1. Powell, Suzanne K. MBA, RN, CCM, CPHQ

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It has been said that nurses "eat their young." Since I was chewed up and spit out, I can't disagree. But this was a long, long time ago and I am ever-hopeful that things have changed. Because I am no longer "young," have reached that time of life when I feel the calling to help the younger generation improve the world they will live in, and feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of problems they will face, I had the inclination to just throw up my hands. What can little "me" do with all the troubles facing the young? Then, a little voice (and an article in this PCM Journal issue) led me to a way I can, we all can, help make the future better for those who follow.


Simply put, we must mentor the next generation of case managers-and the window of opportunity is open now!! Before we talk about the "how," here are some statistical thoughts about the "why." Aging case managers can be a serious peril for case management as a whole. The majority of the case management workforce consists of registered nurses (RNs). As of 2007, the mean age of a certified case manager) was 55 years old. This is older than the mean age of the original profession (nursing) and can have several potential causes. According to Park and Huber (2009), this could indicate an advanced role in an original profession. It may also be because the complexity of the job requires an ability to coordinate complex scenarios.


In the 2009 Role and Function study, the age data showed that the 27.2% of the case management population was 51-55 years old and another 21.5% were 56-60 years old. Whereas approximately 9% of RNs are under the age of 30, less than 1% (0.8%) of case managers were under 30 (Tahan & Campagna, 2010). Whatever the reason that case managers come on the scene later in their careers, this fact takes a special kind of mentoring-one with patience and sensitivity.


How can these statistics be altered? It must be done at the organizational level and in the hands of current case managers-one case manager at a time. The nursing shortage and the aging health professional workforce was a wake-up call at an organizational level. Fortunately, organizations such as the Banner Health System have responded by initiating mentoring programs and advanced leadership programs that are built into their culture. Joan Bowman, RN, BSN, MPA, CCM, who is the Director, Case Management Services at a Banner Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona, expressed the clarion call:


We need to share our passion for case management with young professionals in their twenties. It is an advanced area of practice with extraordinary development potential and professional satisfaction. We can increase the success of these young professionals by developing case management mentoring and coaching programs in our work settings and through our professional associations. The continued development of case management professionals to ensure service to our future patients is a measure of our professionalism.


Let's go a bit deeper into the "how" of mentoring-because like everything else, if done poorly, it can lead to results opposite of those hoped for. The mentor-mentee relationship is just that: a relationship. So the once the organization' human resources department has sanctioned a formal or informal program, and the supervisor or director of your department has allotted time for mentoring, consider the following:


* Like any good relationship, research has shown that the more the two (mentor and mentee) have in common, especially in values and personality, the better the outcome and the more each will contribute to the relationship (Chandler & Eby, 2010).


* Recruit mentors carefully. If a case manager volunteers to be a mentor, they are more likely to put in the necessary time and effort it takes to be successful. Not all case managers have the personality, the knowledge base, the communication skills, and the expertise to excel at mentoring. The downside could be a poorly trained case manager or, worse, one who would never consider case management again.


* Have a formal training and orientation program. At the first meeting discuss important issues. How often will you meet? What are the mentor's expectations? What are the mentee's expectations? What are the strengths and weaknesses of each? What are the general topics and when will each one be covered?


* Prepare with the "end in mind." This relationship should, and must, end at some point. The "end time" could be due to the mentee requiring a different mentor with experience in another type of case management. Or it may be time to push the fledgling out of the nest. Discussion on this prior to "good-bye" will avoid misunderstandings.


* Most important, by teaching, one is learning. Always remember that we have as much (or more) to learn by other, fresh minds as they have to learn from us.



No matter how massive today's problems appear, we can do this; we can mentor aspiring case managers. We are the roles models that, in grass roots fashion, gave birth to case management. We know the work!! We know what's important. And we know what we want to experience when we are in need of care coordination!! The year is aging, and as the winter supports the spring, consider the honor and responsibility we have to, not eat our young, but to guide and teach our young. Wishing you all a happy, healthy, and successful 2011.




1. Chandler D. E., Eby L. (2010). When mentoring goes wrong. Wall Street Journal, 24, R1. [Context Link]


2. Park E., Huber D. (2009). Case management workforce in the United States. Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 41(2), 175-183. [Context Link]


3. Tahan H., Campagna V. (2010). Case management roles and functions across various settings and professional disciplines. Professional Case Management: The Leader in Evidence-Based Practice, 15(5), 245-277. [Context Link]