Meet Healthcare Case Manager Sonia Morrison: Respect and Kindness Key to End of Life Care

Friday, June 15th, 2012
This post was written by Cheryl Miller

This month we provide an inside look at a healthcare case manager, the choices she made on the road to success, and the challenges ahead.

Sonia Morrison, RN, CM, BSN, RN case manager at Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System (SVMHCS), Nurse Assessment Consultant and Educator for veterans at Visiting Angels of Santa Cruz

HIN:Tell us a little about yourself.

I am certified as a nurse case manager in oncology, and have worked in oncology for 21 years. I also worked in hospice for 11 years, was a certified nursing assistant (CNA) for three years, and a licensed vocational nurse (LVN) for one year.

What was your first job out of college and how did you get into case management?

I was in a junior college career ladder program, so I worked nights as a CNA in med-surg acute care and then in a licensed vocational nursing (LVN) registry, mostly in ob/gyn, prior to graduation. My first job was as an RN in the oncology med-surg unit at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital (now Health Care System) or the SVMHCS, and I am still there.

Has there been a defining moment in your career? Perhaps when you knew you were on the right road?

I thought I wanted to be a midwife when I started my nursing education, however, I did not like assisting births in the hospital with strangers. In my last year of working toward my associate degree in nursing (ADN), I met an amazing oncology instructor. At the same time, my best friend was dying of cancer, thus I became an oncology case manager.

More recently, I taught a CNA program for several years. In mid 2011 I attended a life directions seminar and was able to harness all of my passions and focus them around caregiving.

In brief, describe your organization.

SVMHCS is an acute care hospital with an average census of 166.

What are two or three important concepts or rules that you follow in case management?

  • The keys to successful utilization review and discharge planning and collaboration are communication, including written documentation and collaboration with the full team, including the patient, family, doctor, nursing staff and other providers.
  • Patients are assessed and educated within the first 24 to 48 hours of admissions.
  • Balanced self-care allows me to serve my team the best.
  • What is the single most successful thing that your organization is doing now?

    Expanding the role of case management to include p.m. shifts.

    Do you see a trend or path that you have to lock onto for 2012?

    Money talks and reimbursement has been the biggest challenge.

    What is the most satisfying thing about being a case manager?

    Treating patients and families with respect and kindness, especially at the end of life.

    What is the greatest challenge of case management, and how are you working to overcome this challenge?

    Finding services for obese or no pay source patients. SVMHCS case managers are working with management for creative sponsoring of needed services.

    What is the single most effective workflow, process, tool or form case managers are using today?

    Extended Care Information Network and executive health referrals.

    Where did you grow up?

    I was born in Los Angeles, CA, one of five girls and two surviving boys.

    What college did you attend? Is there a moment from that time that stands out?

    I attended Cabrillo Community College, Santa Cruz, CA for an advanced degree in nursing and a bachelor degree in public health nursing (PHN) at California State University at Dominguez Hills, CA. I enjoyed being of creative service in the community during my PHN clinicals; I used bilingual teaching tools to explain lab results, diet choices and I created new curriculum to introduce teens to human health by relating what they knew to horse health, disease, symptoms and interventions.

    Are you married? Do you have children?

    I have a husband of twelve years, a forty year old son and a six year old granddaughter.

    What is your favorite hobby and how did it develop in your life?

    The very first profession I fell in love with was a veterinarian, but my parents told me I was not smart enough to be a vet. So then I wanted to be a dancer, but my parents told me I couldn’t do that because if I broke my leg, I couldn’t support myself. So, now, I am a dancing nurse with six dogs!

    Is there a book you recently read or movie you saw that you would recommend?

    A book I wrote: The Heart of Caregiving, A Guide to Joyful Caring.

    Click here to learn how you can be featured in one of our Case Manager Profiles.

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