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Case Managers Go Beyond Their Job Descriptions to Help Support Patients and Families

National Case Management Week celebrates their contributions.

By Bridget Metzer
Case Manager, Shepherd Center

The upcoming National Case Management Week, which is Oct. 12-18, inspired me to think about exactly what case management is – and especially what it means here at Shepherd Center.

Case managers have standard duties, such as making the best use of a patient’s insurance benefits, working with families to plan for discharge from the hospital, and keeping the treatment team organized and on track. The ultimate goal is for the patient and family to leave with a plan for continued care and the comfort of knowing they are prepared to head off on their own. Like many Shepherd employees, we also have times when we go outside our job descriptions to make the experience of being at Shepherd Center as painless and supportive for patients and families as we can.

From the moment a patient and their family arrive at Shepherd Center, the case manager begins thinking about what will need to be accomplished and organized before it’s time to move to the next stage – whether that be home, Day Program, outpatient care or something else. We try to anticipate every need for the individual, including getting the family scheduled for education and training, ordering supplies and medications, setting up physician and therapy appointments, and helping the family plan for home accessibility and home care needs.

Then, there are the things that don’t quite fit into the neat lines of the job description. They include things like decorating a Day Program apartment as a “Honeymoon Suite” for an older patient and his wife of 40 years after they express how scared they are to leave the inpatient program. And they include driving the sister of a patient from Mexico to a special market to buy food because he won’t eat what we serve here.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done things like this and been told: “You don’t have to do that! That’s not your job!” But if you’re a case manager and you’re reading this, then you’ve been there and done these things more times than you can count. You know that sometimes, you can’t help but do the extra task that maybe doesn’t fit the job description, but can be just as important as anything else we do.

Our hope for the patients and families we serve is not just to get our jobs done, but also to offer a space to laugh, cry, rant, collaborate, plan, share triumphs and discuss fears about whatever is coming next. We do this work and the extras because we care, we love the job and because, ultimately, the reward is all ours. Being at Shepherd Center offers the great gift of perspective to anyone who works here. It feels good to offer support to people who are going through difficult times.

Being case managers teaches us how to communicate with just about anyone and to brainstorm solutions for just about any problem. It helps us in our day-to-day lives and with our personal relationships. Doing this work gives our lives depth and meaning that they might not otherwise have. Many of us would describe it as the toughest job we’ll ever love, and we wouldn’t trade it for anything. To all the case managers at Shepherd and out in the field: Happy Case Management Week!

BRIDGET METZGER is a case manager in the Acquired Brain Injury Program at Shepherd Center. She is also the former director of injury prevention and education. Before that, she worked as a case manager in the Spinal Cord Injury Program at Shepherd Center for four and a half years. Bridget has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from San Francisco State University and a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling from Georgia State University. She is a certified case manager, a licensed professional counselor and a certified rehabilitation counselor. Bridget sits on Georgia State University’s Certified Rehabilitation Counselor Advisory Board, the injury prevention sub-committee of the American Spinal Injury Association, and the Georgia Brain and Spinal Cord Injury Trust Fund Commission’s Advisory Board.

About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.