Quick Apply GHR Live!

How to Transition from Bedside Nursing to Case Management: A Complete Guide

April 11, 2024

Bedside nursing offers a deeply rewarding foundation for many nurses, providing them with invaluable experience and the chance to directly impact patients' lives. As career aspirations evolve, some nurses may choose to pursue different paths, building upon their bedside skills. They might crave new challenges, a more holistic impact on patient care, or simply a change in environment. Transitioning from bedside nursing to RN case management could be the perfect answer, allowing nurses to leverage their expertise in a new way. 


But what exactly is case management, and how does it differ from bedside nursing? Keep reading for a comprehensive look at this rewarding career path, including the day-to-day activities and the impact you can make if you decide to make the switch (And remember, we’re here to help you every step of the way!). 


“ Case Management is a dynamic process that assesses, plans, implements, coordinates, monitors, and evaluates to improve outcomes, experiences, and value. The practice of case management is professional and collaborative, occurring in a variety of settings where medical care, mental health care, and social supports are delivered.”  

 The American Case Management Association (ACMA)


Why Make the Switch from RN to Case Manager? 


Holistic Impact on Patient Health 

Case Management enables RNs to apply their clinical expertise in new ways, impacting the patient throughout their entire healthcare journey. They coordinate care across providers, ensuring a smooth transition from hospital to home or other settings. This holistic approach allows you to witness the lasting positive impact of your work. 



“I have always been motivated by helping others reach their goals. As a nurse, I have been able to help individuals achieve a healthy state of being, which is important in life. Nursing was a gateway to case management for me, and it allowed me to help patients on a larger scale. A person’s health goes beyond just their body, it includes their environment. It’s not always what’s physically wrong with a person but their circumstances that can drive their wellbeing. We not only aid with patient’s acute needs, but we seek out resources for more permanent solutions to their underlying issues.”

Shanika C., MBA, BSN, RN Case Manager on the GHR team

A person’s health goes beyond just their body, it includes their environment.


A New Challenge  

Case management enables you to strengthen your communication, collaboration, and advocacy skills as you work with patients, families, social workers, and other healthcare professionals. It's a career path that fosters a well-rounded skillset that's highly valuable in today's healthcare landscape in the United States. 



“I went into case management because I felt it was a field of nursing that I could use my nursing knowledge to make a difference in people’s lives, but that did not require me to be on my feet 12 hours a day. Since going into case management, I have grown as a nurse and a person. I enjoy working with each patient individually to find out what they need. Every day I go to work there are different people with different situations and needs. I enjoy the challenge of it and love it when there are new challenges to work out.”

Patricia S., RN Case Manager on the GHR team 

Career Growth Potential  

Transitioning to case management opens doors to leadership or specialized positions in utilization review, disease management, and population health. This path caters to those who seek to influence healthcare systems at a broader, strategic level and those who may want to increase their earning potential significantly.



While it can vary depending on location and experience, case management positions often offer a higher salary compared to many bedside nursing roles. This can be a significant factor, especially for nurses seeking financial stability or wanting to pursue further education.



“Case Management and Care Coordination have evolved to become an essential and pivotal part of the healthcare team. We balance the needs of the patient and the realities of healthcare. Today's case managers, whether a Registered Nurse or a Social Worker, need to combine compassion, clinical expertise, advocacy, and knowledge of all aspects of healthcare. From the Emergency Room to the outpatient setting, Case Management is there. We are educators, guides, and resources for our patients. For me, it has been an honor and a privilege to work in the Case Management field.

—   Patrick O’Boyle | RN, BSN, ACM-RN, CMAC, CCM 

GHR Healthcare Director of Compliance for Case Management and Social Services 

ACMA Florida Chapter President 

Why Make the Switch from RN to Case Manager? 

