Case management credential could boost career options for nurses

Credential to be offered for first time this year

A new case management credential is available for occupational health nurses and could represent a significant career opportunity. The credential will lend an official endorsement to some of the skills and knowledge that occupational health nurses already put to use in the workplace every day. It possibly could create a new level of expertise that can be used to leverage better employment and compensation.

The new credential could lend an official imprimatur to activities that already are a significant part of many occupational health nurses’ careers, says Bonnie Rogers, DrPH, COHN-S, FAAN, president of the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses (AAOHN) in Atlanta. Rogers and other AAOHN leaders were waiting to hear the details about the qualifications and application process, but she tells Occupational Health Management that she expects the credential to be a career boost for many nurses.

"It seems that many of our members have not been able to get certified in case management through the case management group, so this probably will fill some of that need," she says. "I think it will be a bonus in that regard."

AAOHN was not involved in developing the case management credential and, at press time, was waiting to be briefed on the details. Rogers says AAOHN has a good working relationship with the group offering the credential and expects no problem with endorsing it for AAOHN members.

The new credential was approved on Nov. 4, 1998, when the American Board for Occupa-tional Health Nurses (ABOHN) in Hinsdale, IL, approved the plan. ABOHN already issues the COHN and COHN-S certified occupational health nurse credentials.

The board appointed a special task force in June to explore the creation of a case management credential, and the task force conducted surveys of existing case managers and employers of case managers in occupational health, says Sharon Kemerer, RN, MSN, COHN-S, executive director of ABOHN. ABOHN’s research suggested a strong need for an occupational health case management credential.

Strong response in favor of credential

"We sent a very pointed questionnaire to more than 600 occupational health nurses who have a major interest in case management, either calling themselves case managers or belonging to the case management section of our membership organization," Kemerer says. "Seventy-five percent said they wanted a case management credential."

The group also surveyed 150 employers of occupational health case managers and asked if they would recognize a case management credential. A solid 88% said they would recognize the credential and would be interested in their employees seeking it.

"We’ve had a very positive response from nurses so far," Kemerer says. "Most people are saying, Good. It’s about time.’"

Case management is a strong component of occupational health care, and it always has been, she says. ABOHN has always considered case management to be a base component of the other occupational health credentials, but the new case management credential will allow nurses to add a visible indicator that they have mastery in that area.

Rogers notes that case management has become more of a concern in occupational health in recent years, but many efforts to bill for the service are refused in part because payers have a hard time distinguishing between the fundamental parts of occupational health and "true" case management. Having occupational health nurses specially certified in case management could help eliminate some of that confusion, she says.

Applications available in early 1999

The specific requirements and application process are being finalized, but Kemerer says ABOHN hopes to have the details worked out by the end of this month. This much is known already: Nurses seeking the case management credential will have to have a COHN or COHN-S to be eligible, and then they will have to pass a written test of their case management knowledge and skills.

"If we get all the details worked out in our January meeting, then it’s just a matter of seeing how quickly we can put it all on paper and make it available," Kemerer says. "We’re hoping we can make the applications available in February."

Sources

For more information on the case management credential, contact:

Sharon Kemerer, Executive Director, American Board for Occupational Health Nurses, 201 E. Ogden Ave., Suite 114, Hinsdale, IL 60521. Telephone: (630) 789-5799.

Bonnie Rogers, President, American Association of Occupational Health Nurses, 2920 Brandywine Road, Suite 100, Atlanta, GA 30341. Telephone: (770) 455-7757. Web: http://www.aaohn.org/index.htm.