Case Management Fast-Growing Role, Despite Pandemic Difficulties

It’s difficult to overstate the critical importance of nurse case managers. They oversee virtually every aspect of a patient’s care from admission to discharge. They are the principal contact for patients and their families when addressing immediate and intermediate needs.

A patient’s short- and long-term treatment options are almost always orchestrated by a dedicated nurse case manager.

And throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, case managers have assumed even greater, more visible roles as hospitals and healthcare facilities have struggled to navigate unfamiliar terrain. They’ve been integral in ensuring that extant procedures function as intended, and new protocols are adhered to and address the needs of large, diverse patient groups.

By now, the hurdles that healthcare workers in virtually every setting faced at the onset of the pandemic are well-documented. Nurse case managers were certainly no exception.

For many case managers, “It was baptism by fire,” said Catherine M. Mullahy, BS, RN, CRRN, CCM, FCM, President of Mullahy & Associates, which provides case management continuing education, certification preparation, training, and support. “Everybody was pressured to do more with less and work in extremely tense environments with so many negatives swirling around every decision,” she added. Mullahy, along with Jeanne Boling, RN, MSN, CRRN, CDMS, CCM, FCM, Vice President of Mullahy & Associates, is also the creator and instructor for Nurse.com’s Best in Class Online Case Management Course.

Though it’s true that many case managers are also nurses, not every component of nurses’ extensive skillsets necessarily translate to the demands that case managers must meet.

This was certainly the case during the height of the pandemic.

Nursing vs. Case Management

According to Mullahy, many case managers new to the role aren’t necessarily aware of the pronounced differences between the responsibilities and challenges entailed and how these differ from day-to-day nursing.

“Some of the skills you need as a case manager transition from nursing, but many of them do not. Many nurses don’t have to do the kind of complex care planning associated with case management. Nurses are at the bedside, and they see that patient while they’re in their unit — and once the patient goes home, that’s it. But case management done correctly should consist of ongoing Involvement with that patient as they transition within the hospital and beyond.”

COVID-19 expanded the need for this kind of continuous attachment to the patient. And more case managers were called for to fill that gap.

Demand for skilled case managers skyrocketed during the height of the pandemic. There were greater numbers of sick patients with disparate needs being discharged into an array of settings.

It was up to case managers to organize and orchestrate these movements — all while keeping patients and their families (not to mention insurance companies) apprised at every turn.

“Many case managers had never done this before — they were used to primarily moving patients to their homes,” Mullahy acknowledged. “But now, there were many ventilator-dependent patients, for example, who had to be placed in facilities that the case managers were unfamiliar with and …read more

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