Nurse case managers support WTB Soldiers in health care journey
Spc. Victor Gabaldon, Warrior Transition Battalion, receives advice from Eleanor McKennan, his Warrior Transition Battalion nurse case manager, at Fort Carson, Colo.

FORT CARSON, Colo. (Jan. 24, 2013) -- Susan Reynolds is like a quarterback on the health care field. Being ready to receive any information and execute a care plan precisely is the nature of her job as a nurse case manager at the Fort Carson Warrior Transition Battalion.

"My goal is to decrease (the Soldiers') stress," said Reynolds, nurse case manager, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Warrior Transition Battalion, or WTB. "They have a lot of appointments and I help keep the balls in the air for them. Whether it's a physical, a behavioral health visit or something else, I want them to have a good return to duty or transition as a successful veteran."

Since first fielding the position in 2007, the number of nurse case managers embedded in the WTB has grown to 22. Each one works with 10-25 Soldiers at any given time, and each of their clients may have multiple medical appointments each week. The nurse case manager is part of the Soldier's Triad of Care and also includes the primary care manager and squad leader.

"The nurse case manager is the hub of information," said Maj. Yvette Concina, who coordinates the WTB managers. "That person is a key liaison between Soldiers, the commander, the doctor and family members. They consolidate information to help each person make decisions about the best possible resources to help the Soldier transition."

In a typical day, the nurse case manager will see five to seven scheduled Soldiers. They may meet with more if someone is considered high risk or an emergency occurs. Then, once a week, the nurse case manager sits down for an administrative meeting, bringing together the commander, the squad leader, social workers and other professionals dedicated to helping the Soldier heal and transition. Each one of their client's cases is reviewed, ensuring his or her physical, emotional and spiritual needs are being met.

The goal is to be proactive and make sure military leadership and medical providers are communicating clearly.

To prepare, Reynolds said they ask Soldiers plenty of questions, such as "Do you feel like we are taking care of you? Do we have you at the right providers? Have you gotten your initial Veterans Affairs appointments?"

Beyond simply coordinating medical care, the nurse case managers also talk with troops about their families, hobbies and hopes for the future.

"They are challenged when they arrive in our unit. Either figuratively or literally from things (such as) disease, shrapnel and bombs," said Concina. "We help them find a new normal. You have to be aware of the loss they encountered."

In addition, because each case is unique, Concina said they sometimes have to "color outside the lines and be creative with our care" to ensure Soldiers' needs are met. But when these health care professionals hear a Soldier talk about strapping on a prosthesis and running three miles, they say any extra work is well worth it.

"We love those stories," Reynolds said.

Page last updated Thu January 24th, 2013 at 08:43