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Assessing the Whole Person: Case Managers Take a Holistic Approach to Physical and Mental Health

Carter, Jolynne “Jo BSN, RN, CCM; Zawalski, Sandra RN, BSN, CRRN, CCM, ABDA, MSCC; Sminkey, Patrice V. RN; Christopherson, Bruce MEd, CRC, LCPC, MAC, CCM

doi: 10.1097/NCM.0000000000000087

Purpose/Objective: Given the prevalence of mental health issues, particularly depressive disorders, in the U.S. population, professional case managers should increase their sensitivity to and awareness of mental illnesses, as well as their impact on physical health. Throughout the case management process, case managers frequently observe behaviors and symptoms such as those associated with depressive disorders. Case managers need to have, at a minimum, a working knowledge of mental and behavioral health issues and be familiar with basic screening tools. This will enable them to become more attuned to symptoms and behaviors that indicate that the individual should be further assessed and diagnosed by a physician.

Primary Practice Setting: Across the case management spectrum, including acute care, accountable care organizations, patient-centered medical homes, physician practices, clinics, occupational health clinics, workers' compensation, and other settings in which case managers work with individuals (clients who receive case management services) and their families/support systems.

Findings/Conclusions: With more than one quarter of the U.S. population affected by a depressive disorder, professional case managers who practice holistically bring together the mental and physical aspects of health. This is particularly important in a health care system and among payer sources that continue to divide the two. Case managers elevate their practice by demonstrating a greater understanding of the interconnectedness of mental and physical health and can positively influence the transdisciplinary care team to take a person-centered approach to address all health issues, in pursuit of the individual's health goals.

Implications for Case Management Practice: Professional case managers must increase their understanding of mental health, becoming more aware of “red flags” that may necessitate a further evaluation and assessment by a mental health professional. They should also hone their communication skills, particularly the use of motivational interviewing techniques, to encourage individuals to discuss their feelings, worries, fears, and anxiety, as well as any potential symptoms of depression, which may range from mild to severe. Without judgment or bias, the case manager, as the advocate, can provide the information, support, or other services needed to address mental health issues, to support and further the individual's health goals.

Jolynne “Jo” Carter, BSN, RN, CCM, is Chair of the Commission for Case Manager Certification, the first and largest nationally accredited organization that certifies case managers. She is also Vice President of Network Services for Paradigm Outcomes.

Sandra Zawalski, RN, BSN, CRRN, CCM, ABDA, MSCC, is Chair-Elect of the CCMC and has been a professional case manager in a variety of settings for more than 20 years.

Patrice V. Sminkey, RN, is the CEO of the CCMC, which to date has board-certified more than 35,000 professional case managers.

Bruce Christopherson, MEd, CRC, LCPC, MAC, CCM, is a Commissioner of the CCMC and Chief of Rehabilitation Services at the Idaho Commission for the Blind & Visually Impaired.

Address correspondence to Patrice V. Sminkey, RN, Commission for Case Manager Certification (CCMC), 1120 Route 73, Suite 200, Mount Laurel, NJ 08054 (

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Copyright © 2015 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.