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As valuable as certifications and credentials have become in case management circles, most employers look beyond the initials near your name to determine if you’re a good fit for their organization. There are minimum requirements, in most cases, and the certifications are not always included in those lists.
"My two most important requirements [for potential case managers] are people who are clinically competent and have excellent communication skills," says Kerry Eaton, RN, MS. Eaton is the director of physician services/case management at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport, CT. "I mean, 99.9% of the job is communicating with other people, so if you don’t have that, you’re in trouble." "Unfortunately, certification doesn’t tell you anything about somebody’s communication skills."
Eaton says that her minimum requirements are that applicants must be an RN, and they have to be either bachelors’-prepared or actively enrolled in a bachelor’s program. "I use it as a kind of screen." While [a bachelor’s degree] doesn’t necessarily mean better preparation for the job, applicants with that level of education "usually demonstrate excellent assessment and critical-thinking skills, and I want people with initiative who aren’t satisfied with the status quo," she says.
Her facility, a 396-bed teaching hospital, is experiencing the effects of the nursing shortage and aging RN work force, like many hospitals across the nation. "In our area, there are far fewer graduates of nursing [programs] than there are vacancies for them," she admits. With regard to certification, she explains, "the shortage may delay how quickly it becomes absolutely essential to become certified to get a job, especially at a staff level or case manager level."
On the other hand, Eaton says, certification is a valuable option as more people come into the field.
"I think [certification is] kind of a double-edged sword because, while it’s gotten to be more widely available and more people are sitting for the exams, it won’t necessarily make me hire them," she adds. "However, if I got a resume of someone who’s certified, I would know that [he or she] actually had an active interest in it and [would] be a good candidate to interview. What would make me hire [him or her] are the two things I mentioned earlier: communication skills and clinical competence."