Self-Care a Necessity for Care ManagersCoordinating care for vulnerable patients is rewarding and meaningful work, but it can also be incredibly stressful. Increased caseloads, expanding responsibilities, and greater complexity of patient needs are some of the major stressors affecting care managers, according to a 2016 article in Professional Case Management.
Excessive and extended stress can lead to burnout, a state of exhaustion that impacts a person’s emotional, mental and physical wellbeing, as well as their behavior and productivity. A care manager experiencing burnout might feel empty, hopeless, and cynical – as if nothing they do is making a difference.
Risk of Burnout and its Impact
A January 2018 article, also in Professional Case Management, touched on the risk of burnout and the factors that contribute to it, noting “the emotional trauma of complex cases and end-of-life scenarios, coupled with frequent ethical dilemmas because of competing stakeholders, adds to the pressures of large caseloads.”
That means guarding against burnout is vital, not just for individual case managers but for the health plans that employ them and the patients who increasingly depend on them. In the United States, those patients often face social and economic disparities and are among an estimated 117 million adults who suffer from one or more chronic health conditions and 25 percent who suffer from two or more.
How Case Managers Can Build Resiliency
There are several steps care managers can take to neutralize or prevent burnout, including:
- Identify the problem. You can’t address burnout if you’re unable to recognize it. Examine your feelings, your behaviors, and your physical health and ask yourself whether you may be experiencing any of the symptoms of burnout.
- Take action. If you think you’re suffering from burnout, accept that it won’t go away on its own. You need to take intentional steps to address it including slowing down, getting support and re-evaluating priorities.
- Practice work/life balance. Setting boundaries, protecting your family and personal time, and investing in relationships that are important to you are all good strategies in avoiding or addressing burnout. If thoughts about work intrude on your personal time, practice mindfulness and other techniques to bring your focus back to the present. Get outdoors, enjoy a good book – enjoy small activities that help you feel refreshed and at peace.
- Take care of your health. Taking care of physical health is a beneficial means for building resilience to stress. Changing eating habits, exercising, and sleeping are the first and easiest interventions to making effective change to prevent burnout and build resiliency.
- Get peer support. Peer support groups are a great way to draw strength and inspire resiliency by connecting with others who understand the challenges of being a care manager. Consider creating a peer support group where members can speak honest and confidentially about their struggles, strategies, and victories as a busy case manager.
More Help for Care Managers
Additional strategies for avoiding burnout, building resiliency and increasing job satisfaction and performance are covered in detail in the Foundational Training Series for Care Managers, offered through Care Excellence.
The Foundational series is for people new to the field of case management, or those seeking to refresh their skills and understanding. All courses in this series are approved by the Commission for Case Manager Certification (CCMC) to provide continuing education (CE) hours for Certified Case Managers (CCMs).