Case managers are what keeps social services running, and continuing education is essential to keep them up to date with emerging trends and best practices. There are many certifications and courses out there for case managers, but it’s not always clear which ones are reliable or well accredited.
Continual improvement isn’t something that only happens by experience. After all, having a lot of experience in one’s field can sometimes lead one to complacency, to feeling that one has “learned it all.”
However, new innovations—new ways of thinking and doing and using technology—are emerging every year in health and human services. New legislation, new frameworks, new requirements, new problems—how do we keep up with it all?
In this article, we’ll outline the most important certifications and courses that will help you excel as a case manager:
- First aid
- Harm reduction strategies, including naloxone training
- Trauma-informed care
- De-escalation training
Why is CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) first?
It’s not uncommon for a new client presenting himself for intake to be in a state of physical distress. Many at-risk populations are uniquely vulnerable to cardiovascular disease and respiratory illness, and being prepared may save lives.
Learning CPR doesn’t need to be super complicated. There are many organizations that offer valid CPR training, including the following:
When it comes to choosing a CPR course provider, the cost shouldn’t be the only factor to consider. While there may be cheaper, free, or online-only courses that are more convenient, a medical procedure like CPR is best learned in a classroom environment with a live instructor, a hands-on demonstration, and the ability to demonstrate and receive feedback on what you’ve learned.
Learning First Aid
Similar to the CPR issue, first aid is also a primary skill that case managers (and social workers more generally) need to learn, again because of the unique needs of the populations they serve.
Many CPR course providers will combine teaching CPR and first aid together, so again, we recommend courses that are taught by an in-person instructor at the very least. The ability to practice first aid techniques and ask spontaneous questions is an invaluable way to learn something as “hands on” as first aid.
Make sure your first aid course covers the following topics at the very least:
- Principles of responding to a health emergency
- Injury and acute illness
- Interacting with emergency services
- Legal implications of providing first aid
- Surveying the scene and victim
- Vital signs (i.e., airway and breathing, circulation and bleeding)
- Gathering a victim’s history
- Basic CPR (optional)
- Basic interventions
- Bandaging body parts
- Splinting body parts
- Moving victims
- Universal precautions
- Potentially infectious body fluids
- AIDS and hepatitis B
- Bloodborne pathogens
- Ready-to-go equipment
- Sharp items
- Blood spills
- First aid supplies
- Assessment of the attendees
- People learn better when they can turn around and teach what they’ve learned. Failing that, attendees should be evaluated for their knowledge.
- Outdated materials would be an indication that the course is no longer valid.
OSHA recommendations for first aid courses can be found here.
Learning Harm Reduction Strategies
Harm-reduction strategies tend to benefit public health. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an arm of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), defines harm reduction:
Harm reduction is an approach that emphasizes engaging directly with people who use drugs to prevent overdose and infectious disease transmission, improve the physical, mental, and social wellbeing of those served, and offer low-threshold options for accessing substance use disorder treatment and other health care services.
Harm reduction is an important part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s comprehensive approach to addressing substance use disorders through prevention, treatment, and recovery where individuals who use substances set their own goals. Harm reduction organizations incorporate a spectrum of strategies that meet people “where they are” on their own terms, and may serve as a pathway to additional prevention, treatment, and recovery services. Harm reduction works by addressing broader health and social issues through improved policies, programs, and practices.
With the proliferation of opioid access has come an increase in overdose deaths throughout the United States. For that and many other reasons, Housing First emphasizes supplying housing to reduce adverse health outcomes first. And when clients don’t comply with substance abuse treatment, we can at least prevent them from contracting diseases that can spread to others.
Overdose Reversal (Naloxone) Training
SAMHSA puts “overdose reversal education and training” first on its list of services you should consider for harm reduction. Often, this training involves learning to use various applications of naloxone, which can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.
Naloxone training is shown to be useful in communities. The National Institutes of Health cite one study where opioid overdose death rates decreased in participating communities of Massachusetts by about 27–46 percent.
Referral, Education, and Supplies for Disease Treatment and Prevention
SAMHSA also recommends social workers and programs provide education on common STIs and other infectious diseases, like HIV and viral hepatitis (i.e., HBV, HCV). Further, it recommends the following supplies for access to social workers:
- Substance test kits, including fentanyl test strips
- Safe-sex kits, including condoms
- Disposal kits for sharp objects and medication
- Naloxone kits
- Medication lock boxes
- Supplies for sterile injection, to reduce infectious disease transmission
- Supplies for safer smoking, to reduce infectious disease transmission
Getting those supplies to target populations would prove less effective if only distributed indoors. Social workers are also encouraged to distribute these materials in high-traffic areas of homeless populations too.
