By Sandra Zawalski, MSN, RN, CRRN, CCM, ABDA, MSCC

Here we are, another year has passed and a month into a new one. Did you complete your resolutions for 2023? Did you make new resolutions for 2024? Did you ignore this old-fashioned practice and just decide to continue with life?

A new year offers each of us 366 (yes, this is a leap year!) days of new opportunities. Perhaps we don’t want to be so exhausted by the end of the year, as many, including myself, found themselves to be. Use this time to start a new practice. Something as simple as making your bed, walking a bit further every day, cleaning your desk at the end of each day, etc. This is a great time to start a new habit.

A study from the European Journal of Social Psychology found it takes an average of 66 days to form a habit. To many, 66 days seems like a short time, well, wait until you try and do something for 66 days and you will notice how long that really is.

For me, I attend a 5:30 AM exercise class. This is now a habit for me as I have been doing it for over five years. This was tough in the beginning and although I would like to say it got easier, it did not. Many times, at 4:30 AM I find myself having internal conversations with myself on the benefits of getting out of bed, in the dark when it is cold out. And the angel on my shoulder always wins and there I am, out of bed, in the dark and sometimes really cold weather. Once at the gym, I feel better about myself and the decision I made.

So, the first part of this is to improve yourselves. Take your vacation days, work will always be there. But your life won’t be. Spend time with loved ones, laugh a little, or better yet laugh a lot every day. I recently read a comment on social media that stated to dance before you leave your house. It changes the way you walk out of your home. Don’t know how to dance, who cares? No one is going to see you, well, maybe your pets, but we all know pets don’t judge, except cats!

Now, what can I do to better my case management skills or improve my relationship as a patient advocate? Try to be the innovator that advances the care of your community and be the compassion that someone needs. The world is a tough place right now, what can you do to help at least one person? A smile, a touch.

Maybe you fell behind on reading case management journals to keep up your practice and lagged on your CEUs. This is a good time to update your practice. As case managers, we need to remind ourselves this role is ever-changing, just as healthcare is. Not only do we need to update our case management skills but also the skills of our primary license. That’s a lot to do and we usually find ourselves cramming at the last minute, especially as we near the time to renew our license and/or certification.

So, as we start the new year, let’s improve ourselves. Maybe breathe a little deeper, smile more, or speak softer. Turn off social media for a longer period of time and act like it’s 1999 when you talked with people, debated, conversed, and read.

Be the creator of confidence, be the owner of moments, and be the maker of meaningful connections. Read more case management articles, make a change in how you practice case management and treat yourself with kindness. Here’s to a new you in 2024!

Join us for CMSA Case Management Boot Camp, March 8-10, 2024, in Nashville, TN! Deadline to register is March 1. Space is limited! Explore ethical practices, healthcare reimbursement, versatile skill sets, communication techniques, and more, earning 19.5 RN, SW, and CCM CEs over two and a half days of in-person instruction. Don't miss this unique opportunity to start strong in case management, learn about other CM practice areas, or get back to basics.

Bio: Sandra is a registered nurse with almost 40 years of experience in a variety of clinical settings that includes orthopedics, brain injury rehab and neonatal intensive care. There is extensive experience in case management for payers and providers holding leadership positions in each, as well has owning her own consulting business. She has a Master’s in Nursing with a focus on education, is a board-certified case manager, certified rehabilitation nurse, certified as a Medicare Set Aside Consultant, a member of the American Board of Disability Analysts and a designated ATD Master Trainer. Sandra has published numerous articles in case management professional journals, is a regular contributor to CMSA Today and was a regular contributor for Just Begin magazine. Sandra is a former commissioner for CCMC, a former chair and has had the privilege of speaking at national conferences including CMSA and CCMC’s New World Symposium as well as a certified Cert 360 facilitator for CCMC. Sandra’s current position is a Principal Clinical Educator with MCG.