A case manager oversees patients and patient care with a holistic view, and that makes it an excellent role for nurses. As a case manager, nurses advocate for patients as they establish care plans and coordinate care for cases that are often complex.
October 7 to 13, marks National Case Management Week and gives nurses a chance to learn about and explore this career path. A case manager role offers opportunities to make a difference in patient care, especially for patients and families who work with many caregivers.
According to the American Case Management Association (ACMA), case managers work with various physicians, nurses, caregivers, social workers, community resources, and patients to ensure access to needed services and resources. Then, they coordinate those resources to give the patients the best care options that also help meet the patient’s needs and desires.
A patient with several conditions, who relies on physical and occupational therapists, has home health care on certain days, takes multiple medications, and who is recovering from surgery is going to need a specialized care plan. This is where case managers are able to offer expert coordination. They keep an eye on each of the moving parts of the care plan.
With a nursing background, a case manager is able to watch for medical changes and anticipate potential care needs. The nursing expertise is valuable as a case manager, as nurses know how hospital and healthcare systems operate and also what patients need from providers. They are able to notice gaps in care that can make a difference in healthcare outcomes.
ACMA identified the following five core areas of a case manager’s role.
- Care coordination
- Transition management
- Utilization management
Each area overlaps with others and involves many partners to succeed. The role is independent, but requires teamwork and collaboration for successful outcomes. Case managers take a broad view of the patient’s needs to ensure the patient and the patient’s family is fully informed. They explain the patient’s condition, the care needs that are presented, how they will be put into place, any additional screening or testing, and then a continuum of follow-up care to make sure the patient is receiving needed care.
Nurses in a case manager role gain immense career satisfaction from helping patients navigate the sometimes overwhelming healthcare system. Families are often grateful for the expertise case managers provide. Because they are so familiar with the healthcare system, they often know approaches or solutions families might not have access to. But case managers’ knowledge extends past the immediate healthcare system. They are able to help with emotional or mental health supports, home assistance, community resources, any necessary transition to facility assistance, and even spiritual resources.
Certification for case managers is highly recommended after at least one year of work in the field. If you are looking for a way to help patients and families in varied healthcare situations, a case manager role is an excellent way to do that.
For this year’s Emergency Nurses Week, the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) focuses on nurses being “EmpowerED” and what that means for each nurse.
As an emergency nurse, being empowered in your role and in your career can look different for each nurse. During Emergency Nurses Week (October 7-13) condsider some ways you feel “EmpowerED.”
Some nurses want to learn more about particular conditions or situations they see routinely. A busy urban ED will see fairly different visits from an ED in a farming community. Learning how to best treat patients with the more common injuries and conditions can help your performance and care. Sometimes, it’s just being continually prepared for the things you never expect to see. If something is going to happen, it will happen in the ED and you won’t have notice. Learning how to stay agile and use your critical thinking skills in high-pressure situations is essential.
Other nurses might find working on teamwork skills is an important way to feel empowered in their careers and their daily roles. In an emergency department, teamwork truly is life-or-death. Teams that work seamlessly will have more potential for better results. They will also have more resources to lean on when they lose a patient or when injuries are overwhelming. Like any skill, teamwork takes practice, study, and repetition. If you feel your collaborative skills could use a boost, learning more will only make you a better nurse.
For other emergency nurses, becoming empowered might mean taking on more leadership responsibilities and roles. As you become more familiar with the workings of your own department, you might find you have ideas to make the department work better and be more effective. Maybe you have already implemented some actions that have turned out with positive results. Becoming empowered for you might encompass making a difference in your department and which can have an immediate and long-lasting impact on patient care.
Emergency nurses aren’t always in the unit. They can become powerful and persistent advocates for nurses and patients. They can speak out on issues like nurse bullying, violence in the workplace, safety concerns, and push to make changes for the better. Emergency nurses can take action and connect with government officials. They can use their voices to let them know of issues that could improve patient outcomes like improved hygiene processes, more detailed paperwork processing, increased medication checks, or training new nurses on staff.
If you’re an emergency nurse, what makes you feel empowered?
Of all the specialty nursing practices, a nursing professional development (NPD) practitioner is one that allows nurses to help other nurses advance while also retaining the bedside work that’s so important.
