Meet Healthcare Case Manager Kerry Stutzman: It’s All About the Relationship

Friday, July 13th, 2012
This post was written by Cheryl Miller

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

Kerry Stutzman, RN, MS, CCM, Care/Case Manager

HIN: Tell us a little about yourself and your credentials.

Kerry Stutzman: I have my CCM; I was among the very first group to take the first CCM exam and obtain the title. I am a member of Sigma Theta Tau International, the honor society of nursing. I have an A.S. degree in nursing, a B.S. in applied social work, a BSN and a master’s degree in nursing.

I am a fourth generation Arizonian. My folks were both teachers; my Dad was an English professor at Northern Arizona University (NAU) and my Mom taught in the public schools. I have a brother and sister. I grew up in a beautiful small town, Flagstaff, AZ. It’s not so small anymore but back in the 1960’s it was. I was admitted to the NAU nursing program right out of high school, which was a huge honor; there were only two or three of us in this situation. I was so fortunate to have had such great teachers there who influenced me so much. I had similar experiences at the University of Phoenix and at Arizona State University (ASU). I met my husband in Flagstaff; I bought his roommate’s car. We moved to Phoenix in 1979 and were married in 1981. I have worked a variety of jobs: Visiting Nurse Service, as a home care nurse, I was director of nursing for Olsten Home Health Care, I was a patient care coordinator, a discharge planning coordinator, a discharge program developer. I worked as a floor nurse in a variety of areas: recovery room, orthopedics, spinal cord/head injury/stroke, arthritis/rheumatology, mental health (pediatrics and adult), trauma, surgical, pre-op, renal, neurology, oncology, general surgical, and gynecology/obstetrics. I have worked in field case management for the last 21 years.

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

I first went to work at Good Samaritan Hospital in Phoenix, AZ. At that time, back in 1979, it was one of the largest hospitals in the Phoenix metro area. I went to work on R5, a head injury and stroke rehab floor.

My first job in case management was as an in-patient care coordinator with CIGNA. My next job was starting a new discharge planning program at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. This job honed my discharge planning, home care and case management skills further. From this job, I went to work for Intracorp, which, at the time, was a major player in the case management arena. We primarily handled workers’ compensation cases smattered with some auto liability, catastrophic cases and other case management cases. Since leaving Intracorp, I worked for two other case management companies before starting Health Care Consultants of Arizona in 2009.

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

There wasn’t really one particular moment. Prior to working at Intracorp, I moved around from job to job every few years because I would get bored and need more of a challenge. I stayed at Intracorp for 13 years before moving on to another case management job. So, it was obvious that I enjoyed working in case management as it provided me with a variety of cases to work on that kept me challenged. I also loved working independently.

In brief, describe your organization.

I started Health Care Consultants of Arizona (HCCAZ) because the opportunity presented itself and I had wanted to start my own company for several years. I have a social work degree as well as a master’s in nursing with a specialty in mental health and I wanted an opportunity to more fully utilize all my skills. HCCAZ provides case management services in Phoenix and some of the surrounding cities such as Tucson, Prescott, Casa Grande, Florence and Apache Junction. We are an Arizona company, we are not national. We provide personal service and treat our clients and their families as we ourselves would want to be treated. If we can’t directly meet a client’s need, we will assist with locating a person or service that can. Everything is about the relationship. As the saying goes “People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel” – Dr. Thomas L. Garthwaite, Under Secretary for Health. We strive to make our clients feel well cared for.

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

  • Treat others as you would like to be treated; the Golden Rule.
  • Always have the patient’s best interest at heart.
  • Take the time to really listen, you’d be surprised what you hear.

What is the single most successful thing that your organization is doing now?

Meeting the needs of the clients served.

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

Do more with less. Be creative. Be flexible.

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

Working independently and all that that entails. In my case, working for myself means being able to spend more time with patients, working pro bono if needed, being selective on referral clientele, and having control over my work product.

Where did you grow up?

I moved around quite a bit but always within Arizona. I spent most of my childhood in Flagstaff, AZ.

What college did you attend?

I initially attended Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff for my associate in nursing degree and my B.S. in applied Social Work; I went to the University of Phoenix for my BSN; and ASU for my master’s degree.

Is there a moment from that time that stands out?

Graduations!

Are you married? Do you have children?

Yes, I am married and I have a 24-year-old son.

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

Working in the yard is my de-stressor. As far back as I can recall, I have always loved planting things and watching them grow. In sixth grade I converted the aquarium we used to house lizards and such into a mini garden to grow corn plants. My classmates and I were fascinated by watching the plants grow.

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

The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness. At the Lemberg Concentration Camp in 1943, Simon Wiesenthal (author) is summoned to the bedside of the dying Nazi soldier Karl Seidl. The soldier tells him he is seeking “a Jew’s” (Wiesenthal’s) forgiveness for a crime that has haunted him (Seidl) his entire life. The man confesses to having destroyed, by fire and armaments, a house full of 300 Jews. He states that as the Jews tried to leap out of windows to escape the burning building, he gunned them down. After Seidl finishes his story, he asks Wiesenthal to forgive him. Weisenthal records his and other’s responses and poses the dilemma to the reader.

Any additional comments?

You have to be a bit of a loner in this work area because you do work alone, independently, so much of the time, especially if you work from your home as I have done for the last 20 plus years doing this. I referred a friend of mine while I was working at Intracorp. She and I had worked on an orthopedic floor several years prior. She quit after about a year because she did not like working alone most of the time, she preferred the camaraderie of working on a floor in a hospital. It is very important for this reason, that as a case manager you keep yourself involved by attending groups, networking, attending educational workshops and having friends in the business to meet for lunch and to talk care issues over with. Keep yourself immersed.

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