By Joyace G. Ussin, MSN, RN, BSBM, CCM

My career in service began at age 15 when I was hired as a maid at the Landmark Hotel in Metairie, LA.  I have always been a “people person” per se’, and servicing guests at this hotel was just the start of a career in the service industry.  I worked hard every weekend as I cleaned and spoke to guests about anything they wanted to discuss, and I did my best to make their environment pleasant.  Being told, “You do great work!” made me want to be the best maid possible!

There is a quote by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr that I have learned to live by:

“All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”

Therefore, it was never “beneath” me to work as a maid or even in my next job as a waitress and cashier at Pogo’s Restaurant in the Sheraton Hotel at the age of 17. The spirit of excellence was instilled in me at an early age through my parents, who told us that we could be anything that we wanted to be in life!

Consequently, my goal in life was to become a physician.  I was an excellent student and did exceptionally well in the Sciences. However, my career trajectory was changed at the suggestion of a high school counselor, who could not fathom my success in the medical field as a physician, thereby forcing my entry into a high school nursing program.  For a long time, I resented my inability to fight back and say, “No, I don’t want to be a nurse; I want to be a doctor!”  However, I realize that God’s purpose for my life has been fulfilled in the service to others through nursing!  Today, I can genuinely say that I am grateful to be a nurse case manager!  Not just a nurse case manager, but an excellent one!! Whoomp, there it is!!

Getting Involved in Case management

I initially got involved in case management on the insurance side in rehabilitation case management because I desired a change from the hospital side of nursing.  After realizing the impact of case managers in advocating for clients, not only for rehabilitation but also for providing resources to help them survive, I recognized that I could and would make a difference.  The follow-through was even more impactful than bedside nursing, wherein the clinical nurse may never see them again after the patient was discharged.  However, with case management, I was permitted to follow the client throughout their healing process and for an abbreviated period after their return to gainful employment. 

Hospital case management affords the same opportunity to connect with clients beyond the acute phase of recovery, which is effective if they are given the proper resources and support following discharge.

 I became involved in case management because I wanted to impact people’s lives positively.

What Case Management Means to Me

Case management has allowed me to use critical thinking skills in developing viable transition plans for clients and the freedom to collaborate, coordinate, and negotiate ample resources far beyond simply managing a caseload. Sometimes, case managers can become so involved in completing tasks that we must remember how our actions can impact positive or negative lives. Therefore, I made it my personal goal to always “see” the person I am assisting, and just as I did when I worked as a clinical nurse, I have treated each client as if they were my family member.  I ensure I do my absolute best for each client I encounter.

Chosen to be Honored

I want to begin by saying that no one goes to work saying, “I am going to work hard so that I can receive an award for what I do.”  Especially case managers!  We want everyone to feel better and be better, so we put our heads down, open our hearts and arms, and work hard!

When Cynthia Hopkins invited me to a Zoom meeting in September 2021, I had no idea what I would be experiencing for the next two years. The hard work and perseverance of the board members of the Houston Gulfcoast chapter of CMSA proved to be the brunt of our existence! Night and day, day and night, we toiled to revive an expired chapter, becoming successful and rewarded locally and nationally!

Consequently, when my fellow board members, Heaven Sims-Provo, Teneische Perry, and Cynthia Hopkins, informed me that they had decided to nominate me for this prestigious honor, I was totally humbled and grateful. Whether I won or not really didn’t matter. I was honored that they thought enough of me to do such a thing, especially since we had all made major contributions to the chapter.

Let me pause to say……. Thank you, friends, for choosing me to be honored!

Receiving the CMSA’s Award of Service Excellence

No one can imagine how it felt to have my life’s work displayed on the big screen at the National CMSA conference!  It was surreal! I mentioned earlier that my goal in life was to become a physician; however, at that moment, I knew that my life’s purpose was and is nursing!  Over 43 years, the lives I have encountered and impacted through nursing and case management are immeasurable!  And I know for sure that there are more of you out there who have done the same, if not more, through case management!

I do not walk around bragging about what I have done, but I try to create an environment of healing unmatched by any other profession!  I can only impact one life at a time, hoping to do my best for each one while maintaining a balance in my own life.  I do not do what I do for awards or rewards but because I love people and want to foster humanity and compassion.  Therefore, when something like this happens, it humbles my heart and spirit and makes me even more grateful that God loaned me to nursing!

Sometimes, it takes a BIG screen for us to see ourselves as the heroes we are in life.  I want to encourage every case manager everywhere; we are the Superheroes of Healthcare!  Please don’t ever stop doing what you do to help everyone you can!

Thank you, CMSA, for this honor!!

I would like to end with another quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr,

“If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.”

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Bio: Joyace has over 40 years of nursing experience with tenure in multiple specialty nursing areas including but not limited to: case management, oncology, intensive care, post anesthesia care, orthopedics, geriatrics, and pediatrics. Masters-prepared, she has educated and mentored countless nurses throughout her career who have become valuable contributors to nursing in multiple institutions. In her current case management position, Joyace is a member of the Unit Practice Congress which develops, implements, and enforces guidelines that foster quality coordination and effective case management principles. She also participates in the Sunshine Committee which highlights individual contributions of Case managers; promotes health and wellness tactics; cultivates mental well-being, and nurtures self-care. She is a member of the Case Management Society of America where she serves on the Board of the Houston/Gulfcoast chapter as a Board Member at Large. She is celebrated among her peers and is often sought out for her ideas and problem- solving skills. Joyace is a published author of The Power of Positive Words (2019, Westbow Press) and has a published abstract in the Journal of PeriAnesthia Nursing, which she presented at ASPAN (2015).