Sunday, February 15, 2015

What I've learned being a case manager and why you might like it too

To be honest I didn't even really know case managing was a job or thing when I first started out as psychology major in college.  I knew I loved psychology and thought I wanted to be a psychologist and/or counselor some day and that seemed the most logical route.  Everyone was always commenting on there being no jobs for people with a Bachelor's in Psych and I pretty much assumed that was the case.  I had no idea the vast amount of people employed in psych and social work related positions that (usually) require a Bachelor's degree in Social Work or Psychology (and a few other majors are sometimes accepted as well).  I will likely still be working in that position for little bit longer but I'm nearing the point where I am starting to look back on what I've learned.   

1.  I think if you are planning on doing something in the behavioral health field with a Masters or PhD you should at least consider working in a case management or similar role for a while.  The amount of knowledge it gives about the ins and outs of the public health system is especially valuable info that you really can't get any other way.

2.  It's very rewarding many (most?) days.  If you stick with it long enough to watch people actually make huge strides and changes in their lives it really is a wonderful thing.

3.  You'll never get to the end of your to-do list, but you'll learn to be okay with that. I'm sure there are a lot of other jobs that have this same problem but it feels like an acrobatic feat sometimes to stay in compliance with things that must be done, accomplish other really important tasks, but actually do things that impact your client.  All of those things that you have to do - some of the time, they don't feel like they serve the client that well.  Which is really no one's fault but a huge flaw in the system.  It's given me a lot of insight into how the public sometimes recognizes a problem, the media's reporting of the problem skews or simplifies the issue, the legislature tackles the issue with something that sounds like a good idea and the result is red tape and paperwork which further hampers things at times.  I don't have all the solutions but I can more clearly see what the problems are, and that is something at least.

4.  You'll never be bored.  NEVER.  I can't think of a single day I have even had time to be bored or have a bored thought.  The day flies by and 8 hours is never enough time for your work day. If you're lucky you'll work somewhere that doesn't allow you to work over 40 hours.  When I first started working I thought that was a dumb rule (because, see point 3 above, hello, endless to do list).  But it's not a dumb rule because people would work themselves to death if the expectation was there for over-time or salaried employment for case managers. 

5.  When I say you'll never be bored, I don't just mean because you'll be too busy to be bored.  I mean every day is actually really interesting and intellectually stimulating - emotionally taxing sometimes too, but also rewarding.  You'll go through a slew of emotions every week and most days, you'll probably enjoy how you spend your time (at least that is generally my experience).

6.  If you work in children's services you'll probably have more insights about parenting - whether you are a parent or not - than you've ever had.  And you'll probably feel like a better parent than you've ever felt.  Which is not to say that all the parents you'll work with are doing a bad job.  Some of them are doing a great job under difficult circumstances.  I'm sure there are unique insights those who work with adults have.

7.  You'll learn to love people, or at least like them, that might have seemed impossible to like before.  You'll learn to judge people a lot less.  I remember when I used to sometimes get an assignment and read through the file and get nervous about how I was going to relate to a particularly intense and difficult teenager or whatever.  Then I would meet them and learn they love to play chess or some other weird little factoid that would give me an in to getting to know them a lot better.   Conversely, people/kids who appear to be perfectly fine are often battling some really difficult things you can't be aware of by looking at them.  Without a doubt I just don't assume anything about people anymore.

8.  If you work with kids your heart will break like pretty much all the time. And you'll learn to be okay with that because that just means you are still human, and that's a good thing.

9.  You will expand as a person in ways that will surprise you. 

10.  You won't make any money and that's a problem - however, there are lots of ways you can move up in the field into other roles that earn more.  Still, it's not something that anyone is going to pursue because of the financial gain involved.  For me, the experience was worth the low pay at least for the period of time I have worked in the field and certainly for some people, if it's a secondary income, that's not so bad.  

Sometimes even people who don't have a degree in a relevant field can get a job in case management if they have relevant job or volunteer work experience so it's definitely something to consider if you believe it might be for you.

When I'm not a case manager anymore in about a year, I'm sure I'll miss many things about it. 

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