Learning Trauma-Informed Care
It’s not uncommon for the intake and evaluation process to cause secondary trauma to the social worker or to the client. To quote our previous article on harm reduction during data collection:
[Q]uestions like, “Have you ever been raped?” or, “Have you ever committed sex acts in exchange for money or food?” can have an emotional cost to both the client and the worker performing the intake.
Psychologist Stephen Fleming, a world-renowned trauma researcher, writes, “[O]ne need not directly experience or observe an event for it to be potentially traumatic; events experienced by others that one learns about also have this potential.”
The operative word there is “potential.” In a recent interview, Fleming states he prefers to use the term “potentially traumatic event” (PTE) because it doesn’t assume trauma or PTSD symptoms, as many people can experience PTEs without any PTSD symptoms.
On that same vein, potential harm can be caused when the intake worker assumes the new client must have been traumatized, which can prime that individual with a false narrative of how they “should” have reacted to the PTE.
That said, reliving old PTEs [during intake] can also cause temporary emotional distress.
One key to reducing harm to clients during intake is trauma-informed care. Many universities offer asynchronous certificate programs specifically for workers in the fields of behavioral health and social services. This kind of training often includes understanding how trauma affects the brain and behavior at various stages of human development and how to be culturally responsive to those challenges during the intake process.
A Word of Caution
In any industry, there are always organizations that offer continuing education with little indication their training works or is based on evidence. Always find out whether the organization you’re considering hiring is licensed and accredited by an evidence-based organization. Good examples include:
- American Case Management Association
- American Public Human Services Association
- National Association of Social Workers
- American Psychological Association
- American Psychiatric Association
Learning De-Escalation Techniques
People in crisis, however neurotypical they might be, often experience impaired judgment and strong impulses, which can manifest as misdirected anger toward the case manager or social worker. Because of the comorbidities people experiencing homelessness often present, it’s reasonable to assume social workers will eventually be subjected to threats of violence.
For this reason, we recommend learning de-escalation strategies for various demographics. For example, de-escalating an adolescent male might look different from de-escalating an elder adult female.
Always vet the impact and experience of your de-escalation instructor. Instructors in this area of continuing education might vary widely, from law enforcement veterans to self-defense instructors. Whatever the case, you should look for an instructor who has real-world experience with violent situations. (Your cardio kickboxing or tae kwon do classes don’t count!)
Many universities offer this kind of training, as do trade associations and individual providers. Whichever you choose, make sure they teach the following principles of de-escalation:
- Risk assessment, or the potential for violence
- Safety planning, or the procedures that should be followed when transporting clients
- Verbal de-escalation, or how to diffuse tension with clinical intervention
- Nonviolent self-defense, or how to protect yourself without injuring the attacker
Learning ClientTrack Better
ClientTrack, our case management platform, is widely used by continuums of care, service providers, and communities around the United States. At Eccovia, we use Eccovia University (EU), our learning and development platform, to help social workers improve their ability to use ClientTrack.
Because ClientTrack has many features that can help case managers use data, manage workflows, generate reports for compliance, and coordinate care, there’s a lot to learn. From your frontline users to your data administrators, EU offers e-learning on demand, which makes it easy for anyone in your organization to improve their skills without you having to hold their hand.
Courses offered in Eccovia University are divided broadly between two audiences: administrators and new users.
Eccovia University Administrator Guides for ClientTrack
- User Management
- Security Organizations, MOUs, and Transaction Restriction Options
- Client Administration
- Grant Management
- Program Management
- Service Code Management
- Evaluation Functionality Management
- Provider Management
- Document Check Management
- Configuration Syncs
Eccovia University New User Training for HMIS (ClientTrack)
- Basic ClientTrack Functionality
- HMIS Emergency Shelter (Entry/Exit)
- HMIS Emergency Shelter (Night-by-Night)
- HMIS Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness (PATH)
- HMIS Transitional Housing
- HMIS Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF)
- HMIS Rapid Rehousing
- HMIS Permanent Supportive Housing
- ClientTrack Reports and HMIS Reports/Exports
- HMIS Coordinated Entry
- HMIS Runaway Homeless Youth—Basic Center Program (RHY-BCP)
- User Issue Submission Process
- HMIS Street Outreach
- ClientTrack Terminology
Continuing education is not just required by regulators of health and human services—it’s also essential for the populations you serve. We encourage case managers and social workers to leverage the most evidence-based continuing education for CPR and first aid, harm reduction strategies, trauma-informed care, de-escalation, and ClientTrack usage.
If you would like to learn how Eccovia can help your organization’s learning and development needs, don’t hesitate to contact us.