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MDS Coordinator: Job Description & Career Info

The Minimum Data Set (MDS) is a key tool in the process of assessing the functional capabilities of residents of certified nursing facilities. MDS coordinators, also known as nurse assessment coordinators, use these results to formulate and implement individual care plans for residents. Most are licensed nurses who are trained on-the-job or through formal, off-site training programs.

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Job Description for MDS Coordinators

The objective of MDS coordinators is to promote the physical and emotional well being of nursing facility residents. They use a Resident Assessment Instrument (RAI) to gather information from residents and their families during initial and periodic interviews. The MDS covers such areas as the patient's mood, behavior patterns, cognitive ability, and nutrition needs.

Information from these assessments helps nursing home caretakers formulate individualized care plans that include support from social services, dieticians, rehab specialists, and medical staff. MDS coordinators then implement and monitor these care plans to ensure their effectiveness. They must also make sure all strategies comply with Medicare requirements and ethical standards.

Education and Licensing Requirements

MDS coordinators commonly start their career as registered nurses (RN) or licensed practical nurses (LPN). RN degree programs last two to four years at the undergraduate level. Licensed practical nursing programs commonly are one year in length. Coursework discusses pharmacology, pathophysiology, and nursing fundamentals.

All nurses must be licensed by their state of employment. State licensure commonly requires passing nursing examinations that are administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). The NCSBN offers a National Council Licensure Exam for prospective RNs (NCLEX-RN) and for prospective LPNs (NCLEX-PN).

Formal MDS coordinator training programs are available, if employers do not provide this training on the job to newly hired nurses. The American Association of Nurse Assessment Coordination (AANAC) offers one that covers assessment scheduling, survey methods, and care planning. Those who complete this 10-course program become Resident Assessment Coordinator - Certified (RAC-CT).

Employment and Economic Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2012, employment of RNs will grow by 26% from 2010-2020 (www.bls.gov); job opportunities for LPNs and licensed vocational nurses will likely increase by 22% during the same time frame. MDS coordinators earned $43,305 - $77,215 annually as of November 2013, according to PayScale.com.

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