This week is Nursing Professional Development Week, and the timing offers a chance to recognize what these practitioners do and how it helps advance the nursing profession.
Nursing professional development practitioners have a range of duties, says Mary Harper PhD, RN-BC, and the Association for Nursing Professional Development’s director of nursing professional development. Whether they are assisting nurses at bedside with a procedure or on-boarding new nurses in an organization, the work they do has the common goal of improved patient care.
The career offers a role that Harper explains has the following seven distinct responsibilities:
- partner for practice transitions
- learning facilitator
- change agent
- champion of scientific inquiry
- advocate for the the nursing professional development practitioner practice
NPD practitioners are hands-on when it comes to helping new nurses adjust to a job, training a unit on better practices, or advancing the skills of a nurse transitioning to a management role. Their role within an organization (sometimes called a clinical nurse educator or learning consultant and generally operating out of the organization’s education department), is one that continually advances how things are done.
The nursing professional development practitioner also has an outward facing role as well. They are in charge of developing cooperative relationships with academics and with members of other professional community organizations. They research evidence-based practices and quality improvement to ensure the best possible care and treatment for patients.
Harper says sometimes nurses assume the role would remove them from direct patient care, but she says that’s not the case. There are many times when the nursing professional development practitioner works with staff at a patient’s bedside to help them improve practices. They still have the direct interaction while also having a chance to work with nursing staff as well. Even more important is that they are teaching skills that will directly, and often very quickly, help patients.
“Growth within nurses leads to organizational change,” she says. “We really influence these things. Our goal is always that the patients receive optimal care.”
If you are interested in a career as a nursing professional development practitioner, becoming a preceptor is the best first step, says Harper. Many in the field have an MSN degree with a focus in education. While that isn’t required, working toward that goal will equip you with the skills you’ll use frequently. Dual certification as a NPD practitioner and in another specialty can only help you.
Just because a nurse has excellent skills, doesn’t mean those skills are what’s necessary for a NPD role. “You can be a very competent nurse, and you are thrust into this role where you don’t know how to do a needs assessment or measure the outcome of what you have done,” she says. “We find it’s really important for NPD practitioners to have change management and leadership to fulfill that role.” Training for the role boosts both your nursing skills and your leadership skills.
You can also reach out to your organization’s education department and ask to get involved, says Harper. For example, if you find some of the staff is having trouble starting an IV and you are the best nurse at starting an IV on the floor, you can offer to help put together a training plan for improving the process. “It’s a great way to get recognized,” Harper says.
“This is a distinct specialty with its own specialty skills,” she says. This week, celebrate the nurses who are in this varied and busy role.
For 41 years, nursing assistants have celebrated National Nursing Assistants Week during June. Career Nursing Assistants Day on June 14 kicks off the week of honoring the nursing assistants who care for elderly or disabled patients, especially in long-term care facilities, hospice care, home care, or nursing homes.
According to the National Network of Career Nursing Assistants, nursing assistants are a vital connection to patients as they help them with the basic care and activities of daily living. They help patients feel cared for and comfortable, while also providing the essential hands-on care that keeps patients healthy. While helping patients do things like bathe, eat, or gain movement, they are also able to form trusting relationships. Nursing assistants spend so much time with patients they are able to get to know them and learn about their lives.
When patients are away from the comforts of their home or far away from family and friends, nursing assistant s give a companionship so necessary for feeling better. They provide a gentle care from which patients and residents feel respect and a sense of belonging. When nursing assistants greet them by name and ask about their health or their physical ailments, they are taking an assessment of how the patient is doing on a basic physical level. Those are assessments that are essential to the medical team that oversees the patient.
But because of their close proximity to people, nursing assistants are also able to ask about the favorite foods of patients or residents, their upbringing, how they celebrated milestones, and family and friends who were once or are still close to them. They may get to know the visitors who come often and are able to hear and share stories with them. With that kind of knowledge, nursing assistants have many topics of conversation they can use to engage patients. Their familiar presence becomes reassuring and comforting as a patient’s moods may go up or down or as their physical discomfort increases or decreases.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for this role will continue to rise at a faster-than-average rate. Those looking to get into this career field will find plenty of opportunity to offer compassionate and skilled care to populations that needs it most. The median salary of $27,500 annually will fluctuate with location and demand, and you’ll need to pass a competency exam. Like other jobs in the medical or care field, the work can by both physically and emotionally demanding, but the rewards of caring for patients and making a difference in their lives is great.
