International Rescue Committee (IRC)

A Day in the Shoes of a Medical Case Worker

My name is Mohamed and I am a Medical Case Worker at the IRC in Boise.  I wear a lot of hats and I love what I do.  I help all refugees currently receiving assistance from the IRC in Boise.  That means I am usually working to help more than 60 people at any given time.  When I walk in the office every day, I hear my name coming from many different directions: my coworkers want to know where in medical services or recovery many of our clients are.  My supervisor wants to know how many disabled and elderly people we helped to apply for long term disability benefits this month, and who is our highest priority to get new applications filed for now.


When I finally make it to my desk I see a red light: lots of voice mail messages!  The messages are from different clinics informing me which clients didn’t make it to their appointments the day before and asking me to remind clients about upcoming appointments. I open my email and receive a batch of messages from health providers informing me when our newest clients will have their scheduled new arrival health screenings, refugees’ entry point into longer term medical care. Wonderful. Now it’s time to schedule medical taxis, figure out if any clients don’t qualify for medical taxis anymore and need additional public transit training on how to get to and from their appointments, call clients to let them know when they have appointments and let case workers know about client appointments.


As morning unfolds, clients show up at the office to meet with their case workers and stop by my cubicle to say hello and inform me on the news for them or their families – somebody needs an operation, someone’s pregnant, someone’s missed an appointment or needs to schedule one, someone just came in to say Hi and Thank you.


Usually I take lunch off site, because my clients want to see me every moment possible, but I know that my boundaries are important too.  When I come back from lunch I usually have a stack of faxes on my desk from medical providers. My voice mail is filling up again. My supervisor wants to discuss if Boise medical service providers would be able to support potential clients coming to the United States with certain health issues.  Medical services in Boise are so robust that the IRC in Boise almost never asks for potential clients to be sent to another U.S. city because of health conditions expected at arrival.


Even with all my work to make sure our clients get the help they need, my work isn’t done.  Every action I take has to be logged in a master appointments database, in clients’ case notes and in our separate confidential client medical files.  This is a part of our duty to our clients to make sure that needs are met, and our duty to be transparent to reviewers who make sure we provide the high quality service to which we have committed.  Like my supervisor says:  if it isn’t case noted, it didn’t happen.


To get all this work done, I have wonderful big-hearted Boise State University School of Social Work intern, Lori Shaw, assisting me two days a week, and I also have great volunteers who are always ready to help to transport a family to urgent care in case if they have a sick child or elderly person needed immediate medical assistance.


I enjoy fast pace of my work – I get to know each and every client personally and I am always happy to teach them how to interact more independently with their care providers in the health system. This education goes a long way when clients are done with their assistance and it’s time to begin to take care of their families on their own.


I find my job to be very fulfilling and I feel every day that I accomplished something great today!  When I go to bed at night, I know there is a long day ahead of me, but I also know that I will help good people get much needed help.