How to Become a MDS Nurse: Training & Certification

Find out how to become an MDS nurse. Read on to discover the training and certification required for this role, and see what you would be expected to do as an MDS nurse. Schools offering Nursing Administration degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information at a Glance

Minimum Data Set (MDS) nurses are responsible for producing and implementing appropriate care plans for patients and monitoring their success; they are more commonly called MDS coordinators or nurse assessment coordinators. Most are registered nurses (RNs), but some are licensed practical nurses (LPNs). Read on to find out more about being an MDS nurse.

Degree Required Bachelor's for RNs, certificate or diploma for LPNs
Education Field of Study Nursing
Training Required MDS training
Key Responsibilities Knowledge of MDS assessment process and standards, data collection and collation, development and assessment of care plans
Licensure and Certification RNs and LPNs must have a nursing license; MDS certification is voluntary
Job Growth (2016-2026) 15% (for all registered nurses)*, 12% (for all licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses)*
Median Salary (2019) $64,252 for MDS coordinators**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

What Does an MDS Nurse Do?

MDS nurses focus on providing patient care by assessing the accuracy and compliance of patient records. They are responsible for patients' data being shared responsibly with the correct authorities to ensure that the best level of care is being provided. They gather data from patients in their care to assess and deliver appropriate care plans. It is the responsibility of the MDS nurse to follow the progress of care plans, tracking how successful they are and where changes should be made.

Who Can Become an MDS Nurse?

Almost all MDS nurses are registered nurses who take further training to move into the field. All MDS documentation needs to be signed off by a registered nurse, which is why it is common for those with the qualification to take the role. However, it is not impossible for people from other areas of care work, such as licensed practical nurses (LPNs), to work in this role and have all paperwork signed by their supervisor.

What Certification Is Required?

Those wishing to move into MDS work need to complete training, either on-the-job or with an external organization. The American Association of Nurse Assessment Coordination (AANAC) offers ten online workshops for those entering the field. They also offer the Resident Assessment Coordinator-Certified (RAC-CTA) Certification for those who have experience as an MDS nurse and would like to become certified in resident assessment (long-term care). To become certified, nurses must demonstrate their proficiency in MDS, resident assessment and resident care. An advanced RAC certification is also available.

What Are the Job Duties?

MDS nurses assess care by researching patients' emotional and physical needs. They will look at the behavior, patterns, nutritional needs and emotional wellbeing of a patient to create the best care plan for them. It is important for MDS nurses to have a good understanding of Medicare, Medicaid and other insurance providers so that they know the care they are providing meets the requirements. They may update and support other members of the medical team with regards to a patient's care plan.

How Much Can I Earn?

According to PayScale.com, the median salary in 2019 for MDS coordinators was reported at $64,252. As with most jobs, salaries will vary depending on your geographical location and the circumstances of your employer. The highest 10% of earners reported earnings of $84,370 and above, whereas the lowest were at $48,409 and below.

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