In the world of nursing, there are different kinds of specializations one of them being that of an MDS coordinator. This is typically a registered nurse (RN) whose main role is to conduct assessments that are federally mandated. As such, a day in the life of an MDS (Minimum Data Set) nurse revolves around a collection of data and compiling it to formulate a thorough report to allow for further research at a long-term health care facility.


What Is an MDS Coordinator?


The MDS nurse is someone who is accountable for overseeing and coordinating the full interdisciplinary, care planning and collaborative process in skilled nursing facilities. Essentially, this process may involve comprehensive resident assessments, resident advocacy, teaching, care coordination and planning and facilitation of communication among the resident, team members and family. As a Minimum Data Set coordinator, you will be expected to work in accordance with MDS 3.0 health care reform guidelines and the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (OBRA, 1987). Your role will be to influence the organization’s financial health and community reputation. In order to survive in this demanding career, you will require to be well educated and equipped with strong analytical and assessment skills – and also a commitment to person-directed care practices.

MDS Coordinator Career Overview


It is the job of an MDS coordinator to gather information on the facility’s current type of patients for further assessment – including the patient’s mental and physical states. Sometimes this involves assessing charts and communicating with different healthcare teams to create a sustainable plan for the current and incoming residents. In some facilities, MDS nurses are involved in coordinating the shipment of their facility’s services to its residents. This also entails observing and documenting the pricing and effectiveness of various services.

Another task that falls under the care of an MDS expert is conducting new resident assessments e.g. Rapid Assessment Process (RAPS) which is a process that is meant to help stabilize and improve the practices of a health care facility. These nurses are also looked upon to provide OBRA assessments (in accordance with the Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 1987) focusing on complying with Medicare and Medicaid standards. Further, an MDS coordinator may be tasked to act as a communication link between management officials at their facility and insurance professionals.

It is also expected of MDS nurses to assist the resident care management directors with timely and accurate data from admission to discharge according to federal and state guidelines. As such with assistance from resident care management directors (RCMDs), Minimum Data Set coordinators may coordinate information systems education and operations for the clinical department.

Specific Roles and Responsibilities of an MDS Coordinator


  • Working in collaboration with various healthcare teams to assess the needs of residents
  • Assisting with management and coordination of daily care management meetings including reviewing of care and setting assessment referencing dates
  • Complying with various state and federal regulations as regards coordination and completion of Residential Assessment Instrument (RAI) processes
  • Monitoring MDS documentation for residents and ensuring proper documentation is available in medical records to support MDS coding
  • In accordance with state and federal requirements, an MDS is expected to maintain current MDS status of residents
  • Providing support to the tracking system of MDS schedules e.g. due dates and timeframes
  • Maintaining accurate and frequent data entry of resident specifics into computerized MDS programs
  • Completing accurate coding of the MDS data obtained through medical record reviews and interviews with relevant residents, staff and family members
  • With instructions from the resident care management director, attend to various team meeting and other meetings so as to gather crucial information, maintain records and communicate changes
  • Continually updating knowledge database related to computer technology and data entry
  • Participating in quality assurance activities at the direction of a resident care management director
  • Undertaking an AANAC certification program within the very first months of employment
  • Getting in touch with various Medicare beneficiaries as per the company policy and expert direction
  • Completing electronic submissions of the state database and other required documentation among other entities as per policy
  • The roles and duties of an MDS coordinators are not limited to the ones listed above as one may be required to undertake other duties as an assigned by the management, state or federal government.

Future of an MDS Coordinator


The complexity of MDS roles has increased and evolved since the implementation of the first MDS act in 1988. Initially, MDS coordinators were often employed at a facility at an alternate role (e.g. the role of quality assurance), as such collection of data was taken as an added responsibility. In earlier years, MDS responsibilities revolved around the collection, document, and transmission of data. And while MDS expertise was recognized as a core function of the RAI process, the primary role of completing MDS duties has been on regulatory adherence mainly for purposes of reimbursement.

