Discharge Planning as a Nursing Career

by Howard Gerber on November 13, 2014

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discharge-nurse-nursing-career-specialtyThere are several types of nursing careers that do not involve direct patient care. One option for nurses with at least a few years of experience is discharge planning. Discharge planners are registered nurses who help patients with the transition to their next level of care when leaving the hospital. In some situations, it may involve making arrangements for care in the patient’s home or placement in a nursing home or rehabilitation hospital.

Responsibilities of a Discharge Planner

In some situations, when a patient leaves the hospital, they return to their home without ongoing medical needs. But in other cases, discharge from the hospital is not as simple. Some patients may have continued needs once they are discharged from a healthcare facility. A discharge planner works with physicians, therapists, family members, and patients to identify and meet the needs of the patient.

In addition to completing an assessment, discharge planners review treatment plans and goals with other members of the healthcare team. Discharge planners determine what the patient will need for ongoing care and arrange for those services. It may involve such things as arranging for therapy at home, obtaining medical equipment, or finding another living arrangement for the patient.

Education Needed

If discharge planning sounds like something you are interested in, the first step is earning your registered nursing degree. Both two and four-year nursing programs are available. After graduating from a nursing program and taking the nursing licensing exam, you are ready to gain some experience.

Many discharge planners have a bachelor’s degree in nursing, so you may want to consider earning your BSN, if you don’t already have it. Most healthcare facilities require discharge planners to have at least a few years of bedside nursing experience. There is not one specific area or specialty of nursing care that is required. The main thing is to get a few years of experience and develop strong assessment skills.

Pros and Cons

If you are looking for a nursing job where you do not provide direct bedside care, but are still very involved with the patient, discharge planning may be a good choice. One positive aspect of the job is you have the opportunity to play a role in improving the patient’s quality of life even after they leave the hospital. Arranging services, therapy and needed equipment can make a difference in a patient’s life.

You also have the chance to be an advocate for your patients, which can be very rewarding. Another advantage of working in discharge planning is the hours. Depending on the facility, discharge planners may work mostly during the daytime, which is nice for those who do not want to work overnight shifts.

Although there may be a lot of positive things about working in discharge planning, there may be a few cons as well. Hospitals want patients discharged when they are medically ready. But arranging a discharge can sometimes take time. With pressure from administrators, physicians, and patients, the job can be stressful at times.

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