Care Coordinators: Our Unsung Healthcare Heroes
Karin VanMeter, RN and Care Manager at St. Mary's Medical Center, answered a call from a familiar patient. His gruff voice on the other end said, "Well, my house burned down." And Karin sprang into action.
As a care manager, Karin coordinates care between patients, the medical practice, and related entities. She connects her patients with resources and helps them through their medical needs.
"I'm sort of like the cruise director for patients. I make sure they have everything they need," said Karin. "And not just medical, but social and psychological needs."
She began coordinating situational care when she heard about her patient's house fire. She first arranged temporary housing at a hotel. After ensuring a safe shelter where he could access food, she geared up for the pharmacy calls. "He was on a lot of medication, and he had just gotten refills," she said.
Karin explained the situation to the pharmacy, advocated for his medication needs, and was able to get his prescriptions refilled.
Her patient was also severely oxygen dependent, and his oxygen source burned up in the fire. Karin worked with a local provider to secure a new oxygen concentrator, which arrived at his hotel within the next hour.
Karin's coordination took hours of meaningful communication and promptly ensured the patient's needs were met. Her patient moved to California post-fire, and Karin's team will facilitate care until he has a new primary care source.
Care coordinators, such as Karin, help with an overlooked area of health. There can be a lapse in care when care is focused entirely on physical symptoms and remedies. These gaps are filled when someone provides support and resources for patients in need.
"Patient quality of life can be improved when you make sure they get the services they need," Karin said.
Care coordination helps not only the patients but the system. "There's a huge benefit to health organizations as a whole," said Karin. "It increases efficiency, reduces unnecessary acute care use, and shifts to primary prevention."
"It's one of those unsung hero kinds of roles," added Karin. "It's a new area of nursing for me, and I feel fortunate to use my skills in a whole different way."