The skills that make a good case manager are not necessarily those you find on a résumé, points out Vivian Campagna, RN-BC, MSN, CCM, chief industry relations officer for the Commission for Case Manager Certification.
“A candidate’s education and experience are important, but it’s the personality and character that make a case manager successful,” she adds.
Look for people with a passion for giving, nurturing, and caring for people, Campagna adds. For instance, a good case manager must be able to relay tough information compassionately, she says. “When those hard messages have to be delivered, it’s important that the person who delivers them can do so in a gentle and caring way,” she says.
“A seasoned case management director will get a sense of whether the person they are interviewing has the personality and the passion for the role,” Campagna adds.
Look for people who are clinically mature and have the skill set to be successful in case management, says Mindy Owen, RN, CRRN,CCM, principal owner of Phoenix Healthcare Associates in Coral Springs, FL, and senior consultant for the Center for Case Management.
“A good case manager should be comfortable with technology, but also comfortable at the bedside. They need to have good negotiation and collaboration skills as well as being able to work independently,” she says.
Choose a candidate who has a real interest in patient advocacy and who is flexible and creative, Campagna says. “Effective case managers question the status quo and recognize that just because it’s always been done a certain way, it may not be the right way in a particular situation. They challenge themselves to find different ways of doing things within the expectation of what the outcome should be,” she says.
Many hospitals are continuing to hire case managers who are generalists into the department, but there may be a need for a specific, specialist role, Campagna says. She recommends looking for someone who can learn the basic concepts of the specialist job as well as understanding the case management process.
“If they have the skills to be a case manager, they can be trained for the specialty. Likewise, if someone has experience in a particular specialty, they will need to learn the case management process,” she says.
But don’t think that just anyone who is experienced in the healthcare field will make a good case manager, says Catherine M. Mullahy, RN, BSN, CCRN, CCM, president and founder of Mullahy and Associates in Huntington, NY.
“Leadership at many organizations mistakenly believe that hiring experienced nurses and social workers automatically will ensure competency in case management. The knowledge and skills they have acquired over the years are certainly helpful and transferrable. However, there are additional and specific skills and knowledge that are necessary to have a staff of competent and confident case managers,” Mullahy says.
When vacancies occur, BK Kizziar, RN-BC, CCM, recommends giving any healthcare professional who is interested in the job the opportunity to learn case management.
For example, nurses who have experience in managed care or Medicare know the basics of the healthcare business and have the ability to see both sides of the issue. “The advantage of these nurses is that they don’t come to the position with the idea that paying attention to financial issues is not good for clinical care,” says Kizziar, owner of BK & Associates in Southlake, TX.
Owen suggests that applicants who have not been case managers or have experience in a different venue have the opportunity to shadow a case manager for a day before they come for an interview. This gives the applicant a sense of how the case management process works and how things are done in that particular organization. “After they shadow a case manager for a day, some people realize that the position is not for them. It’s good to find out an applicant isn’t comfortable with the case management process before you hire them,” she says.
It takes a mix of certified and non-certified case managers to build a successful department, Owen says. The certified case managers should be mentors to the newer case managers and help them work on achieving certification.
“I believe every case manager should strive for certification, but it’s idealistic to think the whole department will be certified,” she says.