tagliareni said.