One of the keys to ensuring positive outcomes for injured employees is to insist on hiring only certified case managers, says Liz Zemke, a Fresno, Calif., certified case manager who handles catastrophic injury cases for Philadelphia-based Intracorp.
"It's good--particularly for risk managers---if the case managers are certified, because you might not know them personally. So if you're sending (an assignment) out to a certified case manager, at least you're aware that they ... have knowledge in areas and that they are held to the ethics and the standards of the Commission for Case Manager Certification. You can be assured that you're getting a more professional case manager."
Zemke is an active advocate of the certification process, and has been involved with CCMC since its early days. It was at Zemke's urging that her boss at Intracorp, Shirlee Nickell, obtained her CCM.
In order to become certified, Nickell explains, "You have to have two years of practice in case management ... and (CCMC) really encourages that your manager is certified, which is one of the reasons--ultimately--why I decided to become certified; it makes it easier for my staff. But it was Liz's pushing that got it all going."
On the value of certification, Nickell adds, "It commits you to continuing your education process ... and to being an outstanding professional in the field of case management."
CCMs are also required to be proficient in a broad range of skill sets, explains Mindy Owen, chairwoman of CCMC. So employers or carriers that hire CCMs have the reassurance that their injured employees are in experienced, capable hands, prepared to deal with the complexities of each case.
A good CCM can also maintain a focus on the ultimate goal: get the injured employee back on their feet. "If they can educate the patient to become their own case manager, they fall back into a resource position (and the employees) take more and more responsibility themselves," explains Owen. "That truly, in my mind, is the role of a good case manager."
The bottom line, says Zemke, is that hiring a CCM means hiring someone who's committed to excellence and who sincerely enjoys the challenges of the job--someone who will, as a rule, go the extra mile. "It is rather complicated ... if you do it well," she says. "It's not just somebody out there that will 'tell' on the patient and be the communication link, it's much more. We're really coordinating their entire medical care from time of injury until they're all better, essentially. It's multi-faceted, it's complicated, it takes a lot of time and thought--but it's fun and it's rewarding."
September 15, 2005
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