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Nurse Case Manager Chronicles

Empowering Injured Workers to Heal

Educating injured workers provides them with a sense of control over their care and their recovery.
By: | May 1, 2018 • 4 min read

An encounter with a patient early in her career as a case manager taught Lisa Armstrong a lesson that would influence her approach to all of her patients gong forward.

The case involved a worker who’d suffered a painful knee injury on the job.

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“He was a good, hard-working, blue-collar worker,” she said. He was dedicated to his job and his family and delayed seeking treatment, instead working with a bad knee. When the pain became too unbearable, he finally filed for workers’ comp.

“He had a meniscus tear,” recalled Armstrong, a nurse case manager with Genex Services, which specializes in medical management. “And after everything, his knee never quite returned to the way it was before.”

Armstrong went with the injured worker to a follow-up appointment. She sat in and listened as the doctor explained the injured worker’s options.

“The doctor was hesitant to suggest what he would recommend for another patient [who didn’t have workers’ comp].”

As a nurse, she was cognizant of medical solutions that would have helped in this scenario. The doctor could have suggested knee replacement surgery, but instead he did not mention it.

Armstrong speculated that the injured worker’s status as a workers’ comp patient caused hesitation, and “because of pre-existing osteoarthritis and because he was a workers’ comp patient,” Armstrong said the doctor most likely feared workers’ comp would not pay for the surgery and so did not recommend it.

Lisa Armstrong, nurse case manager, Genex Services

“But it’s not always about the claim. It’s about the person.”

Armstrong left the appointment feeling like she could do more.

“I felt like this patient needed empowerment.”

She spoke with the injured worker about knee replacement surgery, explaining it would be unlikely workers’ comp would cover it, but it was still an option he could pursue on his own. With Armstrong’s advice in mind, the injured worker had the surgery using his personal insurance.

“He was [planning] to live the rest of his life with a bum knee; now he can get back to work and be with his kids like before.”

It was a turning point for Armstrong: Empowering employees, giving them the information they needed to make their own choices, would be central to her case managing.

Building Trust

For Armstrong, who started her career as an acute care and rehabilitation nurse 15 years ago, the best thing nurses can do to ease the workers’ comp process is to build trust with injured workers. From that trust, empowerment will grow.

“An injury is an abrupt change of life. At the beginning, many don’t know which way is up.”

Armstrong speaks from experience. Her own daughter suffered a traumatic brain injury a few years back.

“I’m in the [medical] profession, and I was overwhelmed,” Armstrong said. “I can’t imagine what it’s like to not be a part of this [profession] and go through this type of event.”

Armstrong has a passion for educating workers during their transition from hospital to home. For her, case managing is both a healing process and an outlet to give back.

She said she was blessed with good people in her own journey; her hope is to help guide others.

“Sometimes a patient is left stumbling along in the dark. That first contact is important. It sets the tone [for the claim] early on.” — Lisa Armstrong, nurse case manager, Genex Services

Healing is a team effort, she added. Empowerment should be, too. Armstrong said when an employer shows they care about their worker’s needs, she’s seen more positive outcomes. Likewise, when a doctor talks to a patient and the insurance is accessible and responsive, workers tend to participate more in recovery.

Injury and illness of any kind can be scary. One day, a person is perfectly fine and the next it’s a slew of doctors, nurses, tests and monitoring. Add in the complicated world of workers’ compensation, and an injured worker can become overwhelmed and disheartened.

“The first contact a worker has after injury is their employer. I hear all sort of things, both good and bad,” said Armstrong. “Sometimes a patient is left stumbling along in the dark. That first contact is important. It sets the tone [for the claim] early on.

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“My heart is with trying to get a patient the education that they need,” said Armstrong. This education, she explained, extends beyond getting the patient home; it’s education that teaches them about their injury or illness and gives them a sense of control over their own health.

It’s the practice of empowerment — giving injured workers respect and listening to their needs, wants and fears, while also educating them about their recovery.

“A patient who has been heard, who feels respected, actively participates in their recovery,” Armstrong said. “The underlying important piece of empowerment is information.

“Show them what their rights are as an injured worker. Nurse case managers have a code of ethics: Advocate for the patient,” she said.

Giving an injured worker the tools to understand the claims process, supplying them with background on their particular type of injury and opening up every option available for recovery — even options not available through workers’ comp — empowers an injured worker to feel confident and actively participate in return to work.

