Nurse Case Manager Chronicles

Flight Attendant to Nurse Case Manager: A Fulfilling Second Act

One nurse case manager found her calling later in life, bringing life experience, passion and drive to workers’ comp claims.
By: | June 18, 2018 • 5 min read

Second-career nurses may not have started their professional lives as case managers, but for some, it’s a deeply felt calling that’s worth the wait.

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“When a nurse comes from a different background, [employers should] remember the nurse chose this. They are passionate. Organized,” said Genex nurse case manager Theresa Martin.

Such a decision isn’t as simple as choosing a college major; these nurses are well into an already-lucrative career. They might have a family to look after and a house to run.

“It’s not easy to make that choice, to go back to school in the middle of everything. [The nurses] who do it are well-rounded individuals. You have someone used to being a professional who doesn’t need a lot of mentoring.”

First Career Skills

Martin was a second-career nurse herself. She wanted to study nursing in her undergraduate years but was involved in extracurriculars that took up a lot of her time.

“I had always wanted to be a nurse, but I think I had the maturity at that age to know it would have to wait. I put nursing on the back burner.”

Instead, Martin became a flight attendant before joining the nursing workforce. There, she said, she learned how to organize herself and solve problems quickly. Having an argument on a plane can set passengers’ teeth on edge. Martin was the person who had to calm down passengers while solving their issues.

“As a flight attendant, I had to solve problems as they happened. We couldn’t land the plane. And you can’t have drama on a plane. You can’t ignore it.”

Theresa Martin, nurse case manager, Genex

In nursing, she said, you have to think on your feet and utilize quick problem-solving skills just like on a plane.

The work may be different, but the skills behind each profession are the same. Martin works hard to know her claims inside and out; she’s readily available to answer any questions for the carrier, the adjuster, the worker or the employer; and she’s proficient at coming up with solutions on the spot.

When problems arise, Martin taps into the communication and interpersonal skills she learned early in her flight attendant career. So much so, she said, she uses these skills “every day, all day.”

“Case management is a surprise; you never really know how your day will be. No matter what you do, a million factors can enter into a claim. Everyone has to be on the same page.”

The Right Switch

Transitioning into nursing was hard, Martin said, “but not as hard as I thought it would be.”

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She recalled one case in particular that solidified that career change for her.

A worker fell from a skylight to the first floor and was gravely hurt. He had multiple orthopedic injuries and multi-system failure, including his kidneys.

Martin was assigned his case and met with the worker’s father at the hospital.

“It was touch and go at first. The trauma surgeons were suggesting removing the worker from life support, and the father said it was a decision he felt he couldn’t make for his son,” she explained.

Martin sat down with the father and talked about the injured worker’s options.

“Case management is a surprise; you never really know how your day will be. No matter what you do, a million factors can enter into a claim. Everyone has to be on the same page.” — Theresa Martin, nurse case manager, Genex

She told him, “You don’t have to decide right now. Let the trauma team take care of him. Let the interventions [in place] happen.”

Martin explained that when a body falls from a tall height like the worker did, the body’s muscles will release proteins. This excess protein in the body can trigger organ failure. In the case of this worker, his kidneys began to fail, and the trauma team put him on aggressive kidney dialysis. The dialysis, Martin said, was one of the main interventions in place.

The worker’s father chose not to take his son off life support. The team gave the injured worker a few days to see where his progress landed. Slowly, he improved, woke up and began to gain back his strength.

From there, Martin worked to get the worker out of ICU and into rehab at a facility where she had already established connections early in her nursing career.

When the injured worker went back to work, Martin said this solidified her choice to become a nurse. “I felt like I was doing what God wanted me to do. It made me feel grateful to be in this profession, to be able to say, ‘you don’t have to decide right now,’ and give him options.

“It’s a lot, asking the family to trust you,” she said. “It was a catastrophic case, but we were able to get him back.”

One Woman’s Journey to Nursing

Martin grew up on a farm in Indiana and attended Purdue University because it was still close to home.

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“I didn’t see much of the world then,” she said. So when presented with an opportunity to see the world at the age of 22, Martin took it. American Airlines was hosting a “casting call” for new flight attendants, and before Martin knew it, she was training to take flight.

It was her golden ticket: earning a wage while traveling at the same time. “I could see the whole world,” she said.

She enjoyed flight attending, but it was “never enough.” Then, in the 1990s, the airline workers went on strike.

Martin was a single mother and she knew she needed a more stable career if she was going to support her kids. She entered into a nursing program and graduated in 1998 at the top of her class — a feat that was no surprise to her. “Nursing had always been my passion.”

