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Nurse Navigator vs. Case Manager: 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 the healthcare industry by providing care and support to patients. Two common positions in nursing are that of a nurse navigator and a case manager. Both of these positions are responsible for patient care, but there are several key differences between them.

In this article, we discuss the differences between a nurse navigator and a case manager, and we provide additional information about each role.

What is a Nurse Navigator?

Nurse Navigators are registered nurses who provide guidance and support to patients as they move through the healthcare system. They ensure that patients receive the care they need and help them navigate the often-complex world of healthcare. Nurse Navigators work with patients and their families to develop a plan of care, coordinate appointments and connect them with resources. They also provide education on disease prevention and management. Nurse Navigators typically work in hospitals, but they may also work in clinics, physician’s offices or other healthcare settings.

What is a Case Manager?

Case Managers are responsible for coordinating patient care and services. They work with patients, families, doctors and other health care professionals to develop a plan of care that meets the patient’s needs. Case Managers also make sure that the patient’s health care needs are being met by the different health care professionals involved in their care. They make sure that the patient is getting the services they need in a timely manner and that the different health care professionals involved in the patient’s care are communicating with each other.

Nurse Navigator vs. Case Manager

Here are the main differences between a nurse navigator and a case manager.

Job Duties

Although both nurse navigators and case managers perform many of the same tasks, their job duties can differ based on the patient they’re working with. For example, a nurse navigator may only work with patients going through chemotherapy to ensure they understand all the necessary steps in the process and feel comfortable completing them. Conversely, a case managers works with patients across different medical fields to determine the best course of action for each individual.

Job Requirements

Nurse navigators and case managers 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. In addition to their educational requirements, nurse navigators and case managers must also be licensed as registered nurses (RNs). RN licensure is obtained by passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN). Some states may have additional licensure requirements.

Once they have met all of the educational and licensing requirements, nurse navigators and case managers can pursue certification through professional organizations, such as the American Nurses Association or the Case Management Society of America. These certifications are not always required, but they can help professionals stand out to potential employers.

Work Environment

Nurse navigators and case managers work in different environments. Nurse navigators typically work in hospitals, where they collaborate with doctors and other medical professionals to ensure that patients receive the care they need. They may also work for private practices or nursing homes. Case managers often work in community settings, such as clinics or social service agencies. They may also work in prisons or jails, helping inmates access resources and services after release.


Both nurse navigators and case managers use similar skills in their jobs, such as active listening, critical thinking and coordination. However, nurse navigators typically have more clinical skills than case managers. For example, they may have experience with wound care, IV therapy and administering medications. They also may have a better understanding of medical terminology and diagnoses.

Case managers often work with patients who have chronic conditions or who are dealing with complex health issues. As a result, they need to be able to understand and explain treatment options, insurance coverage and other aspects of the healthcare system. They also may need to be familiar with community resources that can help patients with transportation, housing or food insecurity.


Nurse navigators can earn an average salary of $79,327 per year, while case managers can earn an average salary of $56,390 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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