As a case management director, Vivian Campagna, RN-BC, MSN, CCM, chief industry relations officer for the Commission for Case Management Certification, tried to match people by personality to create a nurse case manager-social worker team, but it didn’t always work, she reports.

Case management leadership should make sure the teams work well together and understand how to work cohesively and collaboratively, Campagna says.

“It’s not productive when one person says the other person isn’t pulling their weight, or thinks that they should do everything because they are the only one who can,” Campagna adds.

Not every nurse and every social worker can work amicably together, says Peggy Rossi, BSN, MPA, CCM, ACMC-RN, CMAC, an independent case management consultant.

“If there is friction among the team members, they aren’t doing what they need to do and the patient is the one that suffers,” she says.

Case management leadership should be aware of the personal dynamics of each team of nurses and social workers and make changes if there are problems, Rossi adds.

“Emphasize that social workers and nurse case managers are colleagues and peers. Neither discipline is better than the other. Each has its own special niche and each makes a unique contribution to the team,” Campagna says.

Campagna suggests that case management departments participate in team-building activities as a way to improve communication and create cohesiveness.

Hold regular department meetings and celebrate successes when the team works well together, she suggests. Arrange a lunch-and-learn and ask a team to present a successful case as an example of how they worked together to manage the case.

One activity to demonstrate the need for teamwork is to ask everyone in the department to work together to create “the ultimate case manager,” Campagna suggests.

Go around the room and ask each staff member write down his or her biggest strength and positive attribute. Compile everyone’s response into a single document and write it on a board to create a “Super Case Manager.”

“Talk about how the team is stronger because of all these attributes and that each person contributes their strengths to the team,” she says.

“Crossing the Minefield” is another team-building exercise that requires team members to trust each other, Campagna says. Create the minefield in a large area by placing objects randomly on the floor to create an obstacle course. One team member is blindfolded and walks through the minefield following verbal clues from the other team member.

The team-building activities at Medical City Dallas Hospital’s case management department often involve food, says Beth Griffin, LCSW, manager of case management. For instance, the department held a “friendsgiving” lunch where everyone brought a dish.

When the department meets a goal, the staff enjoys a catered lunch. “We talk about interdepartmental policies, what is working and what isn’t, and brainstorm on how we can work more efficiently and effectively,” she says. There is a social committee that plans other activities, such as birthday lunches and staff recognition parties.

“We frequently get together and talk about the goals the department is trying to meet. We discuss incremental goals and the progress we are making toward them,” she says.

At the meetings, the teams that are hitting their metrics share their ideas with the rest of the department. “We look at progress toward our goals as a department and also show how individual teams are doing. It’s friendly competition. They help each other out with the best practices,” she says.

Arranging classes on a subject that interests both disciplines is a good team-building exercise, Rossi says. For example, one hospital she consulted for had an all-day class on motivational interviewing for the RN case managers and social workers. “They had a chance to work on exercises together. Classes are a great way to help the team function better,” she says.