The end goal of an MDS career has always been to improve resident care – and the career has moved in that direction steadily. In the past days, however, use of MDS in the improvement of resident care was a distant plan.

One recent study completed by the Duke University School of Nursing showed how Minimum Data Set coordinators improve resident care measurably. This study focused on examining the role management and communication at various long-term healthcare facilities and found out that indeed these nurses foster better information flow that improves connections among staff and that effectively takes resident care a notch higher. In addition, the data collected by these experts was found to be more accurate, hence yielding higher levels of reimbursement and a more satisfied community of residents.

According to the American Association of Nurse Assessment Coordination, the future of an MDS coordinator’s job, though evolving, is bright and promising. This body estimates that by 2050, 20% of USA citizens will be aged over 65. Going by this projection, it important that health care communities and most importantly long-term care communities be well-prepared for this change in demographics in order to safeguard provision of care for the country’s aging population.

Going forward, the career of an MDS coordinator is expected to develop a scope and standards of practice. These standards will be used as a guide and reference for RNs working as MDS nurses more so for their professional development. Such standards will form the basis for highly educated and more satisfactory outcomes, which may, in turn, improve outcomes, surveys and enhance reimbursement.

MDS Coordinator Education Requirements


In order to become an MDS coordinator, the first and most basic training you need is that of a registered nurse. RN training will equip you with technical skills necessary for ensuring the accuracy of patient charts through compliance, use of modern technology and best practices of nursing.

  • Become an RN

There are three educational approaches for becoming an RN. The most commonly taken route involves taking an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing. A less common route involves first earning a diploma in nursing. A graduate with any of these programs is seen as generally eligible for entry-level employment and licensure.

  • Associate’s Degree

Associate’s degree is designed to last 24 months. The American Nurses Association (ANA), however, reports that many students who undertake this program usually take three or more years to complete this program. Normally, as an associate’s degree student, you will receive training that focuses more on the technical application of nursing. Instructions are given both in a classroom and clinical setting. And while an AND degree program seems like the easiest into a fulfilling RN career, the American Nurses Association recommends that an associate’s degree graduate should go back to earn at least a Bachelor’s Degree.

  • Bachelor’s Degree

Nurses who graduate with a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing Program (BSN) may expect to report greater advancement opportunities than a diploma and ADN program holders. BSN is a 4-year degree program that comprehensively focuses on behavioral sciences and human development. The course is divided into two parts. The first two years see students being trained on nursing practice assignments such as caring for chronic diseases, pediatrics, and mental health. As a student, you will also be exposed to clinical expertise in health care facilities during the last two years of studying.

  • Diploma

This program is the least common of the three. It consists of about 3 years of classroom and clinical training. But just as with associate’s degree holders, diploma graduates are required to undertake a bachelor’s degree later to enhance their chances of excelling in the demanding nursing career.

  • NCLEX-RN Licensure

You will need to undertake an NCLEX-RN exam (right after finishing your Bachelor’s, Associate’s or Diploma in Nursing Program) as a basic requirement for obtaining a license. Basically, all states of USA require one to pass this exam before practicing in the profession. The exam is created by the National Council of States Boards of Nursing and it covers 4 broad categories including physiological integrity, psychosocial, health promotion, and healthcare environment safety.

How to Become an MDS Coordinator from RN Level?


After becoming an RN, you can then apply to the American Association of Nurse Assessment Coordinators (AANAC) for training and certification in MDS nursing. Generally, those interested in being certified must complete the MDS 3.0 RAC-CT program, which comprises of various courses that are meant to improve one’s minimum data set and residential assessment instrument (MDS/RAI) scope. These courses are usually offered to an RN through various learning platforms such as online, print and workshops – this offers trainees with the ability to choose a training framework that is unique to their learning styles. After completing this one-year course, the enrollee is prepared to create treatment and care assessment in conformity with typical treatment and privacy standards.

Basically, to become an MDS coordinator one is expected to undertake 10 courses: 7 core units and 3 electives as follows.