She started in med-surg, then entered neurology. Home care case management came next, and by that time, her kids were in middle school. She wanted a steady 9-to-5 position and took up telephonic workers’ comp case management for 10 years.

Now, as a case manager, Martin likes having that one-on-one contact with injured workers, their family, the adjuster and other parties on a claim.

“How do I turn it off?” she quipped. Martin said even on weekends or her days off, she’ll still take calls from her patients. “Case management is my passion. I do have to find the balance with my personal life, but I just really enjoy what I do.”

In fact, she loves nursing so much, she mentors young nurses entering the case management field. Many of them are stepping out of a hospital setting.

“When coming from a hospital setting, the young nurses need to learn how to organize their day,” said Martin. She related it back to her flight attendant duties: “First thing I would do is organize my cart. Drinks, ice, food. It was all set.

“Nursing is like that. You have to start your day by organizing it. Know what your duties are and prep for them.” &

Autumn Heisler is the digital producer and a staff writer at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at aheisler@lrp.com.

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

2018 Risk All Stars

Stop Mitigating Risk. Start Conquering It Like These 2018 Risk All Stars

The concept of risk mastery and ownership, as displayed by the 2018 Risk All Stars, includes not simply seeking to control outcomes but taking full responsibility for them.
By: | September 14, 2018 • 3 min read

People talk a lot about how risk managers can get a seat at the table. The discussion implies that the risk manager is an outsider, striving to get the ear or the attention of an insider, the CEO or CFO.

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But there are risk managers who go about things in a different way. And the 2018 Risk All Stars are prime examples of that.

These risk managers put in gear their passion, creativity and perseverance to become masters of a situation, pushing aside any notion that they are anything other than key players.

Goodyear’s Craig Melnick had only been with the global tire maker a few months when Hurricane Harvey dumped a record amount of rainfall on Houston.

Brilliant communication between Melnick and his new teammates gave him timely and valuable updates on the condition of manufacturing locations. Melnick remained in Akron, mastering the situation by moving inventory out of the storm’s path and making sure remediation crews were lined up ahead of time to give Goodyear its best leg up once the storm passed and the flood waters receded.

Goodyear’s resiliency in the face of the storm gave it credibility when it went to the insurance markets later that year for renewals. And here is where we hear a key phrase, produced by Kevin Garvey, one of Goodyear’s brokers at Aon.

“The markets always appreciate a risk manager who demonstrates ownership,” Garvey said, in what may be something of an understatement.

These risk managers put in gear their passion, creativity and perseverance to become masters of a situation, pushing aside any notion that they are anything other than key players.

Dianne Howard, a 2018 Risk All Star and the director of benefits and risk management for the Palm Beach County School District, achieved ownership of $50 million in property storm exposures for the district.

With FEMA saying it wouldn’t pay again for district storm losses it had already paid for, Howard went to the London markets and was successful in getting coverage. She also hammered out a deal in London that would partially reimburse the district if it suffered a mass shooting and needed to demolish a building, like what happened at Sandy Hook in Connecticut.

2018 Risk All Star Jim Cunningham was well-versed enough to know what traditional risk management theories would say when hospitality workers were suffering too many kitchen cuts. “Put a cut-prevention plan in place,” is the traditional wisdom.

But Cunningham, the vice president of risk management for the gaming company Pinnacle Entertainment, wasn’t satisfied with what looked to him like a Band-Aid approach.

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Instead, he used predictive analytics, depending on his own team to assemble company-specific data, to determine which safety measures should be used company wide. The result? Claims frequency at the company dropped 60 percent in the first year of his program.

Alumine Bellone, a 2018 Risk All Star and the vice president of risk management for Ardent Health Services, faced an overwhelming task: Create a uniform risk management program when her hospital group grew from 14 hospitals in three states to 31 hospitals in seven.

Bellone owned the situation by visiting each facility right before the acquisition and again right after, to make sure each caregiving population was ready to integrate into a standardized risk management system.

After consolidating insurance policies, Bellone achieved $893,000 in synergies.

In each of these cases, and in more on the following pages, we see examples of risk managers who weren’t just knocking on the door; they were owning the room. &

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Risk All Stars stand out from their peers by overcoming challenges through exceptional problem solving, creativity, clarity of vision and passion.

See the complete list of 2018 Risk All Stars.

Dan Reynolds is editor-in-chief of Risk & Insurance. He can be reached at dreynolds@lrp.com.