Working as a new ACANY Care Manager has taught me so much about the members I work with. I’ve also learned quite a bit about myself. Creating a system to successfully manage time, assemble information and assist the families I support took some practice. Below are a few guidelines that I use to stay the course and get through each busy and rewarding day.
1) Be Organized
During the first few days, you might find yourself overwhelmed with the sheer volume of tasks you’ll need to complete. Not only will you have to make calls, write emails and schedule appointments, but you’ll also be required to meet deadlines set by your supervisor and keep them updated on your progress. Determining how to best structure your time is key because you’ll work best if you have an idea of where your focus will be as you move from one task to the next.
One of the methods I use to stay organized is a daily to-do list. Every day, I check off the list as I complete each task. Some people prefer using planners or calendars to help allocate time and organize their priorities. Whatever organization tool or method you choose should enhance your work, rather than slow down your progress.
2) Be Flexible
Flexibility is a requirement for getting things done. Care managers should get used to last minute changes like having visits canceled when they are only blocks away from an individual’s home, having families request services only to decline the referral, or a host of other issues that are out of a care manager’s control. Remaining flexible in the face of unexpected changes will keep you motivated to do your best for the individuals we support. That same flexibility will help you stay positive when your best laid plans go awry.
3) Be Understanding
Sometimes care managers will interact with families that behave in ways that appear contrary to their stated goals. This can be frustrating, especially when you are doing your best to provide the very best in supports and services—but there’s something we need to remember. Care managers usually spend very little time with the family. That means we’re not privy to the daily ins and outs of their lives. We don’t know what motivates them to make the decisions they make. Be sure that sympathy and understanding are tools in your care management arsenal. The willingness to offer encouragement can often be just as helpful as finding an individual the perfect program.
4) Be Curious
There’s always more to the story. You may think you know everything there is to know from the previous care management notes and what you learn from the individuals themselves, but you can always go deeper. Don’t be afraid to listen to your intuition. This may cause you to ask questions or bring up concerns that could help an individual in the long run. Sometimes families aren’t aware of various factors that could provide them with additional supports. Be sensitive but be curious!
5) Be Diligent
As a new care manager, I’ve discovered that following up is a huge part of the gig. Each day, I make calls, send emails and leave messages that receive no response. Don’t take it personally when you don’t receive an immediate response. The providers, residence managers and agencies we interact with are just as busy as we are. They work hard to ensure the care and safety of the people we support. Families are busy with numerous activities and can often forget to reply to messages in a timely fashion. After you leave a voicemail, follow up with an email if you have an email address. Make sure to note all your attempts in the EMR software. Noting your attempts will make tracking your follow-ups a breeze. It will also leave a trail that is easy for your supervisor to follow.
Care management is a burgeoning field with room for growth as we improve our capacity to assist the I/DD community. As a new care manager, I discovered that being organized, flexible, understanding, curious and diligent are invaluable tools as I seek the best services for the people I support.
Stephanie Watkins is an ACANY Care Manager living in Brooklyn, NY. She has a BS in Healthcare Administration and worked as a community support professional for almost two years. Working with the I/DD community has given her a new purpose and focus.