Social workers play a vital role on the interdisciplinary care team across the continuum of care. Working in concert with RN case managers and other members of the healthcare team, they assist in guiding and tracking patients over time through physical health, mental health, and social services, spanning all levels of intensity.
Regardless of whether they realize it, case managers have likely worked with patients who are living with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. The diagnosis rate is relatively low. Even when a formal diagnosis is made, treatment is not necessarily offered — and for many patients, the diagnosis largely is overlooked.
What good are data if they are not used? Many case management departments collect data and report trends, but the information is only as good as how the hospital uses it. The extra effort is worth it. Case managers and their departments who use data in meaningful ways experience better outcomes — but the decision to be resourceful often starts higher up.
As the pandemic continues, some healthcare facilities worldwide are providing acute care to patients in their homes. This is a necessity in places where the health systems have been overwhelmed. In other places, it is a way to provide care that might even be safer for certain medically stable patients.
Emerging data and reports suggest long-term stress and burnout among nurses has escalated since the COVID-19 pandemic began — which might contribute to increasing numbers of nurses leaving the workforce.
In August 2020, we lost Karen Zander, one of the true pioneers in hospital case management. Karen’s name is synonymous with acute care case management. She spent a large part of her professional career advancing case management roles, models, and the measurement of case management outcomes.
Case managers make a difference in the lives of their patients, even when patients are only in the hospital briefly. This is especially true when a patient is undergoing a life-changing or traumatic event, like limb amputation. Case managers can help guide the patient on what to expect during recovery and after. In some cases, they might be the only person who can help a vulnerable patient find help for a successful and less traumatic experience.
As of 2020, more than half a million people were homeless in the United States. When a case manager cares for a patient who has no home or permanent place of residence, the plan can change quickly. While the general outline of the case management process might stay the same when serving a homeless individual, there are additional items to consider.
Every day, hospital case managers must make decisions — large and small — that affect the lives of their patients. Some of these are ethical decisions — what the case manager “ought” to do in a given situation. Since many decisions must be made quickly, hospital case managers should consider their ethics and plan ahead rather than reacting solely in the moment.