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Learn to blend education and experience
Formal education, such as bachelor’s- and master’s-level preparation, is becoming increasingly important for case managers in today’s competitive environment. However, one nurse executive cautions that education alone is not the solution. Qualified case managers, she says, must have a blend of education, clinical experience and certification.
"We need to marry the experience with the theory and not allow one to carry more weight than the other," explains Peggy Pardoe, RN, BSN, CCM, CPHQ, product development analyst for University Care with the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore. "I think that bachelor’s-level preparation is important. I think we sometimes promote people with years of experience to take on roles that they may not be qualified to perform."
System’s theory such as that learned in bachelor’s- and master’s-level course work is vitally important in today’s environment, but so is real world experience, Pardoe says. "Many instructors teaching graduate-level theory for case management have never been case managers. There seems to be a disconnect between the experience that case managers bring to their role and the individuals who have the skills to teach them to go beyond that experience." (System’s theory is now taught regularly in bachelor’s- and master’s-level case management courses. See article on components of master’s-level case management education, p. 112.)
For Pardoe, the most important initials for case managers to have after their name are not BSN or MSN, but CCM, for certified case manager. "Certification is the marriage of experience and theory. The commitment a case manager shows by becoming certified says to the world that this case manager is willing to be held accountable to a higher standard."
The main reason case managers should strive to earn the CCM is that it shows that they have a clear understanding of the basic tenets of case management, she says. "If I’m evaluating the disease management program of a vendor, I want to know that the nurses who implement the vendor’s programs are case managers, not just RNs. If they are RNs, or even advanced practice nurses, it tells me they may know a lot about that particular disease, but without that CCM’ I’m not convinced they can effectively manage my patient population." (For more on selecting a disease management vendor, see p. 105.)