by Laureen Rodgers, CCM
Picture this—a case manager is on the phone with one of their long-term clients. The case manager is acting in a role as their medical case manager, helping them manage their diabetes and decreased mobility for progressing Multiple Sclerosis. Today’s conversation, however, is not related to their medical needs. They are unable to find affordable childcare; their teen is struggling with mental health since returning to school post-COVID, and they never have time for self-care. How many case managers want to echo that with “me too”?
As we move towards a post-pandemic world, many American workers are making job choices that better suit their work and life goals. The “Great Resignation” is showing no signs of slowing down. According to this chart from Pew Research Center (2022), along with salary and the need for career advancement opportunities, some of the reasons why we have seen such high numbers of career changes include the need to feel respected and to have flexibility at work.
At the core of case management is recognizing the client as a “whole person” and assessing the total picture of the clients’ needs, goals and supports. As we move through the ever-changing working climate, it is important to assess the well-being of coworkers. We should work towards supporting a work-life integration model and improving overall satisfaction in one’s career. With the “Great Resignation” in full swing, it’s time to start recognizing that an employee’s overall satisfaction within their case manager role is in direct correlation with how they are treated as a whole person in a very demanding world.
The crux of self-care is that if you don’t care for yourself, how are you going to care for others? This same practice can be applied to the mental health and well-being of our peers. If a coworker hasn’t had the time to care for themselves or their family, how are they going to be in a headspace to help their clients? So, what do we do? How do we support case managers in these challenging times?
A successful case manager will probably tell you that they are a “jack-of-all-trades” with the ability to multi-task. While this helps us to accomplish the goals of the clients, it can work against us when interacting with our coworkers. Be present when speaking with others. I turn off my to-do lists and am mindful of the person in front me; what they are speaking about and why they are coming to me for assistance. Listening fully, with care and with eye contact, can make a world of a difference. Reach out and elicit ideas and good conversation.
Since COVID-19 began in March of 2020, the work environment has changed, and along with that, there was a movement towards more flexibility in the workday. During most of that year, I was spending my days trying to lead a group of case managers who had their own personal stresses during an uncertain time with my two little ones running around my living room/office. My company recognized that I was capable of prioritizing and balancing my work and home life as they were interchangeable in that moment in time. The trust they had in me and that I had for my team led to a higher level of understanding and compassion in the workplace. As most organizations are returning to the office, I think the practice of remaining flexible with coworkers should continue. Recognize that the coworkers in front of you are more than “just” case managers, with their own stresses and demands outside of the workday. Case managers may be a parent to a young child, a student, a spouse or the adult child of an aging parent. More than being case managers, they are people with many demands in and out of their work obligations.
No accomplishment should be left unacknowledged in some way or form. It is hard in the daily hustle and bustle to stop and recognize ourselves and the work of our peers. Simple shout outs and accolades can mean so much. I spent much of the past two years celebrating every accomplishment I could from the small to the milestones. When we returned to client visits, I applauded my team for rushing out into the community with gusto, happy to be helping clients where they live again. When available, offer mental health days, wellness perks, retreats and team building events to showcase the hard work being accomplished.
It is such an important step in the client/case manager relationship that it should be a part of the case manager/supervisor relationship as well. Take time to talk about the things that are important to your coworkers both in and out of work. Team building events can boost morale and give people a chance to interact with their peers on a more personal level. When we were finally able to reunite as a team, my coworkers and I spent the afternoon at a nail salon for our team building event. We were able to have a little bit of self-care while catching up with each other face to face. I left the experience feeling refreshed and filled with joy. Checking in “just because” with no agenda can help coworkers feel supported and connected to their workplace.
In this hectic and ever-changing world, the importance of care for yourself and others is paramount. Show care in the big and small things you do. When the pandemic started, I found peace during daily walks, which I continue to this day. Taking a break to get outside did wonders for my stress and helped me refocus for the rest of the day. I often tell those I supervise to step away, turn off your phone and realize that while the work is important, it isn’t everything. I let them know how valued they are any chance I can and how lucky I am to be a part of THEIR team. While a high salary, benefits and more PTO are valued aspects of a job, it is also important that coworkers feel accepted, respected and supported in their careers. Small changes and showing that you care can go a long way.
References: Parker, Kim & Menasce Horowitz, Juliana. “Majority of workers who quit a job in 2021 cite low pay, no opportunities for advancement, feeling disrespected.” Pew Research Center. https://pewrsr.ch/3hVWMfr. April 4 2022.
Bio: Laureen Rodgers is a case manager and social worker in Maryland with The Coordinating Center, providing services to individuals with disabilities and medically fragile adults and children. She is currently a team manager who supervises an incredible team of passionate and caring case managers.
Interested in more on this topic? The Legacy Leaders: What Keeps You up at Night? Panel Session will cover staff shortages due to burnout, retirements, and lack of self-care, Saturday, June 4th, 11AM-12PM. Learn more by viewing the conference schedule: https://cmsa.societyconference.com/conf/#sessions/conf10002