By Dr. Colleen Morley, DNP, RN, CCM, CMAC, CMCN, ACM-RN, FCM

Healthcare Decisions Day, observed annually on April 16, emphasizes the importance of advance care planning and case managers' role in facilitating these essential discussions. National Healthcare Decisions Day inspires, educates, and empowers the public and providers about the importance of advanced care planning. It encourages people to discuss their healthcare wishes and create advance directives, such as living wills and healthcare proxies.  

Here's how you, as case managers, can promote Healthcare Decisions Day and support people in making informed healthcare choices:  

  • Education and Awareness: Case managers are skilled educators. You can use Healthcare Decisions Day as an opportunity to raise awareness about the significance of advanced care planning. Explain the importance of documenting healthcare preferences to ensure that the person's wishes are honored.  
  • Facilitating Conversations: One of our key responsibilities as case managers is to initiate and facilitate conversations about advance care planning. Advance care planning discussions can be emotionally challenging for everyone involved in the conversation. Case managers approach advance care planning with cultural sensitivity, recognizing that beliefs and customs may influence healthcare decisions. You ensure that discussions are respectful of cultural diversity. You create a safe and supportive environment for patients and their families to discuss their values, goals, and treatment preferences, providing emotional support and guidance to all parties involved, helping them navigate difficult decisions.   
  • Documentation: Case managers can assist individuals in completing advance directives, such as living wills and healthcare proxies. You can ensure that these documents accurately reflect the person's wishes and are legally valid. You also emphasize the importance of regularly reviewing and updating advance directives, mainly when changes in a person's health status or personal circumstances occur.  
  • Reviewing Options: As Case Managers, you provide information about various medical interventions and treatment choices. You help people understand the potential benefits, risks, and alternatives, allowing them to make informed decisions.   
  • Empowering Patient Autonomy: Case managers respect the autonomy of patients in their healthcare decisions. You encourage and advocate for people to make choices that align with their values and beliefs, even if these choices may differ from medical recommendations.  
  • Coordination of Care: In situations where advance directives need to be activated, case managers coordinate the implementation of the person's preferences with the healthcare team. You ensure that the patient's wishes are respected throughout the care process.  
  • Advocacy is the central role of the practice of case management. You serve as an advocate for your patient/client/members' rights and preferences. You work to ensure that healthcare providers and institutions honor advance directives and respect the choices made by them and their designated healthcare proxies.  

Observing Healthcare Decisions Day reminds us of the critical need for advance care planning. We also recognize and appreciate the valuable contributions of case managers in ensuring that patients have a voice in their medical care, even in challenging circumstances. By promoting advanced care planning, you empower people to take control of their healthcare journey and make decisions that reflect their unique values and desires. 

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Bio: Dr. Colleen Morley, DNP, RN, CCM, CMAC, CMCN, ACM-RN, FCM is the Associate Chief Clinical Operations Officer, Care Continuum for University of Illinois Health System and the current President of the Case Management Society of America National Board of Directors. She has held positions in acute care as Director of Case Management at several acute care facilities and managed care entities in Illinois, overseeing Utilization Review, Case Management and Social Services for over 14 years; piloting quality improvement initiatives focused on readmission reduction, care coordination through better communication and population health management. Her current passion is in the area of improving health literacy. She is the recipient of the CMSA Foundation Practice Improvement Award (2020) and ANA Illinois Practice Improvement Award (2020) for her work in this area. Dr. Morley also received the AAMCN Managed Care Nurse Leader of the Year in 2010 and the CMSA Fellow of Case Management designation in 2022. Her 1st book, “A Practical Guide to Acute Care Case Management”, published by Blue Bayou Press was released in February, 2022. Dr. Morley has over 20 years of nursing experience. Her clinical specialties include Med/Surg, Oncology and Pediatric Nursing. She received her ADN at South Suburban College in South Holland, IL; BSN at Jacksonville University in Jacksonville, FL, MSN from Norwich University in Northfield, VT and her DNP at Chamberlain College of Nursing.