Nurses and doctors who treat patients with COVID-19 are rightfully celebrated as heroes of the pandemic. First responders, hospital orderlies, janitors, housekeepers and medical workers playing a support role in the fight against the virus are being cheered loudly and publicly and on social media posts worldwide.
Those are the ones we see and hear about daily. Yet there is another group of professionals laboring behind the scenes, often remotely, whose vital work goes unsung. These are the case managers — nurses or social workers in most cases — who, explains Wil Shelton, “coordinate with physicians, nurses, mental health and insurance companies, and family and friends of the patient, their client.”
His wife is one.
“Case managers are in a battle behind the scenes, huddling daily to plan for the next six months. But mostly these men and women are alone, hunched over computers in trenches of their bedrooms or living rooms, making frantic phone calls, staying focused on the needs of patients even when their families need them, too.”
In just one week, Shelton says, his wife helped cancer patients unable to see their oncologist because offices are closed. She worked with the family of a 2-year-old asthma patient discharged home because his doctor’s office, too, was closed. Then there were the terminally ill patients who contracted COVIC-19 and had to be isolated from family when, he notes sadly, “time with them matters most.”
That doesn’t even include the administrative tasks like finding an empty bed, handling records, tracking patients and hunting down busier-than-ever doctors and nurses.
“All of these situations bring tears, confusion, fear, and loss — all of which my wife, and case managers like her, are supposed to alleviate from a remote location with little support and in the middle of a system plagued by glitches and breakdowns,” says Shelton.
“Please,” he ends his post, speaking to all of us, “Be kind to your case worker. He or she is making a great sacrifice to ensure the best outcome for you.”