Case managers are responsible for the coordination of services for those who receive mental health, developmental services and other health related services case managers play an important role in ensuring that people receive the health services they need and that they are happy with those services.
I often come in contact with service providers who are interested in becoming case managers. I also get questioned by people when I’m visiting my clients at home or at work/day support programs. The job might appear to be easy while I’m going around doing site visits. I try to explain to them that the job entails so much more than just the face to face visits. I have listed five keys that I feel make successful case managers.
1. Documentation- Documentation without question is the most important aspect of case management and most mental health professions. The ability to write case notes, quarterly reports, and treatment plans are critical to effective case management services. Documentation is also important for agencies because most documentation is also linked to billing.
2. Time Management- Time management skills are probably the second most important skills for a case manager. Case management involves monthly and quarterly face to face visits, documentation, meetings, and follow up phone calls on a daily basis. You have to be able to plan ahead and develop organizational skills. With all of the technology available, there are a number options available to set up appointments, reminders, and meetings on a mobile device or desktop computer.
3. Customer Service- Customer service is a key component of case management. Most of us equate customer service to the retail profession. However, customer services are also important to health related services. A case manager’s primary job is to ensure that the individual in need of services (customer) is happy with the services they receive. This may also involve handling complaints and dealing people who may be verbally abusive. The key is to remain calm and maintain a professional tone.
4. Multitasking- The ability to complete multiple tasks at the same time is a critical skill for a case manager. Handling a crisis situation, completing reports, coordinating services, and scheduling meetings are just a small part of a case manager’s day. The ability to prioritize responsibilities and get it done at the end of the day is a major skill and often comes with experience.
5. Communication- The last area is communication. Case managers are in constant communication with clients, families, service providers and other case managers. The ability to communicate professionally to resolve problems is critical to successful case management. Of course this means verbal and written communication. As a case manager, you may come in contact with clients in crisis who may be rude or use inappropriate language. It’s your responsibility to remain calm and professional. A professional response can help ease anxiety but an unprofessional response can make the situation worse.
Communication with supervisors and other case managers is important for learning about new resources. There is no case manager that has all of the answers and knows every resource. In addition, case managers have a variety of educational backgrounds and work experience. Communication with others in the field can increase your knowledge and provide different techniques to provide better services.
Case managers also have to be able to communicate in order to inform clients and families about community resources. The ability to explain sometimes complex services and programs without too much “mental health jargon” will help clients feel more at ease when seeking help.