Looking for the best and the brightest?

Here's what top managers want

Qualified case managers are in high demand. This demand has encouraged a steady stream of less than qualified candidates to seek jobs in the case management industry. Finding good case managers requires intuition, skill, and a careful screening process, say Case Management Advisor's management panel members.

"I used to never advertise for case management positions because I had such good networks. However, I do have to advertise now," says Rachel Ebert, MS, FNPC, RN, COHN-S, director of occupational health services for Marriott international in Washington, DC. "The best case managers are employed. They aren't looking for new positions."

"I look for CCMs [certified case managers] but it's just not feasible to make certification a requirement for hiring," agrees Jean Leary, RN, BS, MS, CCM, manager for Private Healthcare Systems in Waltham, MA. "Certified case managers aren't looking for jobs. They are in high demand. They have jobs."

Here are the qualifications our panelists look for when hiring new case managers:

o Bachelor's degree.

"The degree doesn't have to be in nursing," says Sandra L. Lowery, BSN, CRRN, CCM, president of Consultants in Case Management Intervention in Francestown, NH. "If they don't have a bachelor's degree, they must be enrolled in a bachelor's program."

Ebert also looks for case managers with a bachelor's degree. "Case managers with bachelor's degrees usually think more logically and have stronger written communication skills," she notes. "I also care about promoting the profession. We are meeting with people who have bachelor's level education or above, and we have to be credible."

o Certification.

Our managers agree that certification is desirable. "I prefer certification. If a candidate is not certified, they must indicate that they are qualified and willing to become certified," says Karen Chambers Knight, RN, CCM, CDMS, director of utilization management for GuideStar Health systems in Birmingham, AL. GuideStar pays for costs associated with certification, she adds.

"We will hire someone who does not have their CCM, but they must agree that within X time, they will demonstrate that they are qualified to be certified," says Linda S. Colantino, RN, BA, CCM, vice president of resource management for IHS Home Care in York, PA.

o Clinical experience.

Most managers look for a minimum of five years of clinical experience, preferably outside the acute setting. "I look for people with excellent clinical experience in a variety of settings. Home care seems to be best," Leary explains.

"I prefer they have experience outside the hospital," Lowery says. "Clinicians coming out of the acute setting are used to working with patients in a very controlled setting. They can't always do the creative problem solving necessary to case management."

"In the hospital setting, everything is done by the rules," adds Denise Kress, MS, RNC, CRRN, director of Senior Health Partnership in Woburn, MA. "Case managers have to have more vision. They need to be able to go into a house and say,'OK. Let's get that kitty litter box off the bed.' Not,'The conditions here are just too unsanitary.'"

Occupational health nurses often make good case managers, Ebert notes. "They are losing their jobs because corporations are contracting out for occupational health services, so that's one place you might look for qualified candidates."

o Good written communication skills.

"If someone demonstrates poor written skills on their resume, I don't even interview them," says Leary. "Communication skills are essential to case managers."

However, managers also should be wary of a resume that sounds too good to be true, Ebert cautions. "We almost hired an LPN for one of our positions. The people who had interviewed her really liked her, but I noticed on her resume that she had attended several colleges but had not listed the dates of her degrees."

In addition to being able to write clearly and concisely, good typing skills are important for case managers in today's market, says Leary. "Everything is computerized. Unfortunately, if someone can't type, no matter how good they are, I can't hire them," she notes. "Poor typing skills slow down everything. I don't have the administrative staff to make up the slack."

o Problem-solving abilities.

Our managers recommend that candidates be asked to work through a case study to test their problem-solving skills. "It can be a very simple process," says Lowery. "We do role playing. I give them a scenario and ask them,'What would you do in this situation?'"

Leary also presents potential case managers with case studies to work through. "I look for the ability to look outside what the normal picture would be," she says. "I also usually ask them to tell me about something they did for a patient that they felt good about."

o Leadership qualities.

At HEALTHSOUTH Rehab Hospital in Concord, NH, case managers work as assistant team leaders. "There are situations where the case manager has to question the entire care team about their treatment plan for a patient," says Eileen Bartlett, BS, OTR-L, CCM, director of patient care services for HEALTHSOUTH. "We ask candidates if they've ever worked as a team supervisor, what they think the qualities of a good leader are, and to give us examples from their own experience that they possess those qualities."

o Willingness to move away from direct caregiving.

"There are some nurses who move from clinical practice to case management and cannot accept the fact that they are no longer the direct caregiver," says Leary. "In addition, we do telephonic case management. I always stress that the telephonic process is very different and ask whether candidates are ready to move to a different type of patient interaction."

Even with careful screening, it's not always easy to select candidates who will make good case managers. To protect yourself, always insist new case managers pass a probationary period, suggests our panel. "You never know how a candidate is going to interact with patients, family, and providers until they get into a case," says Kress.