“It doesn’t always come down to dollars and cents,” said Armstrong. “A positive outcome is good, because you have a positive employee who won’t seek legal action. You have a patient with no reason to seek outside resources who wants to get back to work.” &

Autumn Heisler is digital producer and staff writer at Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

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Risk Management

The Profession

The risk manager for Boyd Gaming Corp. says curiosity keeps him engaged, and continual education will be the key to managing emerging risks.
By: | May 1, 2018 • 4 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

I was trained as an accountant, worked in public accounting and became a CPA. Being comfortable with numbers is helpful in my current role, and obviously, the language of business is financial statements, so it helps.

R&I: How did you come to work in risk management?

Working in finance in the corporate environment included the review of budgets and the analysis of business expenses. I quickly found the area of benefits and insurance — and how “accepting risk” impacted those expenses — to be fascinating. I asked a lot of questions. Be careful what you ask for — I soon found myself responsible for those insurance areas and haven’t looked back!

R&I: What is the risk management community doing right?

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I have found the risk management community to be a close-knit group, whether that’s industry professionals, risk managers with other companies or support organizations like RIMS and other regional groups. The expertise of the carriers and specialty vendors to develop new products and programs, along with the appropriate education, will continue to be of key importance to companies going forward.

R&I: What’s been the biggest change in the risk management and insurance industry since you’ve been in it?

As I’m sure many in the insurance field would agree, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 changed our world and our industry. It was a particularly intense time and certainly a baptism by fire for people like me who were relatively new to the industry. This event clearly accelerated the switch to the acceptance of more risk, which impacted mitigation strategies and programs.

Bob Berglund, vice president, benefits and insurance, Boyd Gaming Corp.

R&I: What emerging commercial risk most concerns you?

The fast-paced threat that cyber security represents today. Our company, like so many companies, is reliant upon computers, software and IT expertise in our everyday existence. This new risk has forged an even stronger relationship between risk management and our IT department as we work together to address this growing threat.

Additionally, the shooting event in Las Vegas in 2017 will have an enduring impact on firms that host large gatherings and arena-style events all over the world, and our company is no exception.

R&I: What insurance carrier do you have the highest opinion of?

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With the various types of insurance programs we employ, I have been fortunate to work with most of the large national and international carriers — all of whom employ talented people with a vast array of resources.

R&I:  How much business do you do direct versus going through a broker?

We use brokers for many of our professional coverages, such as property, casualty, D&O and cyber. We are self-insured under our health plans, with close to 25,000 members. We tend to manage those programs internally and utilize direct relationships with carriers and specialty vendors to tailor a plan that works best for team members.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

I have been fortunate to have worked alongside some smart and insightful people during my career. A key piece of advice, said in many different ways, has served me well. Simply stated: “Seek to understand before being understood.”

What this has meant to me is try everything you can to learn about something, new or old. After you have gained this knowledge, you can begin to access and maybe suggest changes or adjustments. Being curious has always been a personal enjoyment for me in business, and I have found people are more than willing to lend a hand, offer information and advice — you just need to ask. Building those alliances and foundations of knowledge on a subject matter makes tackling the future more exciting and fruitful.

R&I: What have you accomplished that you are proudest of?

Our benefit health plan is much more than handing out an insurance card at the beginning of the year. We encourage our team members and their families to learn about their personal health, get engaged in a variety of health and wellness programs and try to live life in the healthiest possible way. The result of that is literally hundreds of testimonials from our members every year on how they have lost weight, changed their lifestyle and gotten off medications. It is extremely rewarding and is a testament to [our] close-knit corporate culture.

R&I: What’s the best restaurant you’ve ever eaten at?

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Some will remember the volcano eruption in Iceland in spring of 2010. I was just finishing a week of meetings in London with Lloyd’s syndicates related to our property insurance placement when the airspace in England and most of northern Europe was shut down — no airplanes in or out! Flights were ultimately canceled for the following five days. Therefore, with a few other stranded visitors like myself, we experimented and tried out new restaurants every day until we could leave. It was a very interesting time!

R&I: What is the riskiest activity you ever engaged in?

I am originally from Canada, and I played ice hockey from the time I was four years old up until quite recently. Too many surgeries sadly forced my recent retirement.

R&I: What do your friends and family think you do?

That’s a funny one … I am a CPA working in the casino industry, doing insurance and risk management, so neighbors and acquaintances think I either do tax returns or they think I’m a blackjack dealer at the casino!




Katie Dwyer is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]