NAVAL MEDICAL CENTER CAMP LEJEUNE, North Carolina –
The initial diagnosis of a debilitating injury or illness can be devastating for patients to hear; for some, understanding and following a treatment plan can be overwhelming and time consuming. The Navy Case Management program is available to support patients with complex or multiple medical conditions and those requiring intense and extensive support.
“Case managers provide the patient easy access to one point of contact regarding their care,” said Katherine Buffell, case management department head for Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune. “We work closely with physicians and medical staff to support and encourage compliance with the patients’ prescribed care. We help the patient navigate their care until they are comfortable doing it for themselves.”
NMCCL currently has 29 case managers within the Case Management Department. They cover a wide variety of internal departments for NMCCL and active duty units throughout Camp Lejeune, including Wounded Warrior Battalion-East and Marine Forces Special Operations Command, making NMCCL Case Management one of the largest case management programs throughout Navy Medicine.
Case Management is a referral process. According to Buffell, once the need for a case manager is identified and the primary care manager or medical provider initiates the referral, the patient is assigned a case manager. From that point on, the case manager is responsible for ensuring the patient’s needs are met.
“We spend a lot of direct time [face-to-face and telephonic] with the patients,” explained Heather Sawyer, a 10-year medical case manager with NMCCL. “We do patient-centric, holistic care aimed to meet the needs of the patient. We offer education on their illness/injury, how to navigate the medical system to help them get their specialty appointments, or help make resource connections for things they may need, like home care if necessary.”
Case managers ensure the patient is engaged with their prescribed care. They serve as a liaison between the patient and the medical support staff. Rather than struggle with what could be a complex schedule of medical appointments and coordination with resources, case managers aid in shouldering the work so the patient can focus on getting better.
“The goal is to get [patients] more comfortable with being their own advocate, navigating the system with confidence and being able to speak up and know how to access what they need,” said Sawyer. “A patient’s time within the program can range anywhere from a week to a year, depending on the patient’s need for the additional support.”
Case managers who work with active duty service members also have the responsibility of working closely with their commands to help advocate for the member.
“Often times we see a lot of guilt associated with the service member who may be struggling with finding a balance with their uniform responsibilities and taking care of their families, in addition to getting the medical care they need,” explained Alisha Masucci, lead case manager for Wounded Warrior Battalion-East. “We help them balance these priorities by working closely with the command to let them know what their limitations are and what the command can do to support those needs.”
NMCCL case managers say they are inspired by those they care for and inspired by knowing they have a close team to rely on for support.
“I am very proud of our people. I know this sounds cliché; however, we really have a dedicated, patient-advocate oriented group of case managers,” Buffell said. “We have a mixture of contractors and government employees with a wide range of employment length. We work very closely to share resources and experience.”
NMCCL Case Management is available to all beneficiaries assigned to the medical center. Patients who feel they could benefit from a case manager are encouraged to speak with their primary care manager for a referral.
The “We Are NMCCL” initiative highlights the accomplishments of employees, clinics and offices of Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune. “We are NMCCL” has focused on those who have been working around-the-clock and behind the frontlines to ensure our patients and personnel are cared for during the COVID-19 pandemic.