Help celebrate National Nursing Assistants Week by noting and thanking nursing assistants for the tremendous work they do.
Every year, National Neuroscience Nurses Week is celebrated in the third week of May. The week honors nurses who dedicate themselves to this field and to the patients and families impacted by everything from severe head trauma to stroke.
Neuroscience nurses focus on the brain and the injuries and diseases that impact this essential and highly complex organ. With the rapid-fire developments in the field and the distinctive ways each person’s brain responds to any kind of disruption, neuroscience nurses’ skills are always evolving.
The American Association of Neuroscience Nurses, which has local chapters throughout the country, helps nurses with professional development, networking, and staying current with the latest trends and technology in the field. As a professional organization, it offers information on how nurses can obtain Certified Neuroscience Registered Nurse (CNRN) certification or a Stroke Certified Registered Nurse (SCRN) certification.
Neuroscience nurses care for patients who are vulnerable and who sometimes have injuries or diseases that have an uncertain prognosis. They may care for patients who have newly diagnosed multiple sclerosis, advanced Parkinson’s, encephalitis, or have recently suffered a mild or severe stroke. They may treat those who have been in a serious car accident and suffered a head injury or someone who has a neurological injury from a fall. They might also plan out care and treatment for patients with epilepsy or recovering from meningitis.
While caring for the patient, they must help families cope with the uncertainty or the potentially long recovery, and they also must guide them in the care they will need to provide to increase the prognosis for each patient. The patients might need occupational, speech, or physical therapy to relearn how to do many activities of daily living, and nurses will work with those teams as well.
Because of the variety of needs for neuroscience nurses, the field has potential job openings in many settings including hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, and trauma units. An aging population also increases the demand for neuroscience nurses as various illnesses and conditions impact an aging brain.
Neuroscience nurses must have excellent critical thinking skills as each patient will respond differently to therapies and treatments. They also have many ways of helping and engaging both patients and families to improve outcomes.
Thank a neuroscience nurse in your life this week!
Today’s celebration of National School Nurse Day is recognition that school nurses are an integral and essential part of any school community. And while a school nurse’s mission has remained steady over the years, the job responsibilities and job duties have not.
Doreen Crowe, MEd, BSN, RN, is on the board of directors for the National Association of School Nurses and is the Director of Nursing Services for the Wilmington Public Schools in Massachusetts, says the role of today’s school nurse has changed over the years.
“School nursing is a special role that involves managing the health and wellness needs of school-aged children,” she says. “Many children attending school have chronic and acute health conditions. It’s my job to insure these students are receiving necessary support to be in school, safe and ready to learn.”
Children and teens require support to have a good day at school and that can mean a school nurse is there to oversee all kinds of care. “It involves providing care coordination, leadership, standards of practice, quality improvement, and community/public health,” says Crowe, who has been in her role for 16 years. “The ultimate goal is connecting school health with academic success.”
When each day is different, Crowe says planning and time management become both crucial and one of the biggest challenges. “You never know what each day will bring,” she says. “During a typical day, the school nurse can be seen multi-tasking. One minute, she’s assessing a student for illness complaints. Then she’s seeing a student with a scraped knee from recess, followed by a student who recently lost a parent to substance use.”
And the landscape of who is bringing up kids is changing. “It’s also becoming more typical for grandparents to be raising their grandchildren,” she says. Dealing with multiple caregivers and different generations of caregivers becomes a masterpiece of coordination and communication. And when a school nurse is informed of and sensitive to any changes or challenges in a home environment, he or she can help the child with proper resources and support.
School nurses today are more likely to have access to data to determine the types of care they are providing, the number of children who go home early, or how many children with mental health diagnosis is changing. Using this kind of solid information can inform their practices, but can also offer the district administration insight into what a school nurse is dealing with on a regular basis.
And while roles change and responsibilities become more complex, school nurses come to school ready to offer care, comfort, medical services and guidance, and even a spare set of clothes when needed. “The school nurse is always ready for an emergency,” says Crowe, “and is prepared for multiple scenarios.”