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Nurse Navigator vs. Care Coordinator: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

Nurses play an important role in coordinating patient care and providing support to patients and their families. Two common positions in this field are that of a nurse navigator and a care coordinator. Though these positions share some similarities, there are several key differences between them.

In this article, we discuss the differences between a nurse navigator and a care coordinator, and we provide additional nursing professions you may be interested in pursuing.

What is a Nurse Navigator?

Nurse Navigators are specially trained nurses who provide guidance and support to patients as they navigate the healthcare system. They help patients understand their diagnosis, treatment options and potential side effects. They also connect patients to resources within the healthcare system, such as support groups or financial assistance programs. Nurse Navigators work with patients throughout their journey, from diagnosis to treatment and beyond. They provide emotional support and practical advice to help patients cope with their diagnosis and make informed decisions about their care.

What is a Care Coordinator?

Care Coordinators are responsible for ensuring that patients receive the care they need by coordinating with different medical professionals. They act as a point of contact for patients and their families to answer questions and provide guidance. Care Coordinators create treatment plans based on each patient’s individual needs and make sure that all the different medical professionals involved are aware of and following the plan. They also track the patient’s progress and make changes to the plan as needed. Care Coordinators typically work in hospitals or other healthcare facilities.

Nurse Navigator vs. Care Coordinator

Here are the main differences between a nurse navigator and a care coordinator.

Job Duties

Both nurse navigators and care coordinators have similar job duties, although the specific tasks can vary depending on the patient’s needs. One of their primary responsibilities is to help patients access the resources they need, such as medical care, social services or other support. Another responsibility is to guide patients through various treatments and therapies so they understand what to expect and how to manage their conditions.

Nurse navigators typically focus more on pre-admission nursing, which means they work with patients before they enter a hospital for treatment. They may perform initial assessments with patients to determine any necessary resources or courses of treatment. Care coordinators primarily perform post-admission nursing, meaning they provide support after a patient has begun receiving treatment. Therefore, care coordinators often provide continued support once a patient begins a particular course of treatment.

Job Requirements

Nurse navigators and care coordinators typically need at least a bachelor’s degree in nursing to enter the field. Some employers may prefer candidates with a master’s degree, but it is not always required. Many nurse navigators and care coordinators also pursue certification through organizations like the American Nurses Association or the National Committee for Quality Assurance. These certifications can demonstrate that professionals have the skills and knowledge necessary to excel in their roles.

Work Environment

Nurse navigators and care coordinators typically work in different environments. A nurse navigator works primarily in hospitals, where they can help patients navigate the healthcare system to find the best treatment options for their conditions. They may also work in private practices or other medical facilities. Care coordinators usually work in nursing homes, assisted living facilities or other long-term care facilities.

Both positions require a lot of interaction with patients, so both roles often involve working overtime and weekends. However, because nurse navigators work in more acute settings, they may have more irregular hours than care coordinators.


Both nurse navigators and care coordinators use similar skills, such as active listening, critical thinking and problem solving. They also both need to be able to effectively communicate with patients, families and other members of the healthcare team.

However, nurse navigators typically have more clinical experience and knowledge than care coordinators. This enables them to provide patients with more comprehensive guidance and support throughout their care journey. They also may use more advanced nursing skills, such as assessment and diagnosis, when working with patients.

Care coordinators often have a background in social work or another helping profession. This can give them a different perspective when working with patients and families and can enable them to provide more wraparound services. They also may use more administrative skills, such as scheduling and insurance coordination, in their daily work.


Nurse navigators can earn an average salary of $79,327 per year, while care coordinators can earn an average salary of $49,593 per year. Both of these average salaries may vary depending on the size of the company at which you work, location of your job and the level of experience you have prior to pursuing either position.


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