Industry growth propels launch of new association

Leaders urge, Let’s complete, not compete’

With the successful August launch of the first issue of its journal, CareManagement: Official Journal of the Academy of Certified Case Managers, the Academy of Certified Case Managers (ACCM) in Fairfield, CT, announced its entry as a new organization to support the education needs of more advanced case managers. Industry leaders, however, are divided over whether the addition of ACCM will help or harm case management as a profession.

"We saw a gap or a need in the case management industry," notes Gary S. Wolfe, RN, CCM, CNA, a consultant from San Francisco, past president of the Case Management Society of America (CMSA), and executive vice president of the ACCM. "For a variety of reasons, many certified case managers do not belong to the Case Management Society of America in Little Rock," he says. The ACCM "is a specialty case management organization for certified case managers only. We want to be a vehicle to promote communication amongst the many case management certifications and help case managers understand the various certification programs available, how the qualifications of certified individuals vary, and how they are similar."

Sandra L. Lowery, BSN, CRRN, CCM, president of Consultants in Case Management Intervention in Francestown, NH, and current national president of CMSA, says, "While the CareManagement publication is a wonderful educational resource for case managers, it should be clear that the ACCM is a new membership organization. The latter warrants careful consideration. It is most unfortunate that just when case managers, through grass-roots efforts, have finally begun to become recognized and sought after at the national and international levels, they are facing fragmentation that could decrease the value of their future efforts in support of their practice."

Furthermore, says Lowery, "Other health care professions have followed this path, and we have seen how the fragmentation has negatively impacted their position. It is critically important for the future of case management that we are proud of those who have achieved and embrace and support those others who are striving to achieve, rather than separate the two. Through inclusivity, we can benefit from learning from each other while also creating a unified voice and a critical mass."

Case managers new to the field may not be aware of the June 1996 merger of CMSA and the former Individual Case Management Association (ICMA). At that time, industry leaders, including Wolfe, argued that consolidating the two organizations was a necessary step that would allow case managers to speak with one voice when trying to influence health care legislation. 

However, the field of case management has experienced tremendous growth since early 1996, and many industry leaders feel there is a place now for more than one professional association. "I anticipate that the Academy will offer one more option for those who choose to take advantage of it," says Mindy Owen, RN, CRRN, CCM, corporate director of complex care management with Coordinated Care Solutions in Coral Springs, FL. Owen is a member of ACCM’s leadership council and past president of CMSA. "Let me be very clear. This [the ACCM] should be viewed as an addition to the practice and the field, not instead of or taking the place of any other organization. CMSA is now and should always be considered the professional organization representing the overall practice of case management," she says.

"Remember that Washington, DC, always asks how many voices we have in our organization when the organization asks to be heard," says Mary Gambosh, RN, CDMS, CCM, a case management consultant in Henderson, NV, and developer of, a case management information Web site. "Splintering of members in any organization benefits none of us. If I’m asked, Which organization should I belong to?’ I would say, as many as is feasible.’ But if you join, be sure to contribute to all organizations to which you belong," she says.

Industry leaders say case managers should ask themselves several questions as they consider membership in a professional organization. Those questions include:

• What is the association’s mission and vision?

• Is it a for-profit corporation or a nonprofit professional association?

• How will this association help me achieve even greater success in my career?

• What do I get for my membership dollars?

• Are the leaders responsive to my questions and concerns?

• Are the association’s leaders elected by the membership or appointed?

• What are the academic and clinical backgrounds of the organization’s officers and committee members?

Although the new academy’s name may imply it is open only to case managers who hold the CCM (certified case manager) credential from the Commission for Case Management Certification (CMCC) in Rolling Meadows, IL, Deborah Smith, MN, RN, Cm, CNAA, a consultant with American Medical Systems in Los Angeles and chair of the leadership council of ACCM, says ACCM membership is open to case managers who hold a variety of certifications. "At this point, the academy recognizes the CCM, RN-NCM, CRRN, GCM, CMAC, CRC, COHN, CDMS, CIRS and A-CCC. One of these certifications is all you need to qualify for membership in the academy," she says. 

In fact, the ACCM has no affiliation with CCMC or any other credentialing board, note Wolfe and Smith. "We are totally separate and independent of any other organization," explains Wolfe. "However, on our leadership council, we have industry leaders who represent a range of other organizations."

"The CCMC is in no way affiliated with this organization or this journal," says Carrie Engen, RN, BSN, CCM, director of Advocare in Naperville, IL, and chair of the CCMC. In fact, several sources interviewed by CMA expressed concern that the ACCM is using lists from certifying organizations such as the CCMC and reporting certificate holders as members whether they agree specifically to membership or not. CCMC reports that its list, for example, was leased to the journal’s publisher under the terms of a previous contract with CMSA. That contract has since ended. "That was to be the only use of the list — to provide educational material to CCMs along with information about case management organizations, conferences, etc., " Engen says.

The soul focus of the ACCM is the education of case managers through publications and conferences. In addition to CareManagement, the academy plans to launch a pharmaceutical update and a literature review. Its first conference will be held in March 2001 in conjunction with the 13th Annual National Managed Health Care Congress at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta.

"I believe the ACCM has a significant place in the practice of case management," explains Owen. "The mission is to promote educational opportunities for the certified case manager that should raise the level of knowledge in the practice. These are individuals who have taken the initiative to gain knowledge in the field in which they practice, and I think anything that we can do to continue to support and raise the bar is important."

Regardless of how the case/care management industry is defined — whether by membership association, type of credentialing body, or corporate form — "we remain all part of the same case/care management industry," says Jeanne Boling, MSN, CRRN, CDMS, CCM, executive director of CMSA. "We are not here to compete with each other, but to complete each other. The educational and development needs of case/care management are gigantic. I believe we will rise above current industry confusion as case managers learn more about various professional organizations and distinguish among them to take advantage of their respective roles in serving case managers."