Every day, someone is struggling to navigate the challenges of life – personal and professional obstacles, disabilities, medical conditions, mental health issues, socioeconomic imbalances, and more. Confronting these challenges alone can be an overwhelming burden, and when a person needs assistance, they often rely on a case manager.

What Is a Case Manager?

The Case Management Society of America (CMSA) defines case managers as “healthcare professionals who serve as patient advocates to support, guide, and coordinate care for patients, families, and caregivers as they navigate their health and wellness journeys.”

The organization’s philosophy is “based in the fact that when an individual reaches the optimum level of wellness and functional capability, everyone benefits: the individuals being served, their support systems, the health care delivery systems, and the various reimbursement sources.” The purpose behind case management, according to the CMSA, is three-fold:

  1. Case management is a means for achieving client wellness and autonomy through advocacy, communication, education, identification of service resources, and service facilitation.
  2. Case management identifies appropriate providers and facilities throughout the continuum of services, while ensuring that available resources are being used in a timely and cost-effective manner in order to obtain optimum value for both the client and the reimbursement services.
  3. Case management offers services in a climate that allows direct communication between the case manager, the client, and appropriate service personnel, in order to optimize the outcome for all concerned.

What Does a Case Manager Do?

Case managers play a critical role in a number of fields, so those who are trained in the foundational elements of case management can enter the workforce with a versatile skillset they can apply to multiple sectors. According to Indeed, types of case managers include:

  • Hospital case managers
  • Home health case managers
  • Registered nurse case managers
  • Developmental disabilities case managers
  • Health insurance case managers
  • Substance abuse case managers
  • Child/juvenile case managers
  • Academic case managers
  • Housing case managers
  • Mental health case managers
  • Correctional case managers
  • Rehabilitation case managers
  • Legal case managers
  • Geriatric case managers 

In order to understand the role of a case manager, let’s look closer at a role with a similar job title. According to O*NET Online, a case worker’s job title is similar to that of a social worker, licensed clinical social worker, and a mental health and substance abuse social worker, among others.

In this category, the job of a case manager involves, among other tasks: 

  • Monitoring, evaluating, and recording client progress with respect to treatment goals
  • Collaborating with counselors, physicians, or nurses to plan or coordinate treatment, drawing on social work experience and patient needs
  • Interviewing clients, reviewing records, conducting assessments, or conferring with other professionals to evaluate the mental or physical condition of clients or patients
  • Supervising or directing other workers who provide services to clients or patients
  • Modifying treatment plans according to changes in client status
  • Assisting clients in adhering to treatment plans, such as setting up appointments, arranging for transportation to appointments, or providing support
  • Educating clients or community members about mental or physical illness, abuse, medication, or available community resources
  • Counseling or aiding family members to assist them in understanding, dealing with, or supporting the client or patient 

How Do I Become a Case Manager?

Education, as well as certification, can help you become a case manager. The former can be achieved through a college degree, while the latter can be done via organizations such as the Commission for Case Manager Certification.

For example, O*NET reports the vast majority – 77% of professionals in the category of case managers, mental health and substance abuse social workers, and similar aforementioned titles – are required to have a master’s degree, while 19% are required to have a bachelor’s degree.

Regardless of which college you choose, it is imperative the degree program you choose provides the coursework and training that will allow you to:

  • Examine significant concepts, theoretical frameworks, and empirical discoveries for addressing intricate challenges in the field of study
  • Craft proficient communications in diverse formats for purposes of assessment, evaluation, and/or intervention
  • Apply effective approaches to assess, evaluate, and intervene at both intrapersonal and interpersonal levels
  • Assess the worth of empirical evidence and incorporate ethical practices and values, with recognition and respect for human diversity
  • Evaluate diverse approaches facilitating personal and professional development within different social constructs that foster inclusion and enhance quality of life

What Skills Are Needed to Become a Case Manager?

Like many professions, the role of a case manager combines essential soft and hard skills. It’s important to keep in mind that, as a case manager, you will rely heavily on your communication skills, with empathy and patience at the top of the list.

Among the other crucial skills you will need to succeed as a case manager:

  • Active listening. In your role, you will need to demonstrate a genuine interest in what your clients are saying. Your attentiveness will allow them to express themselves fully, enhancing the probability that their treatment plan will prove successful.
  • Negotiation. Whether you are dealing with clients or colleagues, you must have the ability to bring people together and reconcile differences. Negotiation requires reaching a conclusion through collaboration.
  • Critical thinking. In case management, your critical thinking skills are needed to interpret meaning and tone from your clients. You’ll also need to interpret data, identify patterns of behavior, and reach substantive conclusions based on evidence presented to you.
  • Time management. This is an essential skill for life, and as a case manager, you’ll want to be able to respectfully manage the time you spend with your clients. Not only is it important that you make time for conversations and documentation, but you may need to manage your time around clients that require your assistance at different times or in emergency situations.

What Are Some Case Manager Roles

Case managers are essential in today’s wide-ranging health care industry and can be employed in both professional and public settings. In order to understand the expectation of case managers, let’s examine a similar role: social and community service managers. The role is similar in that you can pursue a job as a social and community service manager with the same foundational education that can help you become a case manager.

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the agency that records and reports employment data, the job outlook for social and community service managers is very positive. Growing much faster than average, the role is projected to have as many as 16,000 new openings each year through 2033.

“Much of the job growth in this occupation is the result of a population increasing its number of older adults,” according to the agency.

For Department of Labor information regarding this occupational field, click here.

How Do I Find a Job in Case Management?

There are many resources that can help you research and apply to jobs in the field of case management. The CMSA maintains a database of positions in the field, and also allows employers to post jobs and target potential employees.

Overview: What Is a Case Manager?

Serving as a case manager means acting as a patient advocate, someone who is able to coordinate care for individuals while providing guidance to families and caregivers. The education and skills needed to become a case manager can make you a versatile asset in a number of industries, and you can find work in hospitals, home health, and mental health facilities, among others. If you are considering case management as a career, begin researching the educational credentials you may need, such as a bachelor’s degree in applied behavioral science, as well as the certifications that may be required to advance your career.

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