“The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency.”— Bill Gates
Within the last year, a significant development has been made in the technology used by the child welfare program here at SaintA. The leadership team had spent (and continues to spend) countless hours researching and reviewing ways to increase the efficiency of our child welfare workers. After careful thought and much deliberation, it was decided that tablet devices would be the perfect idea to magnify our efficiency and maximize our workers’ time.
I was fortunate enough to be a part of the pilot program, which occurred in late 2014, and have enjoyed and appreciated my tablet device ever since. After the initial pilot program, SaintA carefully rolled out the use of the tablet to all child welfare workers.
I personally find this new technology to be incredibly helpful, and I would like to share some of the ways that I use it in my daily work routine. One of the biggest assets is mobility, and I have been taking full advantage of this. As an ongoing case manager, I am required to be at court for a significant amount of time each week. The court uses what they call a stacked calendar, which means they will schedule a hearing at 8:30 a.m., another at 8:45 a.m., a third at 9 a.m., and so on. You can see the issue here.
If you have a hearing at, say, 11 a.m., and one or two cases in front of you happen to run long, you may be waiting quite a while for your case to be called. In the past, I used this time to meet with the family and legal parties or to take care of any hand-written paperwork that needed to be done. Sometimes I would even use my personal phone to e-mail myself case notes to put into the system when I returned to the office from court.This certainly was not the most efficient use of my time, and I know that other workers were experiencing the same issues. Now, with a tablet, I can use every minute of downtime at court. The tablet allows me, and all workers, to access everything we would need on our desktop from a remote setting. So, now I can complete the exact same work I’d be able to do sitting at my desk.
Another way I’ve found this new technology to be immeasurably helpful is in times of crisis when I am away from my desk. In the past, if a crisis had occurred and I was at a home visit or in transport to a location, I often did not have the necessary information readily available to assist in addressing the issue. This was absolutely a barrier to the service I was providing to my families and community partners. Now, with a tablet device, this is no longer a barrier.
For instance, I was driving home from work last winter when I got a phone call from a visitation worker saying there was a crisis in process on one of my cases. She needed some additional information and phone numbers of team members to assist her. I was able to pull over, plug in the air card to the tablet, and within minutes provide her with all the information she needed to effectively and safely manage the crisis.
As case managers, we face a lot of intermittent downtime, whether waiting in court, or because the periods of time between home visits are not quite long enough to return to the office to get more work done. While possibly being an asset to our own personal caregiver capacity, these times also were a source of stress for me and my colleagues. The work that didn’t get completed because of these downtimes still needed to get done. And this would result in working nights and weekends. Speaking from personal experience, the reality of worker burnout is never as prevalent as it is when you are working all day, then returning home only to work all night and all weekend.
I truly feel that my personal capacity to continue to be an effective case manager was greatly enhanced by the implementation of the tablet devices. Since receiving mine, I have seen an appreciable reduction in the amount of work I’m doing on evenings and weekends as well as an appreciable increase in my overall efficiency. I am very grateful for this, and I am sure that my fellow co-workers share this sentiment.
If you have any questions on how this new technology is improving the efficiency of the work we are doing at SaintA, or in the ways in which I personally utilize this new technology on a daily basis, I welcome your feedback. I can be reached at dohl@SaintA.org.
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