A lot of people don’t know what a Case Manager does. Perhaps that’s because it is hard to sum up the role in just a few sentences. Case Managers perform multiple functions that require them to call on a wide variety of skills, experience and knowledge.
We thought it would be interesting to ask our team and some of the people we work with what they think makes a good Case Manager. You can see from the wide variety of responses we received that there is a lot involved in being a successful Case Manager.
A common response when we asked what it takes to succeed as a Case Manager was the ability to always put the client first. One of our Case Managers Kate summarises it well, “A good Case Manager always remembers that the individual they are supporting is of the utmost importance”.
Our specialist amputee rehab Case Manager Rebecca agrees, “For me, succeeding as a Case Manager represents maintaining your clinical and ethical position in order to reflect the needs of the client….enabling the client to lead as broadly independent a life as possible. Where that is not possible, there is success to be found in achieving a supported lifestyle of quality”.
Another consistent theme is the need to be organised. Our co-founder Annabelle believes that Case Managers are clinical project managers. She says, “The best Case Managers I work with are able to deal with competing priorities and understand quickly what needs to come first. They create order out of chaos”.
Experienced physiotherapist and member of the case management team, Lynsay, says, “There are often multiple things going on for each case so it helps to have good systems in place and keep on top of thing”. However, Lynsay also feels that creativity and flexibility are needed to complement good organisational skills, “Best laid plans don't always work out! You need to be able to think creatively and always be on the lookout for solutions and different ways to approach a problem. As well as be responsive and prepared to consider other options and adapt as you go along”.
How we do our jobs is just as important as what we do. The team agreed unanimously that empathy and warmth are essential. Lynsay shared that a key part of her job as a Case Manager involves, “Being able to listen to the client's story and the impact of their injury on their life and those around them. Encouraging them when things are difficult and being a source of support and understanding when things are difficult, but also being their cheerleader when things go well”.
Case Manager Becky Milnor sums it up by saying, “It takes patience, empathy, the ability to 'see outside the box', great communication skills and the ability to juggle ever-fluctuating demands”.
Our administration team member Becky Brocklehurst, says that one of the things she most admires about the Breakthrough Case Managers is their calm presence, “Our clients know they are in safe hands. Our Case Managers stay calm under pressure and they convey that to our clients. Their ability to say in control of what is often a chaotic situation is admirable.”
While we do take on newer Case Managers here at Breakthrough, who are supported with training and mentoring by more experienced team members, experience is vital. Particularly for more complex case management. As Becky Milnor says, “Having a clear understanding of health, rehabilitation and socioeconomics also really helps!”.
Annabelle agrees, “Experience matters. We do a lot to support new people in the profession but our vulnerable clients need Case Managers who have seen this before. Someone who can explain the what, the why and the how. Someone who can reassure them that others have been in the same situation and it has worked out for them. Our clients value this level of experience.”
The saying that no one is an island is a truism for case management. Not only do we work in partnership with our clients and the Breakthrough team, but we also work with a Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT) on each case that might involve numerous different health professionals.
Kate explains, “Co-production and having a strong MDT around the client is the key to outstanding service provision. Co-production fundamentally recognises and understands how people can contribute to care and support at all levels. It increases the scope for people to profoundly influence and shape the support they receive as an individual and as a community. A strong team who can contribute different skills and have individual areas of expertise but who work seamlessly together for the good of the client produces the best future care and rehabilitation outcomes”.
Working as part of a team also means you need to speak up sometimes to ensure your voice – and the voice of the client – is heard. Lynsay says that having the power of persuasion is important for good case management. This means you are, “able to present a strong and reasoned argument to support recommendations and why they will help a client”.
We don’t always practice what we preach but we do know that it’s important to look after ourselves as well as our clients. Lynsay shares that part of being a successful Case Manager is, “being kind to yourself on the days when it doesn't go so well”.
Annabelle understands the importance of looking after our own sustainability and being mindful of what we need in a job where there can be significant emotional toil. She says, “Delegating is essential to avoiding burnout. It’s a skill to ask for help – and one that I am not always good at!”.
Training and peer support is available at Breakthrough to help deal with the challenges of the role. Team support extends beyond case management to the back-office team, HR support and help on the systems and processes required to be a good Case Manager.
So, do the healthcare and legal professionals we work with agree about what makes a good Case Manager? A solicitor we worked with on a recent landmark case said, “Breakthrough are very outcome focussed and proactive. They always strive to ensure that my clients are at the heart of what they do”.
A neuropsychologist we partner with to deliver client care says, “The Breakthrough Case Managers we have worked with have been first class at multidisciplinary working and prioritising client’s needs. They respond promptly and are very professional communicators. Clients have undoubtedly benefitted from the support offered”.
It is often the great feedback we get that makes our job so rewarding. And because we believe a client first approach is essential for successful case management, we will give the last word to one of our clients who recently told us, “You have helped in my understanding and given me a voice. Every step of the way you have checked what I would like to do and then made it happen”.
Find out more about careers with Breakthrough Case Management.