What Does Politics Have To Do With Me? I’m A Case Manager…
BY MARGARET (PEGGY) LEONARD, MS, RN-BC, FNP
Believe it or not and like it or not, our lives are intertwined with politics. We have politics in the national sense, surrounding us and shaping our world view through pundits, talking heads and the media. There are politics at work, in our communities, our schools and yes, in our own homes. If you question this, just ask yourself if your children and grandchildren aren’t some of the most powerful lobbyists in your lives, as they lobby you to watch just one more show before bed, or your teenagers lobby you for the use of the car or to extend their curfew. This is lobbying at its best.
As a case manager, whether you realize it or not, you are a great lobbyist. Perhaps you don’t recognize the activities as such, but you probably lobby for resources for your patients every day and advocate daily to get your patient(s) whatever it is they need. These needs may be durable medical equipment, medication, treatments, housing, insurance or maybe food and clothing. You work with them to identify barriers to their care and the social determinants of health that can make or break them. In short, you are there for them. However, you can’t always do it alone. Many times you need to solicit help from your superiors, institutions, agencies or government officials.
Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to have a basic understanding of politics and how it affects your situation or your patients’ world. We first need to acknowledge that politics is not necessarily a “dirty word.” You know, not too long ago, to say you were going to deliver care for financial compensation — “nurse for money” — you were looked upon as dirty or evil. Well, we’ve come a long way, baby! For some, this takes a long time to come to grips with; for others, once they think of lobbying and advocating as similar activities, it is easier to accept and move forward.
To begin with, it is important to understand the basics of politics. Actually, it is just people interacting with people, but it can have an official structure like government politics. It isn’t really that hard. Actually, it is only a fourth-grade refresher course in government. Truly the basics. The three branches of the government are the executive, legislative and judicial branch; the different levels of government are federal, state and local; and the houses of Congress are the Senate and House of Representatives; and just merely knowing your legislator’s name and contact information, etc.
There has never been a better time for us to become politically active, or a time of greater opportunities for case managers to advocate for our practice, for our patients and for the need for more integrated care. People now know who we are and what we do — isn’t that wonderful! It is now our time to have case managers take more leadership positions in all areas of our evolving and turbulent healthcare system. Now is our turn to stand up and be counted as licensed professionals who “get it.” Professionals who understand what patients need and how the system can effectively, efficiently, caringly and economically deliver care to those in need and help people become more involved in their care. Case managers work with patients to develop their care plans and involve them and their caregivers in setting realistic, achievable goals and in returning to their optimum level of functioning.
I am so very proud of the work CMSA has done on the political front and how our Public Policy Committee and others who are speaking in this issue of CMSA Today have become leaders in our field — people who our government’s major healthcare committees and departments have recognized as the “go-to” people for departments and agencies to reach out to. They also recognize the need to have care managers voices at the table as decisions are made about healthcare in our country.
Our CMSA website and knowledge center are terrific resources if you want to brush up on your politics, become more involved or just more politically savvy. Politics doesn’t have to be a dirty word; it can be a useful tool for all case managers.
Remember, we must all become partners in our own healthcare because it is the only way we are going to make a difference. ■
Margaret (Peggy) Leonard, MS, RN-BC, FNP, is nationally recognized for her work in quality, case management, care coordination, and integrated care, transitions of care, certification and public policy. She is a published author and has written extensively on these topics, including the American Nurses Credentialing Center, Nurse Case Management Review and Resource Manual.
Peggy chairs the New York State Board of Nursing and is a Commissioner with Commission on Certification. She is President of the Case Management Foundation, Chair of National Transitions of Care Collaborative (NTOCC); Chair Emeritus with Case Management Society of America and in the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH), Workforce Workgroup; in support of the New York State Health Innovation Plan (SHIP).