‘Lifelong smoker’ sheds that title bolstered by support

Mary Hall’s positive attitude just won’t quit. It also prompted her goal to quit. Smoking, that is. After more than 50 years of the unhealthy habit—and then one month on a smoking-cessation drug—Hall decided she was ready to stop.

“I haven’t smoked since September 3,” said the vibrant 70-something who loves caring for children, bingo with her sister-in-law and a steady stream of romance novels.

One of Hall’s biggest cheerleaders could not be happier, both for Hall’s determination and her health.

“It’s phenomenal that Mary quit smoking,” said care coordinator Debbie Stearns, BSN, RN-BC. “I love her sense of humor. It really helps her engage in trying to change to have better quality of life.”

Stearns helps the longtime Mahomet resident make healthy changes through regular phone calls filled with friendly inquiries, information and support. Care coordination is an outpatient component of case management, an important process Carle uses to surround patients most in need with care and attention. Across the country, patients and providers are marking Case Management Week, which this year features the fitting theme “We Listen. We Care. We Lead.”

Case management plays a key role in Carle’s integrated health system. Carle’s hospitals, clinics and its health plan, Health Alliance, use about 65 front-line nurse case managers to support patients and health plan members in a host of areas, including:

  • Transitions after hospital stays.
  • Follow-up after emergency department visits.
  • Help scheduling and attending appointments.
  • Assistance with lab work and prescriptions.

The goal is clear.

“Get people the right care in the right place at the right time,” said Anne Curtiss, director of Care/Case Management and Palliative Care Services, stressing how case management is patient-driven.

“We work closely with patients and have direct access to physicians so we can surround these patients with care and help address any red flags or barriers to their well-being, to the goals they’ve chosen.” 

As Hall, a Health Alliance Medicare member, copes with several health challenges, becoming a non-smoker sets her up for greater success.

So does the daily exercise Stearns (center, back row) encourages her to do to help her reach a healthier weight.

It might not be surprising to hear Hall’s go-to positivity phrase is, “You got that right,” which she says with extra enthusiasm when she talks about how much Stearns has helped her.

“We’ve had some good chats. She’s been a great help, really. She encourages me,” Hall said, adding, “She pushes me in the right direction.”

Stearns also connected Hall with the Carle Financial Assistance Program, saving her money in a variety of ways, including cutting the cost of her office visit copay in half.

“Care coordination is such a benefit to patients like Mary,” Stearns said. “Working together, we’re breaking down barriers.”

A nurse for over 20 years, including five years in home care, Stearns puts her positive attitude and myriad skills to use daily as she and her case management cohorts continually help create life-changing patient success stories.

“I tell people all the time that doing care coordination is like tying a bow around my career. I absolutely love what I do," she said. 

"I absolutely love helping our patients reach their goals.”