case managementIn this issue of Nursing Beyond the Bedside, we take a look at Life Care Planning, a specialized subset of nursing and case management.

What Do Nurse Life Care Planners Do?

Nurse Life Care Planners create healthcare roadmaps for those who have suffered catastrophic injuries and illnesses. They advocate for them and help plan out their care for a lifetime. This includes the cost, current and future needs, services, and equipment over the patient’s lifetime. And to develop this plan, they work with the patient and his/her family, the insurance company, attorneys and others.

The Nurse Care Planner will look at a number of factors and consider the costs associated with those factors. In addition to the medical costs, the Life Care Planner will look at the costs of durable medical equipment, home modifications, lifestyle, education, transportation, life expectancy and care giving issues just to name a few. Life Care Planners also work with others, such as actuaries and providers who can supply information, in order to develop the care plan.

What Makes a Good Life Care Planner?

Nurses who go into this specialty need to be detail-oriented, creative, and have the ability to do extensive research. Their reports are viewed by attorneys and the courts. These reports are then used to make important decisions that determine a person’s future.

Many Nurse Life Care Planners work independently and act as a consultant for businesses, families, attorney’s accountants and others. Because of these professionals, patients and their caregivers gain insights into how to best manage their life over the long term. They then have a better understanding of the long term needs and cost they can expect over the course of their life.

Depending on the scope of the case, they may stay involved over the long term or contract with others such as an independent case manager, a patient advocate or home care agency as part of the Life Care Plan. This allows for better care coordination and time to work with the patient and the family to better understand what to expect over the long term, how to prevent complications, and assist the patient and the family live their lives as normal as possible.

Who Exactly do Life Care Planners Work With?

Clients of Nurse Care Planners can include newborn babies who have injuries or congenital anomalies from birth and children with medical/behavioral, developmental conditions, or injuries from accidents. They may also deal with young adults who experience catastrophic injuries and or chronic conditions, up to older adults who may be experiencing Alzheimer’s or other limiting conditions. 

The Life Care Planner can be called in by the plaintiff or defense attorney, the employer, a managed care organization or an individual to develop a life care plan. This plan will provide information to allow people to plan and prepare for the future long-term needs of the sick or injured person.

Nurses who want to enter this field will need additional training since there are specific skills or process needed in developing a life care plan. There are also certifications that can be obtained and professional organizations that you can join to network, learn, and keep up with the emerging practice.


NOTE: An article appeared in Case In Point a few months ago that provides a realistic view of the role a Nurse Life Care Planner in a pediatric case. Take a minute to read the article to better understand this dynamic field and the value a life care planner can provide.

If you have questions about this field, please feel free to email me at

Check out the two previous articles in this 42-week series on nursing careers beyond the bedside:

Week 16: Beyond the Bedside: The Role of Telehealth Nursing

Week 17: Nursing Beyond the Bedside: Health/Wellness/Fitness Coach