the road to becoming a certified case manager

esudroff / Pixabay

This is the story of my journey from being afraid

to move beyond the traditional nurse role

to becoming a certified case manager.


We’ve all heard the phrase, “Do What You Love”  

An ideal that most of us believe in and want to live by.

I had been a nurse for six years and I loved my job. There’s nothing that brings me more joy than knowing I am making a difference and helping those in need.  I prided myself on helping people and the thought of leaving bedside nursing often ended with “I’m afraid I wouldn’t have that same impact on a phone line between myself and a patient.” Still, with the satisfaction of working in the hospital, I was curious and wanted to try something different, something new.

Moving into the case management world of an insurance company is a scary step for someone with the title of Registered Nurse.  Passion trumped fear. I took the step and made a choice. I entered the world of Case Management.

A year after settling into the case management role, I can vividly remember how someone told me I was working for the devil. But that did not stop me from doing what I love, rather, I opened my eyes to how case management and the insurance company aren’t the devils and how so much good can come from case management. It made me realize the limitless doors for growth and development that this move had opened for me. My knowledge base grew beyond my specialized NICU nurse role.  

Five happy years in the case management world, I realized that even though I loved the position I was in, I felt I wanted more, I needed an edge. The desire for an edge brought me new challenges and experiences.

I took two more steps. One: I changed my position and went to the transplant team, no longer managing a dedicated account and being exposed to more systems and patients with more needs. Second: I decided to obtain my CCM certification. An exam that I found intimidating, but curiosity, determination, and that desire for an edge trumped fear.

I used a multitude of resources.

I started with a book that someone lent me. It was big, wordy and test questions were all formatted in a way that I got lost reading my choices, A thru D, sometimes C, but not B. I do feel that practicing taking questions are a good tool for the pretest arsenal,  so I purchased and used a questions site.  Instead of preparing me, it overwhelmed me. The more questions I got wrong, the more I panicked. It felt like I made the wrong purchase, it was the wrong move for me. In hindsight, I should have just went straight to the CCM site and purchased test questions from there.

At times, to broaden my learning experience, I did look up YouTube videos to review certain topics. It helped to see and hear the material in different ways.

Soon after I made the commitment to take the test, I found the book CCM Certification Made Easy. The book stays true to its title – MADE EASY. It was short, simple and easy to use. I could pick it up at any chapter and review terms and topics. Just perfect, everything I needed and was looking for. It came with a workbook which I filled out twice. Once while going through the book for the first time and second time as I tested my knowledge.  I also made flash cards from the terms in the CCM Certification Made Easy Book.  

I reached out to find practice questions that resembled the test questions and in my quest, I found the Case Manager’s Community on Facebook where they post daily practice questions. Questions that are by far the most current and most similar to the test style of questions.  I was so impressed by their support.

I can hear you saying now, “Wow, she spent a lot of time preparing for the test..” and to that I say, I did.  I spent a lot of time preparing for a test that I really cared about passing, so I put in the work, had all my resources and thankfully passed.

Without a shadow of a doubt, the CCM Certification Made Easy Book was the secret to my success. It kept me on task and when all of the other resources overwhelmed me.

Since passing the test, I gained interest in applying for a position on the learning and development team with my present employer, something I always thought about before. I had already had a Bachelor’s in Science and an Associate’s degree in Nursing.  I had the case management experience, I had the exposure to the multitude of computer systems, and now CCM certified – I had my edge.

zulvey smith

Zulvey Smith, RN CCM

Presently, I am teaching computer systems and how to case manage, but I look for every opportunity to interject the practice of looking at the whole picture. I use my clinical judgment in a different way. I’ve taken that nursing hat we wear as a teacher to a next level. There’s a lot I love in my new position as an educator on the learning and development team. For one, inspiring other nurses to take their case management skills to the next level. The main highlights are having more autonomy and the opportunity for the continued growth of my leadership skills.

I never realized the limitless opportunities that would open, I never realized my curiosity would grow into that thirst for knowledge,  but I now know this is what I was meant to do,  leaving work each day knowing I made a big difference in the lives that I touched.  Without even knowing I would be where I am, my experiences gained momentum and I brought myself to a place that I am doing what I love.

This is the story of my journey to becoming a certified case manager.

What’s yours?