Patient education is vital to informed decision-making and ensuring patients are engaged in their care. While graduates of an online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) – Nurse Educator program, like that at Worcester State University (WSU), can pursue nurse educator positions in nursing schools, several other patient-facing career paths exist. In fact, graduates of that program can become clinical nurse educators, continuing education specialists, or patient education coordinators.
What Are the Duties and Job Responsibilities of Patient Education Coordinators?
Patient education coordinators focus on educating patients about their disease or condition. They provide unbiased, evidence-based resources and information about self-care, treatment options, medication management, and what to expect before, during, and after a hospital stay or procedure.
Sometimes called care coordinators or patient navigators, these individuals serve as a liaison between healthcare providers and the patient, caretakers, and family members. They coordinate care and appointments, support patients navigating complex treatment and care plans, and help them evaluate treatment based on its alignment with personal health goals. Patient care coordinators also introduce coping strategies and lifestyle changes to improve treatment adherence, outlook, and mental health.
Additional responsibilities include
- Verifying patient health history
- Contacting insurance companies to confirm insurance benefits and authorizations
- Communicating with healthcare providers, members of the care team, and the community
- Scheduling appointments and relaying appropriate information to patients and their families
- Developing care plans in coordination with the care team while keeping the patient’s health goals in mind
- Researching new funding opportunities, clinical trials, and community services that may assist patients
How Do Patient Education Coordinators Improve Care?
Patient education coordinators are key healthcare team members, often working in various settings, including hospitals, physician practices, nursing care facilities, government and public health, home health, and specialty clinics like oncology. They offer patients resources and strategies to achieve optimal health, positively impacting care, outcomes, and health inequities. Well-informed patients generally make better decisions about their health and daily habits.
Research, including a November 2022 study published in Health and Social Care in the Community, suggests that patients with access to care coordination experience increased treatment adherence, quality of life, and well-being. Lower anxiety levels and improvements in overcoming socioeconomic barriers, such as food access and housing, were also reported. In addition, the support provided by patient education coordinators can reduce complications, medication errors, and readmissions, further decreasing the overall cost of care.
What Skills Do Patient Education Coordinators Need?
Patient education coordinators need the following skills and qualities:
- Excellent verbal and written communication skills
- Teamwork and interdisciplinary collaboration
- Enjoy working in a patient-facing role
- Desire to educate patients about health conditions, self-care, and available resources
- Strong organizational and critical-thinking skills
- Advanced knowledge of pathophysiology, pharmacology, and health promotion
- Ability to develop health education programs and patient-friendly teaching materials
What Education Do Patient Education Coordinators Need?
Patient education coordinators require clinical expertise and knowledge about a wide range of health conditions, making it an ideal career for nurses. Typically, employers prefer RN candidates with an MSN. Additional certifications, like those offered by the Health Care Education Association (HCEA) and the Association of Community Health Nursing Educators (ACHNE), are optional but may set candidates apart.
How Much Do Patient Education Coordinators Earn?
Patient education coordinators earn an average annual salary of $136,500, according to Salary.com (February 2023), with the top earners exceeding $150K yearly.
Although every healthcare professional has a duty to help patients understand their condition, patient education coordinators dedicate their time and energy to these educational endeavors. Nurses pursuing this career should have a passion for teaching others and a knack for distilling complex information into easy-to-understand advice and materials. Worcester State’s online MSN Nurse Educator program equips graduates for the role of patient education coordinator, highlighting critical skills for success and two practicums to gain hands-on experience.
Learn more about Worcester State University’s online MSN Nurse Educator program.