Becoming an MDS Coordinator

  1. I am presently starting an ADN program this August. I am very interested in finding out more about how to get started as an MDS Coordinator once I graduate. I understand you need to be an RN, but do you need to have a BSN or will an ADN get you started and how long do you have to be an RN before you should start training with the MDS?

    Any information would be great.

  2. Visit jmf5910 profile page

    About jmf5910

    Joined: Jul '02; Posts: 2


  3. by   Talino
    Thorough knowledge of the MDS process is crucial. This is a skill not learned in the nursing curriculum but acquired and understood better while on the job.

    Although a BSN degree is not required, MDS demands excellent care planning skills. Some clinical experience is beneficial. Awareness of the Medicare regulations is a must, in addition to OBRA (MDS) regulations. The ability to communicate with other department heads is an advantage. Leadership skills is definitely valuable.

    I strongly suggest getting a position first as a staff nurse in an LTCF and familiarize yourself with the MDS process. Participate in the MDS assessments. Read and understand the MDS "bible" - MDS Manual (get one for yourself if you can). Show interests in advancement.

    The good news is -- if you got determination, it can be learned!

    And, the pay? I can't speak for everyone, but mine is quite rewarding!

    Good luck!
  4. by   jmf5910
    Thanks for the information. I have been checking out the HCFA website and they may have a training manual to download so I will keep that in mind.

    One more question, after I graduate and pass the NCLEX would I be better off starting off in the hospital on a Med/Surg unit or should I go directly to the LTCF? Which would be most beneficial?

    Thanks for all of your help.
  5. by   bandaidexpert
    Talino is right on the money! I do have to add, I have been an MDS Coordinator for 10 years and I am an LPN. My ADON signs MDS's for completion. To get a feel, visit: or

    Good Luck!
  6. by   Talino
    ... would I be better off starting off in the hospital on a Med/Surg unit or should I go directly to the LTCF?
    ....In my years of experiece, a new nurse graduate's knowledge is honed better in an acute setting. Med/Surg is the best place to start. Then you may move on to a critical or other specialty units. And, it would look good in your resume when you decide to go to an LTCF... with a better chance of managerial positions.


    Hi Bandaidexpert...

    I've always known that only RNs can be MDS Coordinators as specified in the RAI Manual p 2-16 (42 CFR 483.20 (e)(1)(ii) -- (F278)

    ... but just a few weeks ago I realized that some of the MDS Coordinators from other states I've been communicating with are also LPNs. Their expertise is no less than that of RNs I know.

    I do agree that anyone with basic clinical knowledge can conduct the MDSs.
    Last edit by Talino on Jul 9, '02
  7. by   Rustyhammer
    I would recommend extensive LTC experience and training in the RAI process.
    It is said it takes a year on the job before you become comfortable with the job.
    and yes..the pay is pretty good.
  8. by   tex
    I sooooooooooooo agree w/ rustyhammer about doing MDS for a year. I am working on completion of my 2nd year. I had decided when I took this position, that I viewed it like when I became a hospice nurse, it takes a year, from that point, you build on what you know or think you know. I had no prior experience working in a LTC. What a eye opener. Just as hospice has their protocol and rules, MAN so does LTC. And I am glad to say that my first time to go through the survey as the Cord. we were citation free, the first time in >21 years. But the most important part was I had and still do have the support of the owner and my great DON and ADON that will roll their sleeves up and hit care planning and do MDS w/me. My ADON read the RAI front to back- I haven't had time, she had 15 yrs I guess in management in business before she became an RN and my DON got us a killer care plan manuel, and she has pushed out wonderful care plans. Both of these nurses also have been at this facility 6+ years. I now have a new MDS RN that was hired to work with. She is doing great and it has helped w/the burden. GOod luck. I really like what I do. But like q thing else in nursing, there is stress...........TEX
  9. by   bandaidexpert
    I have been doing MDS's for 10 years and I am still learning. The RAI process is dynamic. You can never know enough. But, I love it and wouldn't do anything else. You assist in quality care of the resident's more than you know. This makes a difference in my day.

  10. by   WeSignificants
    As an LVN I have been doing MDS for over a year. The nurse who signs for completion must be an RN but there is no regulation which says they must have a BSN. My DON signs mine for completion.
  11. by   VivaLasViejas
    I'm an ADN who's never been held back from management positions because I lack a bachelor's degree. However, I do NOT recommend becoming an MDS coordinator or RCM right out of school. If you've never worked the floor in LTC, you have no idea what is doable out there, and you'll end up demanding too much (or too little) from your charge nurses and aides, which means either alienating the staff or doing too much of the day-to-day stuff yourself. Neither of which will earn you the respect you need to have if you're going to succeed in this position!

    As a charge nurse a few years ago, I dealt with two RCMs who had never worked the floor; accordingly, they thought up some of the most ridiculous things for me to do on NOC shift because they didn't think I had enough to keep myself busy. Unfortunately, it was the residents who paid the price in lost sleep: these RCMs scheduled routine Tylenol for 0200, suppositories for all at 0500, even once-daily straight caths for 0300. (Now, as an aging baby boomer, I can all too easily imagine being one of these poor little old people in a couple of decades, and if someone comes at me at five AM with a "silver bullet" I'll kick 'em in the teeth!!) But as an RCM myself, I use my floor experience on a daily basis to make judgments about how best to plan my residents' care. If a particular gentleman is not a morning person, why in the name of all that is reasonable would one wake him up at an ungodly hour to give him a suppository? And if a particular lady gets up with the chickens, why would you want to make her wait three hours for breakfast? It's all a matter of common sense, and you don't get that by sitting in a classroom or watching other nurses do all the work.

    Oh, yeah, I almost forgot: the pay ain't bad either. Of course, you put in lots of extra hours (especially around survey time) and if you're salaried like I am, you don't get overtime. But there's nothing like working normal hours and getting weekends & holidays off.