In the health care world today, case management is on the rise as one of the fastest-growing niches. Here’s what to know about this specialized profession, how it can benefit your team and your patients, and what the market looks like today.
What Is Case Management?
Case managers are a specialized subset of registered nurses (RNs) who focus on assessing individual patient needs and collaborating with the patient and medical professionals to develop and implement the best possible care plan. By evaluating each individual’s physical, medical, and psychological needs, case managers help improve patient outcomes, ensure better understanding, and coordinate between all facets of care, from medical professionals to insurance to the patients and their caregivers.
Advocacy is at the core of what case managers do. Their job is to advocate for patients, work with providers to design an appropriate care plan, monitor to ensure that the plan is effective, and evaluate if and when changes are needed. These cases may be short-term to address a specific issue, or a case manager might work with a patient long-term as they handle chronic or long-term conditions.
Because complex health care cases are likely to involve multiple elements and involved parties, case managers help to coordinate and liaise between them all to ensure best outcomes and clearest understanding. They provide education and advice to patients and their families, while also assisting other medical professionals to understand the unique circumstances of each case. This coordination can extend outside of the immediate healthcare setting, as case managers are often involved in assisting with insurance negotiations, coordinating follow-up care, and more.
In general, case management is about developing a holistic approach to health care. These professionals work to ensure that each individual’s care plan takes everything into account, from their physical needs to their emotional and psychological state.
Roles in Case Management
Just as there are a wide variety of specialties and situations in health care, there are a variety of roles and specialties for case managers. Case managers may work in any number of settings, including hospitals, medical facilities, long-term care facilities, skilled nursing centers, rehabilitation centers, hospice care, in-home care, and more. Depending on the role and the location, case managers may also have a particular area of focus, such as particular patient demographics (i.e., pediatrics or geriatrics), particular types of health care settings, or particular medical conditions.
Roles in case management may use a number of titles, usually with phrases like “care management,” “managed care,” or “care coordination” somewhere in the job title. Depending on the needs of the individual organization or location, case managers may be recruited for interim, part-time, or full-time positions.
Challenges in Case Management
The entire health care field has gone through some serious challenges over the last few years, and case management is no exception. Case management is a growing field, too: the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 28% growth in the “medical and health services manager” field between now and 2030, making it a field with “much faster than average” growth. Consider also: on the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have been left with unexpected and long-term health conditions, which may require more complex and coordinated care in the short- and long-term future – situations which may further increase demand and competition for qualified case managers.
Recruiting case managers can also be challenging because of the unique stresses of the job. Unlike nurses on the floor, case managers often work on their own, instead of part of a rotating nursing team, and carry the stress of having to manage complicated needs, schedules, and demands.
“Many case managers had unmanageable caseloads before the pandemic hit, and they carry a lot of guilt,” Catherine M. Mullahy, BS, RN, CRRN, CCM, FCM, President of Mullahy & Associates, told Nurse.com.
“They’re working 12-hour days and then going home worrying about whether or not the home health agency showed up when they were supposed to or if the infusion antibiotics arrived. Making sure their patients are adhering to their treatment plans, communicating with patients and their families, and keeping other members of the patient’s medical team informed requires a great deal of focus, organizational skills and detailed reporting which can be extremely challenging at times… Nurses working in the unit know that when they leave, there will be someone coming in right behind them to see to their patient. Case managers on the other hand — when they’re discharging a patient, they’re solely responsible for them, and they’re left wondering what’s happening. ‘How is the family coping? Is someone making sure they’re taking their medication?’ It’s a very different, emotionally challenging role.”
Combine that with the extra training (and accompanying financial investment) required to transition from unit nursing to case management, and it can be challenging to find the right people to fill roles at your organization. A focus on fundamentals can help to attract top talent: competitive pay, flexible benefits, and perhaps most of all, a culture and support system that anticipates the stresses of the profession and has support built in. With the right priorities – and the assistance of an experienced recruiting partner – your team can soon experience the difference that a dedicated, effective case manager can make.
by Michelle Boeckmann
About the Author
Michelle Boeckmann, Founder of Healthcare Recruitment Parnters, has over twelve years of experience placing seasoned leadership Case Management candidates in acute care hospitals and healthcare systems. She and her team, along with a database of over 32,000 professionals and counting, can give you an advantage in a competitive market, whether you’re looking for highly specialized talent or a need for a placement for an open position quickly and discreetly.