Training new case managers sometimes takes a team approach and can involve education, training, mentoring, and follow-up for six months to a year.
That has been the experience of one Indiana company with more than 300 case managers providing services to a population that spans the entire state.
Case management training lasts a minimum of 90 days but often extends for months longer, says Suzanne Ludwig, BMMT, professional development manager in Cedar Grove, IN. Ludwig trains case managers for Indiana Professional Management Group (IPMG), which provides case management services through a contract with the state of Indiana Bureau of Developmental Disabilities Services.
“Robust training leads to longer retention of individuals,” Ludwig says.
“We work with individuals on Medicaid waivers,” says Stephanie Felix, an IPMG professional development manager in Avon, IN.
IPMG has been named one of the best companies to work for in Indiana for the past four years, Felix says.
“There’s a survey given to all case managers to fill out,” she says. “That speaks volumes to the company and our culture and that so many of our employees love what we do.”
Once trained, case managers tend to stay with IPMG, but the company is continually hiring and training new managers to handle growth demands, notes Emily Fike, IPMG professional development manager in Orland, IN.
One key to success is empowering case managers and giving them responsibility, Fike says.
“We do have a lot of training because we process many intakes for new individuals coming into services,” Fike says. “That creates a need for additional case managers.”
The key to successfully training new case managers is to meet them where they are in their professional knowledge and development, Felix says.
“Trainers need to be able to adjust our training style to what works best for each particular case manager, as they are learning,” Felix says. “If someone learns more with hands-on training, then trainers can help with that.”
A successful training program should be adaptable, Ludwig says.
“We have a nice curriculum that we follow, but things happen differently for different case managers at different times,” she says. “Also, we have to strike a balance between micromanagement of new case managers and pulling back to give them the freedom they need to do it on their own.”
Ludwig, Felix, and Fike offer these suggestions for providing a successful case manager training and orientation program:
• Start with virtual orientation. Case manager training is a minimum of 90 days, per Indiana law. Also, case managers must take a certification exam prior to their 90th day, Ludwig says.
For IPMG case managers, the first day of orientation includes a half day of virtual instruction. This includes a discussion of human resources policies and an overview of their jobs and responsibilities, Ludwig says.
This is followed by in-person orientation and technology setup. “We provide new employees with a tablet and provide them with access and security,” Ludwig says.
• Provide weekly training curriculum. “Each week, they have different training that they take on their own and individually,” Fike says. “They learn the material, following the curriculum, and then take an assessment.”
Virtual training makes it possible to train people over a wide geographic area, Ludwig notes.
“One benefit to virtual training is that people can work from their homes and have that level of independence and self-management and flexibility,” she says. “There’s a benefit for them, but the drawback is isolation, and some people learn better when they have someone next to them, so we’re supporting new employees with multiple training methods.”
• Divide training into blocks/structures. “We have a nine-week structure. Around week two, we have new employees shadowing case managers — usually in the middle of the week,” Ludwig says.
Each week, the new case manager’s responsibilities and caseload increase, building slowly, she says. “It takes a couple of months to get to a full caseload.”
The goal is for case managers to complete day-to-day tasks independently. By 120 days, case managers should be done with the first tier of training, Ludwig adds.
“We give case managers written resources, written guides, quality standards, and all the things they need to complete their tasks,” Ludwig says. “And we give them continual feedback about how they’re doing and when learning is going to take place.”
New case managers still need support after 120 days. They move on to their geographically based team, and within the team, they have a mentor, Ludwig explains.
“They work with the mentor and still have support for the next three months.”
• Touch on work-life balance. One key to retaining successful case managers is to ensure they can handle the work-life balance.
“That’s very important,” Fike says. “Our case managers have to serve all ages of individuals, from as young as 18 months to an elderly population, individuals living in family homes or living with housemates.”
Case managers visit patients at their homes or meet them in the community. They provide services with a person-centered philosophy, helping patients build supports that will enable them to achieve their visions and dreams, Fike explains.
If case managers fail to maintain a good work-life balance, they could get lost in their jobs.
“One of the biggest tools we use is to help case managers monitor their caseload, having them send us a weekly report,” Ludwig says. “Time management and self-management are real struggles for some people, so we teach them how to monitor things on their own.”
• Introduce case managers to the team. “At the beginning, we introduce case managers to the team they are going to be on, so they can start integrating with that team out of the gate,” Fike says. “When they complete training, they’re already comfortable with other case managers and peers and at team meetings.”
Integrating new case managers into the teams helps them build necessary relationships and reinforces their education, Ludwig notes.
“They’re out doing their jobs, but it helps to talk with case managers who have been through the training,” she says.
• Evaluate and conduct progress report. “While case managers are in the training program, we meet with them every 30 days, 60 days, and 90 days,” Felix says. “We do an official progress report and evaluation, meeting with them to talk about any concerns we may have and to help them navigate whatever task they may not be getting, so we might offer additional support.”
In addition, direct managers meet one on one with each trainee once a week for the first 60 days, Ludwig says.
“Around 60 days we might bump them to every other week, depending on the case manager and where we are,” she says. “We don’t want to pull support from someone too soon or give them more support than they need.”
• Review and adapt as needed. “We continually review and adapt our methods,” Ludwig says. “As a department, we meet weekly and are constantly reviewing things because we want consistency and to have everything as up to date as possible.”
The virtual education introduces case managers to the skills and information they need to learn, but the real learning is hands-on, she notes.
“It doesn’t click with case managers until they’re doing the task,” Ludwig says. “Our job is to present the material [virtually] because they’ll need it and we have to do it systematically, and it’s the best way we can get information to all of these people in multiple locations.”
But case managers truly connect the dots when working one on one with mentoring case managers, she adds.
When professional development managers review new case managers’ work and assist them, they first provide a 100% review of their work. As time goes on, they will not look at every single item, Fike says.
As case managers progress in their knowledge and skills, the reviews might involve spot checks, Felix says.
“We just want to make sure they really understand everything and that there are not any concerns,” she says.
“Once they get it, we lessen up the review and point them to the resources they need,” Fike adds. “We cater to each case manager and where they are and how they handle it, gradually building their confidence and moving them toward independence.”
Case managers give positive feedback about their training, and their retention also suggests it works well.
“It takes a special person to be a case manager and work with the population we have, so the case managers who come here really want to be here and work with these individuals,” Felix says.