Case management in health care is the coordination of care for people who are physically or mentally ill, to ensure that they receive the services they need. It may include advocacy for the client, referrals for care and services, treatment planning and patient education. Direct service social workers are often case managers as well, as they are trained specifically for that role. Registered nurses also frequently take on case management roles. Salaries vary by discipline.
Skills and Personal Characteristics
Case managers must have excellent communication skills to interview clients and collaborate with other health care sectors and community services. They need compassion and empathy to deal with people who are in stressful situations, and must be able to organize their work and manage multiple details to ensure clients get the services they need in a timely fashion. In addition, case managers must be able to advocate for clients and negotiate to obtain services. Critical thinking skills help case managers analyze and solve problems.
Work Settings and Clients
Case managers work in community service organizations, hospitals, inpatient and outpatient mental health units, public health or residential care facilities, as well as for insurance companies. Some case managers might work only with complicated patients in an acute care hospital to help them transition from inpatient care to rehabilitation, outpatient care or home, while other case managers might work with the same clients over the long term and across many settings. These clients typically have chronic diseases or mental health issues that require multiple services.
Daily Tasks and Responsibilities
The first step in the case management process is a client interview. Family members or caregivers may also be involved in the interview process. The case manager reviews records related to medical treatment or previous health services, and develops a plan of care with the patient and family. Goals are individualized to the patient, and might include anything from applying for financial aid or finding housing to securing a primary care physician for the client.
The case manager might advocate for a client by educating other health care providers about the client’s specific strengths and weaknesses, ensuring access to services or preventing discrimination. Some case managers supervise a case management team, and have administrative duties such as training staff or conducting personnel evaluations.
Education and Licensure
Social workers need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, while nurses may have an associate degree, a nursing diploma or a bachelor’s degree. During the educational process, case managers must have completed supervised field experience in case management, health or behavioral health. The Case Management Society of America, or CMSA, notes that case managers must have the necessary licensure or certification in a health or human services discipline to conduct an independent assessment. All states require that nurses be licensed, while social workers may be licensed or certified, depending on the state.
Certification and Salaries
Case managers have multiple options for certification in the field, although certification is not necessarily required. Many organizations offer case management certification, including CMSA, the National Academy of Certified Care Managers and the American Nurses Credentialing Center.
The job site Indeed reports that the average annual salary for a case manager in 2015 was $51,000. In comparison, the Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that registered nurse salaries in 2013 averaged $68,910, while social worker salaries ranged from $44,420 to $52,520 a year, depending on specialty.