By Celinda Carr, LCSW-C, CCM

I once heard a quote that “Social Workers are sunshine and a little hurricane.” In my own life, the sunshine part was easy to figure out. I love to smile, laugh, and bring joy to others, both personally and professionally. The hurricane part of the quote made me ponder. Hurricanes are natural disasters, and they ruin people’s lives and homes. I certainly didn’t want to be described in that way. As I put more thought into it, I reassured myself that the person meant social workers can quickly assess a situation amidst the swirling chaos, review all possible resources and pinpoint those that will be most beneficial. If I were to re-state the quote, I might say “Social Workers are sunshine and a little disaster relief.”

Every March, since 1963, we celebrate Social Work Month. This year, the theme is Social Work Breaks Barriers, which embodies how social workers help empower individuals, families, communities, and society overcome hurdles that prevent them from achieving better well-being. This theme conjures up some great imagery, especially since the field of social work can be so broad. There are social workers who break down barriers by lobbying for policy change, those who provide a caring environment for a family in hospice breaking down the barriers of denial and grief, those who provide therapy services breaking down the barriers and stigmas surrounding mental health, and others, like me, who are case managers breaking down the barriers within complex healthcare systems to ensure the right care at the right time, in the right place.

I have been a licensed Social Worker since 1993, a Certified Case Manager (CCM) since 1995, and am a proud member of the Case Management Society of America (CMSA). My first job was working in a chronic rehabilitation hospital on a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) unit. I will always credit that wise supervisor who introduced me to the world of case management. She saw the benefits of the profession and encouraged me to seek case management certification early in my career. My professional work since that time has grown from discharge planning on a small TBI unit in Baltimore City to my current role as a Program Director at The Coordinating Center, a Maryland nonprofit, providing case management for nearly 4,000 medically complex youth and adults across the state of Maryland. In this program, we employ nurses and social workers in identical roles and emphasize the value of the CCM credential, requiring it within two years of date of hire.

In reviewing the Commission for Case Management Certification website data from 2020, only eight percent of CCMs are social workers. As professional case managers, with backgrounds in nursing, social work, and other allied health professions, we excel when we capitalize on the strengths and knowledge our varied disciplines bring to our organizations and our clients. One of the things I enjoy most is continual learning from peers in my program. As a social worker, they learn from me about personality disorders and the Social Security Act of 1975, and, as nurses, I learn from them the steps a caregiver should use for safe intermittent catheterization. Without more social workers joining the ranks to become case managers and CCMs, this valuable exchange of knowledge could be lost. The fact that the National Association of Social Workers and CMSA have partnered with CCMC to promote the CCM as the preferred credential for their members since 2017 speaks to the importance of both disciplines working in tandem to hold their members to a high standard.

As professional case managers, we strive every day to advocate for and improve many people’s quality of life. For this month, let’s celebrate the social workers who currently provide case management services and educate others who are unfamiliar with the high-level of satisfaction and fulfillment we receive being case managers. To all the social workers out there, keep being the sunshine and relief for all the lives you touch. Happy Social Work Month 2023!

Since 2012, Celinda Carr, LCSW-C, CCM has worked for The Coordinating Center, a Maryland statewide nonprofit organization providing care coordination for individuals with disabilities and complex medical needs. Celinda’s current position is Program Director for a MD Medicaid contract, overseeing the care coordination for 4,000 individuals.

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