As anyone who works in healthcare or social work will tell you, the patient’s well being is of the utmost priority. If you’re interested in a career as a case manager, however, that mandate goes even further. As a case manager, you’ll be responsible for the care plan of patients within your healthcare setting, ensuring that their treatment is suitable, cost-effective, and appropriate for the duration of their stay. Case managers often have to juggle conflicting demands and priorities in extremely busy settings, but if that challenge seems worth the reward of helping people every day to you, then a career as a case manager may just be for you!
If you’re interviewing case manager positions, it’s important to be prepared. Practice by yourself or, better yet, with a friend, to make sure your answers sound easy and knowledgeable when the big day comes. To get you started, we’ve put together a list of common case manager interview questions, with example answers.
A case manager is a person who works in healthcare or social work settings to help plan or advocate for health treatments. Case managers may work with hospital patients, or in a governmental capacity through social services. Day to day, case managers may be creating care plans, filing paperwork, meeting with care teams and patients (either in healthcare settings or at home), or any number of tasks related to the wellbeing of the people in your care.
In working as a case manager, you’ll be dealing with complex diagnoses and needs; no two patients are the same, and no matter how long you work as a case manager, it’s likely you won’t encounter two identical situations in your career. Since your patients will come from such a wide variety of backgrounds, you’ll often encounter people with complex medical needs who may not necessarily understand the terminology being used around them. As their advocate, it’s your job to explain what the healthcare professionals trusted with their care are saying, in terms that they’ll understand.
Example answer: “I often work with children, who are coming into this situation with no prior knowledge of the medical field or what’s happening to them. I know that it can be especially scary to not understand what’s going on when you’re a child, particularly if you’re also in pain, so I make it a point to sit down with my clients after every meeting I have with them. I begin by asking what they do understand, so that I can fill in the blanks. For example, a pediatric cancer case may be more familiar with a hospital setting, so they’ll understand that they’re sick and at the hospital to get better. My next step is to build off of that knowledge to explain the situation. In the case of that pediatric cancer situation, I’d confirm that they’re sick and in the hospital for treatment, and then describe the treatment and how it’s helping them in age-appropriate terms.”
Things can change quickly in medical settings, for better and for worse. It’s one thing to tell an employer that you handle change well, but the important thing is to allow your patients to tackle those changes in the best way possible for them. By asking this question, your potential employer is trying to ensure that you’ll be able to help patients through a common occurrence in the day-to-day of your job that can make or break a relationship with a client.
Example answer: “Last year, I was the case manager for an elderly woman with a history of falls. Unfortunately, after some advocating on my part, her care team learned that she had early-stage dementia and this was contributing to her injuries. After a series of long conversations with her and her family, I worked with her adult son to figure out a few potential options, but we knew that her being moved into a care home was the best option for her. Thankfully, because the dementia was caught early, she understood what was happening and knew that it was the best choice. That case became my main priority for several weeks as I worked with the family and care team to successfully find an appropriate care home and assist with moving the patient. At our last check-in about a month ago, she was still happy with her choice and the level of support she was able to receive.”
You may not think it, but negotiation can be a big part of work as a case manager. Whether you’re speaking with the hospital about bills for a low-income patient, or negotiating with the patient themselves to try and convince them of something in their care plan, case managers are master negotiators. Your interviewer is trying to determine whether you know that about the job and the field itself, and how well you’ll be able to do it in this case manager position.
Example answer: “Oh, I certainly negotiate every day! I think the important thing in a negotiation is that everyone walks away feeling heard. I’m less concerned about winning or losing, as long as at the end of the day I know I’ve done the best that I can for my patient. Last week, I worked with a patient who was concerned about a dosage of medication she was receiving. She believed that the dosage she was on was too strong, and it was impacting her quality of life by making her sluggish and fatigued. Her primary physician, however, believed that a lower dosage wouldn’t be effective enough to properly control her symptoms. I suggested a trial week of the lower dosage, and after some negotiation between the two of us about just how low that dosage should be, the physician agreed to give it a go. We aren’t at the end of the trial week yet, but my patient is reporting that she feels more clear-headed, but is still symptom-free.
Case managers (and almost everyone else in the healthcare industry) tend to put a lot of themselves in their work. While that can make for caring, dedicated employees, it can also quickly lead to burnout. Your interviewer wants to make sure you’re aware of your mental health and you know how to take care of yourself. After all, it’s no use hiring a new case manager if they’re just going to burn out in a couple of months!
Example answer: “It’s hard not to become personally invested in the care of my patients, since a huge part of my job is ensuring that care is the best it can be. I find that I get stressed out trying to make sure everyone I’m responsible for is receiving care that works best for them – when I have a particularly difficult day, either with a patient or a provider, I know that my stress definitely builds. I’ve gotten better at detaching myself from work when I go home at the end of the day, and I make sure to build in plenty of time for self-care and relaxation when I’m not at work.”
Case managers work with people from all walks of life, meaning you’ll certainly come across people whose lives and experiences differ greatly from your own. Your interviewer wants to make sure that you understand how to appropriately handle these interactions so that your patients will be in the best hands possible.
Example answer: “I recently worked with a patient that, for religious reasons, was unwilling to consent to a particular course of treatment recommended by her care team. Normally, I’d try to negotiate with the patient if I truly believed that the treatment would improve their quality of life, but because this was for a cultural reason I wasn’t familiar with I knew that trying to bulldoze over that would be inappropriate and would break the trust I’d built up with my client. I did some research on my own time and worked with the care team to determine an alternate care plan where, with some compromise, everyone was happy.”
Through working with different people, care teams, diagnoses, treatments, and settings, no two days as a case manager are the same! That also means that things aren’t cut and dry with your schedule, either. On any given day, you could have several tasks to complete that are all equally important – after all, they’ll nearly all relate to the wellbeing of your patients! Your interviewer understands that you can’t do a million things at once, but they need to know whether you can effectively prioritize.
Example answer: “It’s very common for my list of tasks at the beginning of the day to include equally-important things for different patients. I try my best to prioritize according to need – for example, last month I was working with an elderly, disabled man and a young abuse victim. Both cases were fairly severe, but when they both needed updates to their care plans on the same day, I prioritized the elderly man because he had recently been injured, whereas the abuse victim was in a stable environment being cared for appropriately. That way, the patient who was actively in pain or danger was able to be helped first, but I was still able to adjust both care plans on the same day.”