NR Times Articles - 02 April 2024 - 8 minutes

Finding the perfect career choice in case management

Finding the perfect career choice in case management

With her skills as an Occupational Therapist not being put to their full use in a statutory setting, Katie Ridout decided the time was right to pursue alternatives and believes she has found the perfect solution in case management.

Working as an OT

Since qualifying as an Occupational Therapist 18 years ago, I have worked in social care and the community.

Throughout this time I have seen the service change in such a way that my ability to fully use my skills to be able to provide a truly holistic service to clients, had become blunted.

I felt frustrated and disillusioned and had reached a point where I didn’t think I wanted to be an OT anymore. I decided that I wanted to break out of the mould and seek a complete change.

I began studying reflexology and worked as a locum for the local authority to support my studies.

It was during this time, in my role as the Advanced Grade OT for the local authority, that a referral came to me from a Case Manager to carry out a housing needs assessment for a client that had a spinal injury. I had received many referrals from the NHS spinal unit before but had never encountered a Case Manager.

Exploring the Possibilities

As I began to work with the Case Manager to assess the needs of the client and ensure the correct provision was in place for his return home, I became curious about the role that the Case Manager fulfilled and my interest was piqued.

It was also at this time that I was contacted by ILS Mentor, Laura Porter, whom I had studied with at university. Laura wanted to let me know that ILS was recruiting experienced clinicians to Case Manager roles and she thought I would be a great fit for both the role and the company.

Her timing was perfect. Intrigued by the work of the Case Manager I had met, it was a career path I had already started to explore. Knowing Laura and hearing her sing the praises of ILS certainly made me stop and think.

I felt excited at the potential opportunity and arranged an informal conversation with ILS Operations Manager, Susie Quinlan, to find out more about the role and help determine whether it would be the right fit for me. It quickly became clear that this was a role that would enable me to make full use of my skills as an OT and seemed to be everything I had been looking for. From speaking to Susie and Laura, alongside everything I had seen, I got a real sense that case management is a truly people focussed business – not just on clients, but the team within the company too. And even though, as a Case Manager, I’d be working independently and mainly remotely, I would still have a very supportive team around me, which was a massive draw.

Finding the Perfect Fit

An interview soon followed and the rest, as they say, is history! I have now been in post for the best part of a year, and it’s the most comprehensive and satisfying OT job I have ever had. The point of occupational therapy is to be holistic and consider every aspect of a client’s life, and how their physical and mental health interact. This can include holidays and leisure pursuits, it’s all about understanding who they are as a complete person. In this role, I can now build a greater rapport with my clients and can see the outcomes of my input and watch how I contribute directly towards their rehabilitation journey.

The role has the advantage of having a smaller caseload than those I experienced in statutory services, this enables my involvement with clients to be far more in-depth and goes beyond the provision of minimal rehab requirements. The aim when you’re in statutory services is to get somebody to a basic level of recovery, but as a Case Manager working with private physiotherapists means that a client’s rehab can be tailored to meet their specific goals be they vocational or otherwise. I really enjoy the creativity that comes with the role and the freedom to think outside the box – within reason. I can explore options beyond a catalogue of equipment which is very refreshing. Everything is tailored around their individual goals and what truly matters to the individual and that makes the role very satisfying.

An example of client-centred working

I am currently working with a client who has sustained a brain injury he had always enjoyed carpentry and his ambition is to build his own house using his skills.

My specialism as an OT is in housing, and to be able to work with someone on a project like this is incredible. Knowing that I can think beyond a handrail or a ramp in and out of a house, or access to a single room is really refreshing. Instead, I am able to work in collaboration with my client on something so completely bespoke and also that he will be totally engaged. This way, his new home will meet his needs exactly and allow him to be as independent as he can be and I think that is absolutely brilliant. It’s the epitome of tailoring something to achieve a client’s goal in the most personalised and meaningful way.

Tailoring physio to motivate the client

Another client’s primary goal is to return to work as a plumber. Through his physio, we have been able to set up a workstation in the rehab sessions which means he can concentrate on the movements needed in his work as a plumber such as spending a lot of time on his knees. He’s so enthusiastic as he can see how the Physio is completely tailored towards his aim of getting back to the job he enjoys. It’s relevant and meaningful to him with real context which means that he really engages with the process and experiences higher levels of motivation to succeed.

The impact of simple interventions

I also have a client who is in his early twenties and had a road traffic accident, sustaining a spinal injury. Prior to this, he had been managing other medical conditions – ADHD and MS. He worked as a cattle herder – a job he really enjoyed and found that being very physical during the day was a good way for him to manage his ADHD and the sleep problems that this created.

While he is now back on his feet, following the accident, he is a lot less active than he used to be and no longer earning. His ADHD is also causing him a lot of stress as his sleep patterns are now extremely erratic. Added to this stress, his initial meeting at his local job centre involved him needing to read and sign a quantity of paperwork even though his reading and writing skills aren’t strong. He didn’t really take on board or fully understand what he was expected to do, including the stipulation for him to attend the job centre every two weeks to undertake a job search which is now causing him further concern.

When I was appointed as his Case Manager one of the first things I did was to make contact with his job coach and explain my client’s medical issues and my role. My client was able to provide consent for the job coach to contact me on his behalf which has totally transformed what could have been a very traumatic process for my client. As a result of this intervention, he is now reassured that he will have some income. In addition, his mum, who had been taking periods of unpaid leave to support her son in the early days following his accident, has also been able to return to work full time which has alleviated some of the financial constraints that arose from her loss of income while she was financially supporting him during the initial stages of recovery. It’s these seemingly small changes that can have such a positive impact on not only the client themselves but those around them as well.

When I reflect on the case management journey I’ve been on so far, I can say that it has been a hugely positive one. The challenge of supporting someone who is going through such a life-changing event has been really rewarding. It has reignited my passion for being an Occupational Therapist and it’s a real pleasure being able to fully utilise my skills to provide a truly holistic approach. While I’m only at the beginning of this chapter of my career, I can already see that it’s going to be a long, varied and hugely fulfilling one. Would I recommend case management as a career to others? There’s no doubt in my mind that it was absolutely the right move for me, so yes I would.

 

This article was also published on www.nrtimes.co.uk on 16th January 2023