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February 28, 2015

Case Management: Building Professional Relationships


One of the key components to case management is the ability to develop and maintain professional relationships. These relationships are critical when it comes to locating resources for consumers as well as professional development.

One of the most important functions of case managers is monitoring client services to ensure that they are receiving the most appropriate level of care. In many ways case managers serve as a regulatory agency, as they are tasked with making sure service providers are adhering to state regulations. Working with several service providers over time should give you a good understanding of which agencies provide the best care. It should also give you a good feel for what agencies to avoid as well.

 As a case manager, working with different public and private agencies will also give you an understanding of what agencies can provide meet specific needs depending on the client. For example, some agencies may work better with clients with aggressive behaviors while others may work better with the medically fragile.  Case managers will also find that there are some providers that that should be avoided altogether. For those trusted providers, it’s important to establish and maintain a positive professional relationship. Building professional relationships benefits the case manager, the provider, and most importantly, the client in need of services.


Maintain the Professional Relationship
There is always a fine line between when it comes to maintaining a professional relationship with service providers. I often get calls from providers asking “can you get me some clients?”  Although you may have compassion for an agency struggling to maintain clients, you have to remember that it not your job to provide clients for providers. It’s also unethical for case managers to refer clients only to specific providers without giving them an opportunity explore other agencies and make their own decision. The job of the case manager is to provide the individual with choices and allow them to select the provider they want.  
This can be a challenge since many families are unfamiliar with service providers. As case managers, we have the obligation to help people find service providers. However, we cannot make the decision for them. I like to provide families with a list of service providers and highlight those that I have had positive experiences and that I feel will provide the best services. This way I can provide assistance and still leave it up to the individual and the family to make the final decision.

Benefits of Professional Relationships
Trusted Resources
One of the key benefits of developing professional relationships is that it allows you to have the opportunity to build a contact list of trusted providers.  A good contact list can come in handy during a crisis.  Maintaining a contact list benefits all parties when a client is in need of services. I recommend taking advantage of any opportunity to visit as many new providers as possible.
New service providers are constantly popping up and often solicit case managers and service coordinators for clients.  Although we can’t necessarily “provide” them with clients, we can pass along their information and create more options for people in need of services. 
It’s also important to learn about new service providers.  I try to attend open house events and gather as much information as possible. You never know when that resource may be needed by you or a colleague.  


Professional Development
Another benefit of professional relationships is they can help you with career development. Establishing connections can pay dividends when it comes to career advancement. We’ve all heard the phrase “It’s not what you know but who you know”.  Often when everything else is equal, a personal or professional connection can make the difference in getting that promotion or position with another company. I have been offered positions and opportunities just based on my relationships with people over the years. It also pays to not “burn bridges” or leave positions on bad terms. You never know when you may need a reference or who may be on your next interview panel. 

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