For patients who’ve encountered chronic illnesses or traumatic injuries, as well as those who’ve undergone major surgery, the recovery process can be long. Following hospitalization, many patients require follow-up appointments, extended therapy and other ongoing interventions. Without these additional clinical services, patients may experience a high risk of complication or even readmission to the hospital. Many health systems have struggled over the years to help their patients adhere to these extended care regimens.
That’s where the care coordinator comes into play. Care coordinators work to manage the various interventions their patients receive, both in and out of the hospital. This is a critical role, helping patients to remain on track for a full recovery. For example, for a patient recovering from a car accident, a care coordinator may help to arrange the proper physical therapy appointments and stay in touch about how it is progressing. Or, for a mother who recently gave birth, a care coordinator may provide information about lactation support or postpartum depression screenings.
Becoming a care coordinator is a great way to make a difference in patients’ lives and to enable health systems to provide their services more efficiently. The best way to get started on this rewarding career path is to receive formal education, which provides the clinical skills and critical thinking abilities needed for effective care management.
What Does a Care Coordinator Do?
Here’s an overview of what care coordinators do, as well as the value they bring to hospitals and health systems.
The Role of a Care Coordinator
The overarching goal of a care coordinator is to work with patients to manage their health care needs and help them to improve their overall wellness. Care coordinators can work with patients before and after they’ve left a medical facility, consulting with them and their primary care providers, explaining their conditions and answering their questions, helping oversee their treatment plans, assisting with health care finances, and monitoring their progress. Care coordinators serve as allies and support systems as patients undergo extended therapy, rehabilitation or other medical interventions.
The Importance of a Care Coordinator
Care coordinators help to improve patient outcomes. By providing treatment management and oversight, they can ensure that patients are doing everything necessary to make full recoveries, minimizing the risks of complication, infection or hospital readmission. Care coordinators can act as liaisons between patients and the health facility, something that benefits the patient but also helps providers to have a clearer understanding of what those patients need. This helps hospitals and clinical facilities to more efficiently use their resources.
Skills of a Care Coordinator
Care coordinators meet with both patients and clinical care teams. They serve as advocates for their patients. They can also be the “face” of the care team, providing a crucial junction point for communication and feedback. This requires several important skills.
- Medical knowledge. Care coordinators don’t need to be medical experts, but they do need to understand medical conditions and treatment options to answer patients’ questions and educate them about their medical situations. Without some baseline familiarity with medical terminology, care coordinators won’t be able to accurately convey information between patients and providers.
- Oral and written communication. The ability to effectively communicate is vital as care coordinators help to explain patients’ medical conditions and work with their nurses and primary care providers to plan treatment. This requires clarity and precision to ensure that everyone is on the same page, and no element of the patient’s condition is ever “lost in translation.”
- Critical thinking and decision-making. Care coordinators make important decisions regarding patients’ treatment plans and can ensure that they receive proper home care. This requires an evidence-based approach, the ability to carefully analyze patients’ conditions and infer the best ways for patients to continue their treatment or recovery.Patient outcomes often rest on the decision-making ability of care coordinators.
- Attention to detail. The ability to organize patient information and pay attention to details is necessary, as care coordinators work with financial information, patient history, medications, treatment plans, and various nurses and primary care providers. Organization ensures that providers are working with all the information they need to provide exemplary patient care.
- Relationship building and empathy. Care coordinators need to demonstrate interpersonal skills and be able to build relationships with their patients. It falls to care coordinators to ensure that patients adhere to their prescribed treatment plans, and that’s only possible when the care coordinator establishes trust and creates a rapport with patients.
A Career in Care Coordination
Care coordinators can serve patients in many environments. The role is most commonly associated with hospital settings, but many large medical practices now have care coordinators to help patients navigate their follow-up and post-treatment options. Additionally, government and nonprofit entities sometimes hire care coordinators to ensure that local populations are fully using the available resources.
Given the myriad applications for care coordination, it should come as no surprise that this is a fast-growing field. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the care coordinator role is anticipated to grow by 11% percent between 2018 and 2028. The median annual salary for care coordinators was $46,080 in 2018.
Success in this field requires a robust educational background. Some of the best fields to consider are social work and liberal studies. Seeking a bachelor’s degree in these or any related fields can provide the foundation you need to become a care coordinator.
What Does a Care Coordinator Do? Learn More Today
Rider University’s online Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies provides students with the analytical thinking skills, as well as the communication competencies, that lead to efficacy in care coordination. To learn more about this rewarding career path, connect with Rider’s program directly.