Core Courses

  • Precise long term care coding
  • Care planning elements and procedures
  • Prospective payment system assessment education
  • OBRA compliance under MDS
  • Care area assessment and process requirements
  • RUG-IV system comprehension


  • Accurate pain management and assessment
  • QIS in long term care
  • Five Star quality rating system
  • Accurate activity status assessment

Note that it is not legally required for one to earn certification in order to practice as an MDS coordinator – however, in most cases, earning the right certification can enhance your chances of employment.

How MDS Coordinator Training Is Given Online?


Depending on your schedule or preferred mode of learning, you can take your MDS coordinator course either fully or partially online. Training is offered on several platforms including full courses where you watch lectures and complete exams at your own speed. In some cases, you can join the classes via webcasts. Some organizations supply videos, documents and books that can be accessed online for review at individual’s convenience.

This certification is valid for two years after which one is expected to apply for RAC-CT 3.0 recertification. Recertification comprises of 5 courses some of which are contained in the initial certification course. You should score 80% and above in order to receive this recertification.

MDS Coordinator Employment Outlook & Salary


MDS nursing is not a job you hear a lot about because it is fully exclusive to nursing care facilities. Experts who serve in this field are also known as nurse assessment coordinators, and their job is mainly to evaluate patient care. Their salaries are somewhat comparable to most other careers that fall under the RN umbrella term.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment opportunities for registered nurses are generally expected to grow by 19% by 2022 resulting in over 526,000 jobs created. This is way above the US national average of job growth which currently stands at 14 percent.


If these facts and figures are anything to go by, it is clear that an RN who obtains more training to become and MDS coordinator has so many opportunities waiting ahead. As of August 2015, the median annual salary of an MDS nurse was estimated at $60,674. The average wage rate per hour is $27.27 (that may vary within the range of $20 – $35).

As with any other job role, a location may affect salary levels. For example on average, MDS coordinator nurses who work in Massachusetts receive better payment overall within the USA pocketing $77,000 per year. Those in California don’t fare badly either as they pocket $71,000 annually. In Minnesota, an MDS nurse is paid $58,000 on average annually. South Dakota is one of the locations where these experts are paid lower wages with the average being just over $49,000.

Remember, salary levels can keep improving based on one’s level of experience and expertise. An MDS coordinator with over 5 years of experience can pocket more than $80,000 annually and up to $95,000 in some states.

Tips for Succeeding in MDS Coordinator Career


In order to enrich your chances of success, you need to backup your MDS coordinator training credentials, especially during the job interview. Basically, the interviewer will want to assess if you are intimate with RUG categories and financial implications. You will, therefore, want to stand out as one who understands all the core details of PPS, Medicaid and all factors that impact reimbursement.


Besides that, you should sell yourself as a candidate who is meticulous with their work. Given that there are more than 1,000 elements that comprise and MDS career (with 108 of those depicting one of 53 RUD categories), it is important that you are able to stand out as an expert who can be trusted with the noble role of collecting and analyzing massive data. If you are not organized or not capable of monitoring your case load then you may have difficulties performing in your career.

It is also important that an MDS nurse remains on top of ever-changing dynamics, rules and regulations. Handling the requirements of an MDS career is a hard job where rules are always changing, especially in MDS 3.0 and RUG-IV. As such, if you are looking to raise your credentials and get a job, you will require showing that you are a person who proactively prepares for these changes.


Yet another important tip for succeeding as an MDS nurse is the ability to operate in accordance with recommended work ethics. You must be prepared to go out of your way to train other members of staff about the residents and ensure that coding is done accurately. This is vital in ensuring the right documentation and coding is done. Interviewers will, therefore, seek to identify if you are a person who adheres to the vital characteristics that are required of a high caliber career such as this one.

Last but definitely not least is that a candidate who applies for a job as an MDS coordinator should be able to show that they are team players. This career heavily relies on support from other members of the healthcare team and therefore this nurse should able to enjoy a good cultural fit in an otherwise demanding work environment.


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