While some case management positions may require additional certifications, your RN license and bedside experience provide a strong foundation for the transition. Here are some important steps to take on your journey: 


1. Network with Case Managers

Connect with colleagues: Don't underestimate the power of your existing network! Talk to case managers in your facility or reach out to nurses who have made the switch. Their insights into the day-to-day realities, challenges, and rewards of case management can be invaluable. 

Professional organizations: Leverage professional organizations like the Case Management Society of America (CMSA) or the American Case Management Association (ACMA). Attend local chapter meetings or online webinars to connect with experienced case managers. These organizations can also be a great resource for job postings and career development resources. 



“Staying informed is vital. Participating in ACMA’s regional groups’ monthly education webinars can be highly beneficial. There are numerous opportunities out there if you actively seek them. Remember, keeping up with education benefits not only you but also your patients and your organization.”

—  Kathryn F., RN Case Manager on the GHR team

2. Highlight Transferrable Skills

When updating your resume and preparing for interviews, showcase the transferable skills you've developed during your bedside nursing career. Case management heavily relies on the following:

Assessment: Your experience in patient evaluation, identifying needs, and developing plans of care translates exceptionally well to case management.

Communication: Collaboration is at the heart of case management. You'll spend much of your time communicating with patients, families, doctors, social workers, and other healthcare professionals. Highlight your ability to explain complex medical information in a clear and concise way.

Coordination: Your bedside nursing experience has made you an expert at juggling multiple tasks and ensuring smooth care coordination. This expertise will be essential when coordinating care plans, appointments, and referrals across different healthcare settings.


3. Consider Recertification

While not always mandatory, pursuing relevant certifications demonstrates your commitment to the field and builds upon your qualifications in the job market. While certification requirements vary, all have requirements regarding years of experience. Check the application requirements of the certification that interests you prior to applying. Here are some options to explore: 


Additional Tips

Research different case management settings: Explore opportunities in hospitals, home health agencies, insurance companies, or public health. Each setting offers a unique work environment and patient population.

Volunteer or shadow a case manager: Getting firsthand experience can be incredibly valuable. Volunteer opportunities or job shadowing programs might be available at your facility or within professional organizations.


What Does an RN Case Manager Do?

Case managers are the glue that holds the healthcare system together. Their core responsibilities revolve around ensuring coordinated, quality care, while also considering cost-effectiveness. Here's a breakdown of their typical duties:


Case managers are the glue that holds the healthcare system together.


Assessment and Care Planning

  • Conduct patient or client interviews to assess needs and identify goals. 
  • Review medical records and other relevant data, including social determinants of health (SDOH).  
  • Develop individualized care plans in collaboration with patients, families, and healthcare providers. 
  • Screen clients and/or populations for healthcare needs. 


Care Coordination and Communication

  • Act as a liaison between patients, families, physicians, nurses, social workers, therapists, and other healthcare professionals. 
  • Coordinate and schedule appointments, referrals, and services across different healthcare settings (e.g., hospital discharge, specialty care follow-up). Follow up with patients to ensure they keep the appointments. 
  • Facilitate communication and ensure everyone involved in the patient's care is on the same page. 
  • Advocate for patients' needs, rights, and autonomy and ensure they receive the least restrictive, safe, timely, and appropriate care.



“To be an effective case manager you need to be good at communicating and collaborating with other members of the care team, the patient, and their support system to help develop an optimal/safe discharge plan for the patient. You need to be able to think outside the box and sometimes be creative in utilizing community resources to make this happen.”

Patricia S., RN Case Manager on the GHR team 

Monitoring and Evaluation

  • Monitor patients' progress toward their care goals. 
  • Track and document care interventions and outcomes. 
  • Identify and address any barriers to care, changes in a patient's condition, or potential hospital readmissions. 
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of the care plan and make adjustments as needed.


Resource Management and Education

  • Identify and connect patients with necessary resources like community support programs, financial assistance, or transportation services. 
  • Educate patients and families about their condition, treatment options, self-management strategies, and the case management process. 
  • Help patients navigate the healthcare system and understand their insurance coverage. 
  • Promote self-management goals. 
  • Assess medical necessity throughout the patient’s episode of care. This may include patient status determination, hospital admission criteria, and medical necessity of care during the hospital stay and post-discharge. 


