Helping members in difficult times: An interview with Regence nurse Darcie Teats
Main photo: Darcie with her miniature schnauzer, Louis.
Darcie Teats’ passion to help others began in high school. While volunteering at a local hospital, she remembers being inspired by emergency room nurses who spent their careers caring for patients. Later, as Darcie was studying to be a nurse herself, her grandmother was diagnosed with brain cancer. Both her volunteer work and her grandmother’s experience motivated Darcie’s 21-year nursing career. Today Darcie uses her decades of experience working as a Regence case manager, helping Regence members, their families and caregivers navigate the complicated world of health care. We talked with Darcie to learn more about her job. Answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.
How would you describe case management and your typical day helping Regence members?
I always say that case management is like an extra layer of support for members. It all really depends on what a person needs, whether it’s education on a medical condition, working with their family or health care provider, or various other situations. Every day I’m on the phone—a lot. Most of my day is spent either calling members or having members call me if they’re in a crisis, have questions or need me to speak with their doctor.
Case management at Regence has many different teams. I work in palliative care, often helping members with complex, life-limiting illnesses. A lot of the members I help have cancer. We discuss what quality of life looks like in each of their individual situations, looking at the whole member and a holistic approach to care.
How did you end up becoming a nurse and later a case manager?
During high school, I volunteered with a local hospital in their emergency room. Working alongside all these people who were helping others, I decided to become a nurse so that I could do the same. While in nursing school, my grandmother moved in next to us. She unexpectedly developed brain cancer, and I helped care for her. Later in life, I also cared for my mom when she was diagnosed with cancer and passed away in hospice care at a young age. These experience helped define for me what case management work is really about, helping and caring for people when they’re dealing with the worst times of their lives. Not only am I a nurse, but I understand what people go through as a caregiver. I get to do that now at a different level, having been a hospital nurse for 21 years across different departments and now at Regence for nearly five years. It’s been a total change and the first desk job in my career. But I get to help our members throughout their health care journeys in many different ways.
What’s the best part of your job?
It’s great to be able to work with people and take some of the burden away from those who are really struggling. It’s really hard taking care of a loved one who is either in critical condition or dying, and as a case manager I can help make things easier with resources, information and support. Since my work is over the phone and email, making human connections with members is different from face-to-face interactions. But I’m also able to help a large number of people and create different types of connections and relationships. Typically, I am helping around 50 different members, some having more needs than others. There are members who just need a monthly check-in call to offer help and to let them know they have someone in their corner. That extra layer of support, even when not in a crisis.
What do you wish Regence members knew more about case management?
People always say that they don’t know what we do or don’t know how we can help. I call members to explain case management and all the resources available to them with Regence. It’s about educating people and connecting with members so that I can help. Each situation is different. It depends on how long someone has been in crisis or has been dealing with a medical issue, a new diagnosis versus long-term condition. A member may not know how to process a new diagnosis versus mentally preparing for six months of treatment. There’s a big difference between what I think a member needs and what they think they need—my job is to meet them where they are and help however I can.
Can you give an example of a real-life case management success?
Anytime I can help someone is a success. But I did have one member who was fairly young, in their early 50s maybe, who had been given a terminal diagnosis. They were told that the condition was inoperable and that time was limited. I received the member’s call and they were in a bit of a panic, especially since they were young, active and healthy otherwise. Long story short, I was able to get the member connected with a specialist. Together, they found out the diagnosis was wrong—all because the member advocated for their own needs and worked with a case manager. The member soon learned that the condition wasn’t a death sentence at all. After working with the specialist, the member called me to say: “Keep advocating for people. If you hadn’t advocated for me to see a specialist, I would have thought my life was cut short.” And that’s another part of my job, empowering people with knowledge to advocate for themselves.