Empathy and a Sense of Purpose: What Drives Frontline Workers’ Comp Employees

In workers’ comp, quick and seamless care produces the best outcomes for injured workers and employers, but the process is rife with opportunities for delay, creating stress for all parties. Three frontline workers share how they navigate those challenges, and what motivates them in their roles coordinating care for injured workers.
By: | April 9, 2024

Injured workers deal with a lot of stress navigating the complexities of workers’ comp care. They often find themselves on the phone trying to schedule appointments or arrange referrals. When delays happen, frustration can spill over.  

The frontline workers answering those phone calls often bear the brunt of this anger, even though they have little control over the actual care provided to an injured worker. Resolving the issue and assuaging the anxiety of the injured worker can be a very difficult and emotionally draining role to fill, which makes retention an ongoing challenge in the workers’ comp industry.  

Staying in this field long-term demands a commitment to the overall mission of helping people get the care they deserve so they can return to work — and to their lives — as quickly as possible.  

R&I talked to three frontline workers’ compensation employees in various patient-facing roles with One Call, where more than 25% of team members have been serving the company for at least 10 years, to find out what makes their jobs both challenging and rewarding, and what keeps them moving forward year after year. 

TaShaunte Stokes, Medical Services Coordinator II (Tenure: 6 years)  

TaShaunte Stokes, Medical Services Coordinator II, One Call

As a medical services coordinator, Stokes serves as the vital link between injured workers and their providers. She processes referrals and assists in connecting patients with care. When delays or miscommunications happen among patients, adjusters or providers, Stokes helps to resolve those issues.  

“For example, we recently had a patient who was upset because he had been waiting to get an appointment scheduled and felt he was being bounced around without knowing what was going on. In this case, the issue was simply a matter of getting a prescription over to a provider, but because the patient felt out of the loop, he became frustrated,” Stokes said.  

Stokes emphasized the importance of empathy and active listening when frustration mounts. She lets the injured worker vent, even muting her phone to ensure there are no interruptions.  

“Once they’ve had the opportunity to release their emotions, I unmute my phone and acknowledge their concerns, assuring them that I’m here to help resolve the situation. It’s crucial not to take their outbursts personally, as many of these individuals are dealing with pain, depression, and the mental strain of being unable to work,” she said.  

Stokes’ original career plan was to become a nurse, and she continues to work toward that goal, motivated by an overall desire to help people. She said that despite some challenging days, she is driven by the knowledge that her work, while not directly involved in patient care, helps injured people recover and return to their livelihoods.  

Cody Nunnally, Operations Supervisor (Tenure: 15 years)   

Cody Nunnally, Operations Supervisor, One Call

During his time in the industry, Nunnally has served in several patient-facing roles that eventually led him to his current position as operations supervisor, in which he manages a team of care coordinators.  

“I oversee a team of about 10 agents. These agents are responsible for reaching out to our injured workers and scheduling their physical therapy appointments. By facilitating the scheduling process, we aim to support their recovery and help them return to work as quickly and safely as possible,” Nunnally said.  

Nunnally also encounters disgruntled injured workers from time to time. Echoing Stokes, he said that dealing with these situations starts with empathy. He encourages his team to acknowledge any frustrations and quickly shift to finding a solution. Demonstrating a sense of urgency reassures injured workers their complaints are not being swept under the rug.  

“Working with intensity and at a fast pace is crucial in our industry. When people are hurt, a single day can feel like an eternity to them. I believe people can inherently pick up on your sense of urgency and whether you genuinely care. Even if you’re just verbally conveying that you’ll get it done as quickly as possible, it’s reassuring,” he said.  

Helping to ease injured workers’ stress is part of what keeps Nunnally engaged in his work.  

“Witnessing the direct impact we have on people’s lives has been my primary motivation for staying in this industry. When we hear the relief or the release of frustration in their voices, it’s incredibly rewarding,” he said.  

Claudia Olivares Melendez, Medical Interpreter Sr. (Tenure: 16 years)   

Claudia Olivares Melendez, Medical Interpreter II, One Call

As a certified medical interpreter, Olivares Melendez ensures that language barriers don’t stand in the way of an injured worker getting their questions answered or receiving the care they deserve.  

“We serve as the voice the injured worker needs to effectively communicate with everyone – from insurance companies, case managers and adjusters to field investigators and defense attorneys,” she said.  

Olivares Melendez began her tenure with One Call while living in El Salvador. As she spent more time with the company, she was able to recognize and appreciate the importance of an accessible and effective workers’ compensation system. 

“While in El Salvador, I witnessed the difficulties injured workers encountered in obtaining proper medical care and financial support. The lack of a robust workers’ compensation infrastructure often left individuals and their families in precarious situations. This experience shaped my understanding of the critical role companies like One Call play in the workers’ compensation industry,” she said.  

She continued in her role after returning to the U.S. in 2015. Like other frontline workers, she says she is motivated by her desire to help people and feels a sense of purpose in making the recovery process smoother for injured workers.  

“Our work allows us to make a positive impact on people’s lives. This aspect of the job is particularly appealing to me, and I think to younger generations who are seeking meaningful careers,” she said.  

Employer Characteristics That Support Retention in Workers’ Comp 

These workers shared the common motivation of helping others, but also pointed to some characteristics of their employer as reasons for staying on board for as long as they have. Dedication to quality assurance and technological advancement — and showing genuine care for employees’ interests and wellbeing — are part of what keeps so many of One Call’s employees with the company for years. 

Staying at the forefront of industry trends and implementing advanced technology equips frontline workers with the tools they need to do their jobs efficiently, which goes a long way in fostering job satisfaction. Quality assurance also plays a big role, both in delivering the best outcomes for clients and in providing support and performance improvement opportunities for employees.  

“By analyzing call recordings, we can identify areas where our team members excel and where they may need additional training or support. Ultimately, this helps us ensure that every interaction with our customers meets the high standards we set for ourselves at One Call,” Olivares Melendez said.  

A focus on mentorship also keeps both trainers and trainees engaged and motivated to be their best. 

“As a performance coach in the physical therapy department at One Call, I find it incredibly rewarding to take on a mentor relationship with new hires. Seeing them grow and eventually become what I exemplify to them is a significant source of motivation for me,” Nunnally said.  

Stokes added, “As the performance coach for all new hires and retraining, my main piece of advice is to never take anything personally. Working at One Call requires a different level of customer service compared to regular companies. You have to be compassionate, caring, and understanding. It’s about having the genuine will to help people, and I always emphasize this to new hires, because it’s a crucial part of our job.” 

Indeed, the purpose-driven nature of the work is ultimately what attracts and retains frontline workers.  

“At One Call, the opportunity to help others is a significant factor in why many of us choose to stay with the company for the long term,” Nunnally said. “I started with One Call when I was 24 years old, and I’m 40 now. In that time, I’ve gotten married, had a child, and bought a house. One Call has been partially responsible for helping me achieve these milestones. If you do what you’re supposed to do, the company looks after you. It’s a great company to work for.” &

Katie Dwyer is a freelance editor and writer based out of Philadelphia. She can be reached at [email protected].

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