There has never been a greater need for skilled, knowledgeable healthcare providers. At the time of this article, globally, there are over one million confirmed cases of COVID-19 (cdc.gov). Case managers have significant leadership roles in facilitating the transition of patients in an overburdened healthcare system to the most appropriate levels of care, in coordinating the resources needed for those now home-bound with chronic diseases and at great risk and for families whose social and healthcare needs will exceed their available resources in this difficult time.
Despite the resources that may be brought from local, state or federal governments, patients and clients may lack the knowledge or ability to access them. Many may not have had the need for such services for themselves or their families in the past and will need skilled case managers to guide them through the processes. Community-based case managers must be there for this critical need. Patients requiring acute care will require careful assessment and planning. Appropriate transitioning to facilitate expeditious system throughput and referral will be vital in the case management process at this time.
In the previous role and function study completed by the Commission for Case Manager Certification (CCMC®), the results indicated that “despite the increase in demand for case managers who are prepared at the bachelor’s degree or higher, training of those who assume the role remains a challenge” (Tahan, Watson & Sminkey, 2016, p.19). Further, 89% of the respondents to the survey at the time indicated that on-the-job training was the means for their training to the practice. At the time, only 117 of the 7,668 participants indicated use of an academic program as preparation for their case management practice, leading to an observation that “despite the recent increase in popularity and acceptance of the value of case management by employers, academicians have yet to fully realize the value of offering formal academic programs in case management” (Tahan et al, 2016, p. 19). The study at the time indicated that this presented an opportunity for the practice of case management.
With that information, an approach to a certificate program in case management has been developed at a midwestern university college of nursing. Four graduate-level courses have been developed, with syllabi, and approved by the college of nursing curriculum committee, university graduate school, and placed into the electronic curriculum. Individuals with a baccalaureate degree from a health-related field from a regionally accredited institution field have been eligible for the certificate program. If licensed or certified in their profession, then a current, active unrestricted license or certification in the individual’s profession has been required. One or more years’ experience within the last 5 years has also been required in the individual’s profession. All courses have been structured online, without a preceptorship, into 7-week schedules and allowing for two courses per semester. Only one course has been required prior to any of the other courses. The courses have been based on the CCMC 2015 role and function study and the CMSA Standards of Practice:
- Introduction to Case Management
- The Healthcare System and Case Management Services
- Reimbursement and Regulatory Issues in Case Management
- Case Management Principles of Quality and Standards of Practice
Discussion has ensued with surrounding employers regarding interest in the program. Potential options suggested included, as the market suggested, since there are selected certificate programs already included in some employer programs eligible for tuition reimbursement, that this program might be placed into consideration with the new budget year. Candidates for positions might be hired and required to take the program and complete it within a designated period of time. Outcomes would be agreed upon regarding return on investment.
Although the most recent role and function study has been repeated by the Commission, and full results have not yet been published, results indicate that case managers continue to practice in diverse fields and indicate the most important aspects of their jobs remain:
- Ensuring appropriate care
- Educating and empowering clients
- Coordinating care
- Helping clients identify issues and set goals
- Helping clients move from one care setting to the next
The Commission remains committed to workforce development and indicates also an interest in “seeking Partners in Excellence to drive and encourage certification as a career pathway” (CCMC.org). The Case Management Society of America (CMSA) “facilitates the growth and development of professional case managers across the full health care continuum, promoting high quality, ethical practice benefitting patients and their families” (CMSA.org). In this time, case managers will build upon their knowledge and experience gained and provide the highest level of care and service to the populations they serve. Looking to the future, let us explore collaboratively effective means of preparing gifted professionals for the practice, who subsequently seek certification as case managers.