Nurse Life Care Planner

A nurse life care planner is a licensed, registered nurse who works with patients who suffer from a chronic illness, a sudden onset of a debilitating illness, or a traumatic accident or injury, or birth injury. Their patients may have suffered a brain injury, spinal cord injury or even a debilitating burn or amputation. These nurses are special case managers and advocates who help the patient and their family plan for the patient’s future and their ongoing healthcare needs.

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Life Care Planner Job Description

These nurses can work as independent contractors, or for hospitals, law firms, or insurance companies. A good nurse life care planner has good medical and pharmacology knowledge, as well as familiarity with rehabilitation services, financial projections for continued care, and legal recourse options. Life care planners will assess a patient’s condition, research treatment options, community resources, rehabilitation facilities, and compile them for the patient’s family to make the decisions. The essentially use their knowledge in care planning and in nursing to provide the options, and assist in developing a long-term plan for the patient. They are the patient’s advocate, and coordinate communication between the patient’s family, physicians, insurance companies, and attorneys. They help the family make informed decisions, keeping in mind cost-effectiveness, resources, and patient needs. Their financial projections of life-long care may also assist the patient’s attorney research a settlement in a malpractice case. Their efforts are integral at helping a victim of a catastrophic accident or sudden illness attain the medical care and services and legal or financial recourse they need in a time of acute stress and recovery.

Nurse Life Care Planning Certification & Education Requirements

This is very much an emerging field, and your career in nursing is sure to grow if you choose this specialty. However you will first need to become a licensed registered nurse. To do this, you can pursue an Associate Degree in Nursing (ASN) at a vocational or community college, or earn your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) at a college or university. One you pass your state’s NCLEX exam (National Council Licensure Examination), given by the state’s board of nursing, you will be ready to practice and gain the experience you need for nurse life care planning. Many nursing schools also offer master’s programs in nursing, so that you can become a nurse practitioner or clinical nurse specialist.

If you are already a nurse, certification is also a possibility for this nursing specialty. Becoming a certified nurse life care planner (CNLCP) is possible through the certification board, recently incorporated in 2009. In order to sit for the certification, you must be a licensed, registered nurse who has practiced nursing for a minimum of five years. You must also have acquired a minimum of two years of full-time case management experience, plus at least 60 hours of continuing education in this field, or 500 hours of actual life care planning work experience within two years of applying for certification. Recertification is required every five years. This is a specialty that could be very trying and it will be necessary to be able to perform your work under stress and with great compassion for the families involved. However it is nursing work that is especially invaluable for those affected by traumatic accidents and unexpected illnesses. Get started on your nursing degree and continuing education and you can work toward certification in nurse life care planning and have a promising and secure future in this career.

(Sources:American Association of Nurse Life Care Planners,, The Bureau of Labor and Statistics, Life Care Planning and Case Management Handbook, Third Edition by Roger O. Weed, Debra Berens)

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