Devotion to Lifelong Learning

Over the past year my valued colleague, Ellen Fink-Samnick and I have launched a new competency-based model of professional case management practice. COLLABORATE © (2013). Our first article was published in the May/June issue of Professional Case Management and the second was just published in the September/October issue. While there are eleven (11) competencies, the one I wish to highlight in this post is that of Lifelong Learning.

While I do not often support the use of absolutes (e.g., always, never), I firmly believe that professional case managers should engage in a continual pursuit of intellectual enrichment. A case manager who considers him/herself a professional should adhere to the long-established and accepted Case Management Society of America’s Standards of Practice for Case Management which so strongly supports the importance of maintaining one’s competence that an entire Standard is devoted to Research and Research Utilization, “The case manager should maintain familiarity with current research findings and be able to apply them, as appropriate, in his/her practice” (2010).

This fall, I returned to the world of formal higher education and enrolled at the University of Alabama’s Capstone College of Nursing. It seems only appropriate as I devote my career to advancing case management. The first class I enrolled in is Nursing Informatics which focuses on the management and use of information for advancing nursing practice.  It is a fundamental and important course to begin with as it lays the foundation on which I plan to build ongoing study… but back to the COLLABORATE model and Lifelong Learning.  The key elements of this competency are:

• Academia and advanced degrees
• Professional development
• Evolution of knowledge requirements for new and emerging trends (e.g., technology, innovation, reimbursement)
• Practice at top of licensure and/or certification
• Acknowledgment that no one case manager can and does know all

(Treiger and Fink-Samnick, 2013)

It is certainly true that given the variation of our work environment, we find ourselves in places of learning every day. I challenge colleagues who do not feel as if they learn something new each day at work that it may be time to find a new job. Whenever I found myself in a position where I was less than satisfied with any aspect of the job, I looked for something that had more promise of helping me advance my personal goals.  The reasons for dissatisfaction could be a lack of managerial support or simply lack of understanding as to what case management really was. Whatever the case, I did not allow someone else’s shortsightedness to impact my long-term goals.

But what if the issue is more that our place of work does not value our pursuit of knowledge in order to improve ourselves? I often wondered why such a disconnect existed because whatever I learned found its way into practice, ultimately benefiting my clients (their members) and hopefully my fellow case managers and care coordinators. This may present a bit of a conundrum to some but it is a personal commitment to professional growth that overrides the downside of a less than supportive employer… and so I continue my academic quest and strive to embody a competency that is essential to professionalism in case management.

Perhaps that is why I now work for myself?

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Case Management Society of America. (2010). Standards of Practice for Case Management. Retrieved from http://www.cmsa.org/SOP

Treiger , T. M., & Fink-Samnick , E. ( 2013 ). Collaborate © : A Universal, Competency-based Paradigm for Professional Case Management Practice, Part II: Competency Clarification. Professional Case Management, 18 ( 3 ), 122 – 135.