Additional Responsibilities (may vary by setting)

  • Manage caseloads and prioritize cases. 
  • Analyze data and prepare reports on case management outcomes to promote quality improvement. 
  • Participate in quality improvement initiatives. 
  • Conduct community outreach and education programs (community case management). 
  • Review insurance claims and identify potential cost-saving measures (insurance case management). 
  • Oversee systems for identifying high-risk patients through EMR, referrals, and registries from health insurance payers. 
  • Oversee the discharge process. 
  • Assist patients in navigating the complex medical system, including coordinating specialty care and follow-up on test results. 
  • Research the latest treatments and procedures in your chosen area of specialization. 
  • Partner with external case management programs to coordinate care. 
  • Develop a client/patient-focused case management plan and promote cost-effective care that achieves positive patient outcomes.


“The case manager must constantly find a balance between the patients' clinical needs, their healthcare insurance coverage, and other financial concerns. This broader healthcare worldview takes time to understand and incorporate into daily practice. The complex role of the case manager requires an ability to be extremely flexible as each day's focus is variable.” 

Case Management Insider: Handling the transition from staff nurse to case manager 


A Day-in-the-Life of RN Case Managers in Different Settings

The diversity of case management settings offers a dynamic career path for RNs. Let's explore the work environment and typical day of an RN case manager across different healthcare sectors:


Acute Care (Hospitals and Medical Centers) 

As an RN case manager in acute care, you'll analyze patient charts to prioritize cases based on their condition and discharge needs. This involves collaborating with patients, families, and the healthcare team to develop individualized discharge plans. Your focus is on care coordination throughout the hospital stay and ensuring a smooth transition after hospitalization, identifying any potential barriers to recovery and connecting patients with the necessary resources like home health or rehabilitation facilities. You'll also document progress and ensure referrals are followed through. 


Post-Acute Care (Skilled Nursing Care, Long-Term Care, Rehabilitation)

Here, you focus on ensuring continuity of care after a hospital stay or illness. Your day might involve collaborating with staff to develop individualized plans, monitoring patient progress, and identifying any needs for additional support services. 


Home Health Care (HHC), Hospice & Palliative Care

In HHC, your role would be to coordinate the care of the patient receiving skilled care in their home as well as the coordination of community resources beneficial to the patient. With Hospice (and Palliative Care), your role may be to provide support for patients with chronic conditions or those nearing the end of life in both inpatient and home settings. Your day could involve outreach programs, conducting home assessments to address both medical and social determinants of health, and developing care plans in collaboration with patients, families, and community resources. You'll also advocate for your patients, ensuring they have access to essential services.


Clinics (Doctor's Offices, Behavioral Health, Public Health)

Your role may involve managing patients with various healthcare needs across different clinical settings. This could include oncology outpatient centers, where you coordinate care for cancer patients, or community health centers, where you focus on preventative care and population health initiatives.


Other Settings

Health Insurance Companies (Government or Commercial): Here, you review member claims and identify high-cost or complex cases. You'll then contact members, assess their needs, and collaborate with providers to develop cost-effective care plans. Analyzing data and preparing reports on case management outcomes are also part of your day.

Government Agencies (may vary): Some government agencies employ case managers to address public health needs or manage social programs that impact health outcomes.

Medical Supply Companies (less common): While less frequent, some medical supply companies employ case managers to work with patients on specific equipment needs or utilization.


The transition from bedside to case management offers a chance to leverage your nursing expertise in a new and impactful way. With its diverse settings, rewarding challenges, and, often, the potential for a higher salary, case management might be the perfect bridge to the next chapter of your nursing career. 

Subscribe to GHR's Blog Newsletter

Your submission was successful.

Thank you for subscribing — we'll be in touch!