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Nurses Uniquely Suited To Be Care Coordinators

Alexandra Wilson Pecci, for HealthLeaders Media, April 30, 2013

Like nurses, care coordinators "have many, many irons in the fire each day and keep all patients in [their] line of site," Duni says. Like nurses who care for multiple patients during their shifts, care coordinators must juggle many patients with varying needs and constantly prioritize and reprioritize whose needs are greatest at each moment.

Like nurses, care coordinators must do their work with constant interruptions and a never-ending sense of urgency. Always triaging patients, determining who's the sickest, who needs help right now, who needs help later, who needs a follow-up.

Like nurses, care coordinators must do their work with constant interruptions and a never-ending sense of urgency. Always triaging patients, determining who's the sickest, who needs help right now, who needs help later, who needs a follow-up.

"That type of stop-and-go [environment], and yet getting it all done, and keeping it all afloat… that particular skill set is what you learn as a nurse," Duni says. "You're always doing 10 things at one time, and I think that's unique to nursing." Care coordinators need to understand things such as community services, insurance, rehab, social services, and more. Duni describes patients as the center of a wheel, and all of their needs are spokes. The care coordinator connects all of those disparate pieces to make the wheel turn.

"A care coordinator needs to be able to establish and utilize a network of resources," Duni says.

As the role becomes more commonplace, Duni says she wonders whether, one day, nurses will be able to specialize in care coordination. Training programs are emerging, like the one Duni herself participated in through Horizon Healthcare Innovations, a subsidiary of Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, and Duke University School of Nursing and Rutgers College of Nursing.

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