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Nurse Life Care Planner Explained

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life care planner

Life changing events can happen in an instant. A swimmer dives into a river and breaks his neck, a child out for a bike ride is hit by a car and ends up with a spinal cord injury, a worker at a plant suffers traumatic amputation, and so forth. Catastrophic injury, disability, and chronic illness affect millions of people every year, and as a registered nurse or qualified rehabilitation professional you are uniquely well suited to making a real difference in the lives of these individuals by putting your knowledge and skill to use in the fast growing and lucrative field of Life Care Planning.

What is Life Care Planning?

The emerging field of Life Care Planning is a specialized subset of case management that deals with acquired birth injury, catastrophic injury, personal injury, and chronic illness. Nurse Life Care Planners can diversify and enhance their career opportunities through using the nursing process to evaluate current needs, and project future needs of individuals with chronic illness or catastrophic injuries in order to ensure optimum quality of care and life.

Life Care Planning is a systematic method of identifying and quantifying the multidimensional disability related needs of an individual. The Life Care Plan is a document summarizes the required treatment over the life of the expected patient, including surgeries, therapy, medicine, assistive devices, home modifications, and other care issues, and the estimated cost. Projecting the future medical and non-medical needs of an individual helps ensure funds will be available to provide for their care, and also serves as the basis of structured settlements that provide for payments over time to cover medical costs.

Demand for Nurse Life Care Planners far Exceeds Supply

Although Certified Nurse Life Care Planners can charge between $80 - $150 an hour[2] for their services, demand far exceeds supply, as it is estimated that there are only 560 certified life care planners nationwide at this time. Life Care Planning provides nurses with the opportunity for pursue career opportunities as consultants or expert witness for attorneys, insurance companies, managed care organizations, employers, government agencies, HMOs, or as independent practitioners.

Nurses Uniquely Well Qualified To Be Life Care Planners

"Although not all life care planners are nurses, as RNs, we are uniquely qualified to succeed in this field. We are taught in nursing school the value of seeing the whole person, and the complete picture of their life - the psychosocial aspects as well as the physical. We are also taught to anticipate the needs of patients and to teach them and their families about their illness and care."[1]

Nurses possess the medical knowledge, clincal assessment skills, multidisciplinary communication background, and experience, to evaluate and understand the needs of the disabled or chronically ill as well as anticipate future needs. Nurse Life Care Planners employ the nursing process as the foundation of life care planning, reviewing medical records, assessing the patient, collaborating with family members, providers, medical equipment suppliers, economists, financial planners, and lawyers, in order to establish the patient`s current health status, identify future outcomes, and create an individualized life care plan that addresses future medical, psychosocial, and financial needs.

To project future medical needs and costs, the Nurse life care planner considers the age and general health of the individual, the life expectancy, how the normal aging process affects this disability and identifies health risks that could have an impact on the patient`s future needs. The life care plan has to involve all aspects of a patient`s life, vocational, financial, medical, social, psychological, and rehabilitation needs.

Nurse Life Care Planners have to anticipate future needs for therapy, medical equipment, medical follow-ups, medication, assistive devices, home modifications, and well as transportation. In cases that involve litigation, both the plaintiff and the defense may hire life-care planners to determine the scope and cost of future medical needs. With a life-care plan, an individual`s long-term medical needs are anticipated and provided for, including proactive treatment and preventive care to help achieve optimal health and well being.

A Life Care Plan may be developed for a variety of conditions including:

  • Catastrophic injury
  • Spinal Cord injury
  • Burns and Amputations
  • Birth injuries including Cerebral Palsy
  • Traumatic Brain injury
  • Chronic Pain
  • Pediatric and Elderly Individuals in Need of Care Management

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