In Recognition of Nurses’ Month with CCMC
Featuring: Teresa Yancey, RN, JD, CCM
Ever since Florence Nightingale ushered in the age of modern nursing, nurses have played an enormous and absolutely essential role in healthcare, working at bedsides everywhere from ERs to nursing homes to military units. Nurses can be found away from the bedside as well, working in leadership roles at hospitals, as patient advocates at insurance companies, in nursing education, and in a variety of other areas.
Regardless of their specific position, nurses make a daily difference in their communities through the work they perform. Many of the nurses making such contributions to the world around them are also case managers, combining their medical knowledge with their skill in navigating the healthcare system to help guide patients to the best care possible.
Nursing and Legal Work: An Unexpected Duo
One such nurse is Teresa Yancey, RN, JD, CCM, Senior Director of Clinical Quality and Operations at Surgical Management Solutions, a part of UnitedHealth Group. Yancey, who grew up in Meridian, Mississippi, was inspired to pursue a career in nursing by her grandfather. A veteran of World War II and a Purple Heart recipient, he worked at a large hospital in Meridian.
“He had such high respect for nurses that I decided I wanted to go into the healthcare field, so I became an RN,” Yancey said. “And nurses were very highly respected in the area where I grew up. It’s such an honorable profession.”
Shortly after completing nursing school, Yancey became what was then called a patient care coordinator and is now called a case manager. She didn’t know what a patient care coordinator was when the position was initially assigned to her, but she jumped into the role, which entailed in part mastering the regulations in the Medicare manual.
“We had a resident who was about 24 years old and had been in a car accident. She really needed a motorized, custom wheelchair, and because I had studied the Medicare manual so closely, I was able to get the wheelchair for her,” Yancey said. “And the fact that my understanding of the regulations helped get what she needed really stayed with me.”
Yancey wanted to continue to use healthcare regulations on her patients’ behalf, so she pursued another degree.
“I decided to go to law school, because healthcare and the law merge together,” Yancey said. “Healthcare is highly regulated — and law is not just being in the courtroom and litigating cases. Lawyers work in a variety of areas. The area I wanted to work in was regulatory compliance.”
In one of her first jobs after law school, Yancey worked at an insurance company overseeing case managers, laying the foundation for her future at the Commission for Case Manager Certification (CCMC®). Today, Yancey continues to utilize both her nursing and her legal degrees — sometimes together, but not always.
“My legal work has been expansive. It has included not just healthcare but also international law, business, and workers’ compensation,” Yancey said. “People might assume that since you’re a nurse you’re only going to do healthcare law, but with law, you have the opportunity to practice in any area that interests you.”
Healthcare remains a priority in Yancey’s work. Her experience in insurance has allowed her the chance to delve deeper into case management, work with employers to provide care for their employees, and focus on another area she’s passionate about: data analytics.
All three of these areas converge in the area of population health. By tracking population health in a specific geographic area, it is possible to gather data indicating what diseases the local patient population is at highest risk for. By using that data to help employers provide their employees with care that encourages preventative measures for those diseases, it is possible to help stem disease incidence. And by using that same data as a case manager working with individuals or the broader population, it is possible to directly educate the public on those preventative measures. As both a nurse and a case manager, this speaks to the aspect of healthcare that is most important to Yancey.
“I believe everyone should have access to care. And I’m a firm believer that healthcare should be provided to individuals that is cost effective and that is also of the highest quality,” said Yancey.
Nurses’ Month 2022
Many nurses and case managers alike put public health and individual access to care first and foremost, including above their own well-being. This is one reason why celebrating Nurses’ Month is a necessity. Nurses’ Month has four themes this year: self-care, recognition, professional development, and community engagement. According to Yancey, each of them is of vital importance.
“When it comes to self-care, we’re so busy taking care of everyone else that we don’t take care of ourselves. We need to take care of our mind, body, and spirit. You cannot give what you do not have to give, and nurses are not very good at getting our vessels refilled,” Yancey said. “We keep trying to skim from the bottom to get that last drop and give it to someone else. And I wish we wouldn’t do that. I wish we would just go back to the well and fill the pitcher up so that we can give to ourselves and then start giving to everyone else.”
Regarding recognition, Yancey pointed out that it’s important not just for others to recognize nurses but for nurses to recognize one another — and to recognize themselves.
“Sometimes we dismiss our work and say, ‘Oh, it’s nothing.’ But it really is something, and we need to recognize that we provide a valuable service and we are so important to everyone around us,” Yancey said.
The area of professional development holds a special place for Yancey, which isn’t surprising for someone with a nursing degree, a legal degree, and the board-certified case manager credential (CCM).
“Whatever specialty area you’re in, it’s always wise to learn more about that specialty area,” Yancey said. “Personal and professional development go hand in hand. You can try to do one without the other, but you’ll never get as far as you can if you combine the two.”
Finally, community engagement makes a significant difference in the level of care nurses are able to provide. As Yancey explained, technology is increasingly able to perform certain aspects of the data collection that has traditionally fallen to nurses, but that technology cannot replicate the humility, emotions, and empathy nurses provide through their relationships with patients and their communities.
“It’s important to have community engagement, not just with our family members, our friends, and our social connections but also with the community in which we are providing services so that we can have a better understanding of the patients we serve and the challenges they face,” Yancey said.
If nurses take care to incorporate these four areas into their personal and professional lives, they will be well positioned to move forward with the profession and continue to be stalwarts of patient care for years to come. Professional development and learning to work with technology will be particularly important. Using the latest technology will help nurses provide the highest level of patient assessments and care possible.
How Nurses Benefit from a Case Manager Certification (CCM®)
Yancey originally became involved in the Commission for Case Manager Certification (CCMC) when she was working as a case manager.
Yancey believes that it is not only important to become knowledgeable in your specialty area, but it is also very important to become certified in that area, if a certification exists. “As a nurse, I value the CCM certification, and it is the gold standard of that certification,” she said.
As someone who has had the opportunity to lead a team of case managers, Yancey made sure to promote the value of certification. She takes to heart the belief that a leader carries with them a responsibility to nurture the development of employees.
“Being a CCM certified demonstrates that you have obtained a high degree of skills and training in your professional area,” she said. “It alerts the world that you have gone above and beyond basic case management knowledge.”
The pursuit of a CCM also helps nurses with career advancement, as it signifies to employers a commitment to further advancement in their profession.
Board-certified case managers are required to obtain continuing education (CE) credits. Being a CCM provides opportunities for acquiring further knowledge that can assist in patient care. Obtaining CE credits on a rolling basis keeps nurses up-to-date with new developments in the industry.
“I like to participate in CE courses that cover areas I want to become more familiar with,” Yancey said. “It’s important for nurses to have knowledge in areas outside of our own specialty. Learning more about our colleagues’ specialty areas enhances our collaboration and contributes to the delivery of a higher level of patient service.”
Taking Care to the Next Level
When nurses combine their skills of nursing with those of case management, they bring something special to the table. Guiding people through the often labyrinthine healthcare system helps them stay on top of preventative care, manage their chronic conditions, save money on medications, spend less time at the doctor, avoid developing illnesses that might land them in the ICU — the list goes on.
“As a case manager, you’re doing more than nursing,” Yancey said. “The case management services you are providing have an extensive impact on every aspect of an individual’s life. The interactions you have with them extends to their family, their lifestyle, and their future. In essence, you have the ability to improve the quality of life for everyone associated with them.”