When you come under the care of the mental health team, you will be assigned what’s called a Care Co-ordinator.
This can vary from your CPN (Community Psychiatric Nurse) to your Social Worker, to your Psychologist, but it’s basically your “main person” who is in charge of overseeing your care.
As such, this person is critical to the overall support you receive.
Having had mixed experiences with different Care Co-ordinators, I have put together a list of the ideal traits/skills that I, as a service user, value and think are crucial in a Care Co-ordinator. The traits/skills are in no particular order, and I think they’re all important.
1. Good communication skills
As the central point of your care, a Care Co-ordinator must have good communication skills in order to communicate effectively between the different professionals you are seeing. For example, if your team consists of a CPN, a psychologist, a psychiatrist, a social worker, and a support worker, it is vital that each professional is kept up-to-date on any changes or needs that are identified for your care.
2. Organisation and time-keeping skills
This is important when it comes to your appointments. Your Care Co-ordinator should make sure that you have regular, timely appointments. As we all know, working in mental health can be unpredictable, so sometimes appointments run late, however, for the most part, your Care Co-ordinator should ensure that your appointments are well scheduled and that you get your full allotted time.
3. Be an active listener
A good Care Co-ordinator will not just smile and nod while you talk; they will actively listen to your needs and experiences, and use what they hear to inform their decisions about your care.
4. Be friendly and approachable
If your Care Co-ordinator is friendly and approachable, you’re much more likely to establish a healthy professional relationship with them. The more comfortable you feel with them, the easier it will be to become vulnerable in front of them, letting them know how you’re really feeling and what you really need from them and the team.
5. Be accessible
It’s all well and good being told that someone is your go-to person, but if you can’t actually get hold of them, situations can easily spiral out of control. Now I’m not saying that your Care Co-ordinator should be at your beck and call 24/7. However they should establish with you a way to contact them between appointments, should the need arise. This may be a telephone number, an e-mail address, or sometimes even a mobile phone number for texting (although mobile phone policies vary from service to service). They should also establish a timeframe within which they will respond to your contact, for example, within 24 hours. It is important that these boundaries are set so the service user doesn’t have unrealistic expectations of immediate contact, but also to provide reassurance that their query/issue will be responded to in a timely manner.
If you have been reading this piece and thinking “Yep, my Care Co-ordinator does all of these”, then congratulations! You have an excellent Care Co-ordinator.
If, however, you found yourself realising that your Care Co-ordinator falls unhelpfully short of these criteria, you may wish to pursue a change in Care Co-ordinator. You can do this by contacting PALS (Patient Advice and Liaison Service) with your concerns. It may be that your concerns can be fixed with your current Care Co-ordinator, but if not, they will assist in reassigning you to someone else in the team.
What kind of experiences have you had with Care Co-ordinators? What traits/skills do you think are most important? Let me know in the comments.