Meet Case Manager Susan Headley: Ensuring Employees Healthy Enough to Return to Work

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014
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.

Susan Headley, BA, MBA, CWCP, Case Manager at Macon Occupational Medicine

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

(Susan Headley) I recently graduated in June 2013 from American Sentinel University with my masters in Business Administration and Healthcare. Before that, in 2011, I graduated from the local college — Macon State College — with my bachelor’s degree in management and information technology. I have a Certified Worker’s Comp professional license (CWCP). I also hold a Georgia adjuster’s license.

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

While an undergraduate at Macon State College I worked in the bookstore doing their accounting. When I was getting ready to graduate a friend of mine who worked at Macon Occupational Medicine, where I’m employed now, said, “I know it’s an entry level job, and you’re about to graduate, but we have a position and there’s room for advancement.” I knew that I wanted to be in healthcare strictly because changes are always going to happen, but it’s always going to be needed. I applied and got hired and have slowly worked my way up to where I am now.

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

I would have to say taking the job at Macon Occupational Medicine. I had worked in healthcare as a young teen doing volunteer work in hospitals just for the fun of it. I had one of those mothers that wouldn’t let us stay home during the summer without having activity. And I really enjoyed it. When I got introduced to the case management side — it being a new model for the business — it really caught my eye and I think that is what has defined where I am now.

In brief, describe your organization.

Macon Occupational Medicine, LLC is an occupational health facility, which means we do anything from pre-employment physicals to return to work, drug screening, anything that a company might need for their business, or for their employees. Regarding the work comp side, if someone gets injured on the job we treat them and follow their care until they’re well enough to get back to work.

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

Our case management is a little bit different than how nurses do it. It’s strictly work comp-related. Three things that stand out to me are:

  • Everything has to be work related. If it’s a non work-related case of course there’s no need for me to manage it. It goes back and they have to deal with their personal physicians for care.
  • Another key thing in case management is making sure that the employee has returned back to work as a whole person to the best of their ability. We don’t want them to go back into the workforce and hurt themselves further because we missed something.
  • Because we are a work comp facility, our customers are actually the employers. So we try to make them happy. And if they see a concern in the workplace, for instance, if we send an employee back and they’re not wearing their knee brace like they’re supposed to, then the employer will call us up as case management and say, “We have some really big concerns about this. I think they’re further going to hurt themselves. What can we do to fix that?” That’s when we meet with the patient and make sure that they understand the end result of what we want them to do and the big picture.

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

The case management model has been in place about two years. We were finding that employers wanted one person they could deal with for their people. We have two case managers on staff. And we manage all of the cases from start to finish. You get hurt. We take care of you. If we can’t we send you to a specialist and we still manage your care until we release you to go back to work. So that employer knows they can pick up the phone and call me and I’ll know anything there is to know about their employees as to why they’re not at work, when they’ll be back at work. And it’s grown into an amazing thing. To my knowledge and my boss’ knowledge, we’re the only healthcare or occupational facility in the state of Georgia that offers a case management program for worker’s comp.

What is the most satisfying part of your job?

Because we work for the employer, it’s making sure that employer is happy while also maintaining the goal and making sure the employee is better, which can be a challenge sometimes. It’s a complicated field in that the employee may feel one thing and the employer feel something else.

But it’s very gratifying when you see these people come in with cut off limbs or what have you and you watch them evolve from an injured employee to a well person and knowing you had a hand in that. It’s very rewarding.

Do you see a trend or path that you have to lock onto for 2013 and beyond 2014?

There’s always going to be people getting hurt on the job. I don’t think that that’s ever going to change. The trend now is that people are starting to learn more about it, and where the loopholes are. So, staying informed and keeping ourselves a step ahead is key. And sometimes that can be a huge challenge, especially if the employee knows how to work the system. And we want to try our hardest to prevent that.

What is the greatest challenge you’re facing right now?

As I said before, staying informed and one step ahead.

Where did you grow up?

I am a military brat. I grew up originally in Arkansas and spent most of my childhood there. We dabbled a little bit overseas and ultimately ended up here, in Georgia. I’ve been back here since 2001.

What colleges did you attend?

For my undergrad I went to Macon State College, which is now called Middle Georgia State College, receiving my bachelor’s degree in business and information technology. I received my master’s degree in Business Administration and Healthcare online at American Sentinel University. I found out about them from a friend who was in another business program and on active duty, so it worked well for his schedule. I also wanted something I could work into my schedule. I applied to this program and found it very interesting. It didn’t require a nursing background, but I was able to gain a lot of knowledge about the nursing side of things. I really enjoyed the program. I had some wonderful teachers who taught me a lot. It took me a year and a half to finish the program. I’m happy to say I’m a graduate there. And if they offered a doctorate program for me I would be there too.

Are you married?

No, and no children either. I think that’s probably the only reason I made it through my master’s in a year and a half.

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

I’d have to say right now it’s scrapbooking, and it happened because my friends started having children and wanted to create memory books, but not something we had when we were kids. So we started scrapbooking every weekend. Of course as life gets busy and the kids get older you find less time for it. But we have tried to stick with it; every quarter or so we set aside a weekend together and scrapbook if possible. It’s getting harder and harder the older we get. But it’s definitely something I enjoy doing, even on my own, if I have spare time. I’ll put a page together. It’s fun. There’s no thinking required.

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

No. I wish I had time for things like that. I just finished a class back in September so I haven’t had a real chance to sit and read or even go to the movies. I can’t remember the last time I went. I am now working on my doctorate in education in organizational leadership with an emphasis on healthcare administration at Grand Canyon University.

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2 Responses to “Meet Case Manager Susan Headley: Ensuring Employees Healthy Enough to Return to Work”

  1. Sheryl Riley says:

    Do you handle return to work for cancer cases? This is a new area for return to work and disability one that is not spoken of very often but will become front and center as our survivor numbers increase.
    Thank you
    SAR

  2. Melanie Matthews says:

    At our facility, we do not do anything for cancer or for disability, outside of worker’s compensation. We don’t have the capacity here for it or the right medical certifications, as far as I know. We get several requests
    for it, but since we deal mainly with work comp and any other occupational issue, we just don’t accept them. I hope this helps. Susan.