According to the Mental Health Foundation, at some point last year, 74% in the UK noted that they felt stressed and unable to cope. At the most basic level, stress is the body’s responses to pressures in life or situations and this varies greatly from person to person; it could be a breakdown in a relationship or a traumatic life-changing injury.
Stress Awareness Day 2023 takes place on 1st November. In this article we explore the crucial role that case managers play in reducing the stress and anxiety of all parties involved in a clinical negligence or personal injury claim, acting as intermediaries and an important representative. They not only represent the client and their wishes but liaise with lawyers, during litigation proceedings, through to healthcare providers, and architects.
Case Managers are introduced into a client’s journey from the outset of litigation, coordinating with defendant or claimant parties to ensure the right care and support is found for the client. From initial contact, a case manager will work with the other health and social care professionals to ensure the smooth running and co-ordination of a multi-disciplinary team, allowing a client’s needs to be met whilst supporting the family at the same time.
Managing stress in the early stages of an injury claim
A true appreciation of the client’s difficulties is crucial for a case manager in the initial stages. As many of the cases they are involved in are complex, their expertise is essential in linking the most suitable and cost-effective resources and services to a client, maximising their quality of life, and meeting their needs.
These initial stages are the most important for a client and their family and often the most stressful. Not only are they having to deal with the legal aspects of their case but also the emotional and life-changing side of it. Depending on how long the duration of a case is, the stress of the situation can be overwhelming, therefore, it is crucial the case worker has a rapport with the client, family, and legal team. They can help ease the burden through understanding of the case and by proposing a suitable rehabilitation plan.
Case Managers Role in Client Rehabilitation
Within 21 days of starting the claims process, an appointed case manager will assess the client, their needs, the wishes of the family, whilst following the Rehabilitation Code 2015. Through a thorough assessment, the case manager will construct a rehabilitation plan that encourages the most suitable medical, social, occupational, psychological, and physical recovery.
Once this plan is in place and agreed, it can be implemented. Just as each client and their needs are unique, so too is their rehabilitation plan; one client requiring hydrotherapy sessions, whilst another may require an assessment for a prosthesis.
A sturdy rehabilitation plan and a hardy case manager promotes a sense of calm throughout all involved within the case. Their comprehensive knowledge encourages a supportive atmosphere, something the Mental Health Foundation Research Report notes; a strong network of supportive individuals promotes practical advice that supports the reduction of stress. Case managers will be with the client and family throughout the litigation process and rehabilitation journey and in having a close-knit connection, a case manager can be the shoulder to lean on when things get hard, they can be the key-factor in saving a familial relationship after a traumatic incident, and they are often regarded as a friendly face when things get tough – in some cases a life saver.
How Case Managers can reduce their own Stress
“It is essential that an understanding of the stress that we go through as individuals differs immensely with the stress families and individuals go through following a catastrophic injury” comments Barry Lehane, RGN, LLM (Head of Case Management and Rehabilitation).
Barry continues, “As an organisation, we support our case managers to understand and contextualise this stress and embrace the concept of ‘a problem solved is a problem halved’. We achieve this through regular supervision and ongoing contact with our case managers.”
Everyone knows the correct pathway for broken bones – reset the bone, fit a cast, wait some time, and on to physiotherapy. However, mental health does not have a rulebook to fixing and healing; akin to case management, every person is different. Case Management is not an easy job. The empathetic and challenging work they do in supporting others often leads to an inattention of their own wellbeing and this is especially important when it is not just one case they are working on; it is often multiple – higher caseloads often equates to higher stress levels.
“I’ve learned the importance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance to manage and reduce stress. Unlike in my earlier roles, where I would work for extended hours without taking breaks, I now ensure to combine my workload with much-needed pauses. If a task is getting too stressful, stepping away from the computer for a few moments allows me to regather my thoughts and return to work feeling refreshed” mentions Jenny Mitchell, BA (Hons) CMgr MCMI.
She continues, “Aside from these personal practices, I’ve completed a Level 2 certificate course in understanding mental health first aid and workplace mental health advocacy. This training has not only equipped me with the knowledge to recognise signs of stress in myself but has also enabled me to support and guide my colleagues through their stress handling mechanisms. This comprehensive approach towards managing stress has been effective for my mental well-being, making me feel more balanced and in control”.
There are multiple ways a case manager can implement methods to help reduce their stress level:
- Understand the source of the stress – Stress comes in many forms, and it is always easier said than done to consider a trigger, however, understanding the cause of stress is often the best remedy and can help to alleviate this. Some factors that can trigger stress are organisational, interpersonal, personal, environmental.
- Practicing self-care – This is essential for any individual working in an environment where there is a lot of pressure such as case management. Working to maintain the physical, mental, and emotional health through exercises such as eating well, sleeping enough, exercising regularly, and doing hobbies work towards reducing stress levels. Self-care also involves setting boundaries, delegating tasks, regular breaks, and saying no.
- Seeking support and supervision – Seeking out the support from colleagues, mentors, managers, and peers can provide feedback, advice, and validation. These not only help to reduce stress levels through socialisation, but they can also provide vital support when working through complex cases.
- Celebrating achievements – Case managers will often focus on the problems and difficulties of their clients and their role, sometimes leading to frustration and discouragement. However, it is important to celebrate successes and achievements. Acknowledging your efforts and consequently rewarding yourself for these, sharing stories, and receiving feedback are all good ways to improve self-esteem and in-turn reduce stress levels
The list is not exhaustive but offers methods to help reduce stress levels.