Jones & Bartlett Learning Health Blog

    Going Beyond the Page with Case Studies

    Posted by sharonb on Mar 4, 2013 2:00:06 AM

    Nothing makes an author quite as happy as seeing their book on the shelf, virtual or real, available to the world, at last! Now that our book “baby,” Cases in Health Care Management has been released, inquiring minds want to know how to use the text, in addition to pairing it to Introduction to Health Care Management.  Here are some suggestions for ways to make this book even more useful, engaging, and interactive for your students—and for you as the instructor.

    • Multi-task: Use it not for one course, but across your entire curriculum. With a virtual buffet of 101 case studies across eight areas, Leadership, Management, Quality/Patient Safety, Finance, Health Care Professionals/Human Resources, Health Disparities/Cultural Competence, Ethics/Law/Conflict of Interest, and Crossing the Line/Fraud, there is something for everyone's course.
    • Memo Exercise: Have your students analyze a case and write it up as a one-page memo to their “boss.” Mark Twain allegedly said, “If I’d had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.” This applies to effective written communication in health care organizations, too. Executives do not have time to wade through reams of paper to get to the important part. Have the students work on executive summary skills—after they have completed the full-length analysis. Writing competencies are critical for our students.
    • Bring in an expert: Invite a health care executive to class. Read a case study to the executive. Using the case study analysis template (see below), prompt the executive with the headings, and ask her or him respond. At the end, invite the students to ask questions about how the executive analyzed the case. This is where they see a practitioner’s thinking processes in action.
    • Role-play: Have the student’s act out the cases. I cannot emphasize the importance of this activity enough. See my previous blogs on role-play and case studies. Students in my program have commented that they are initially  uncomfortable performing in front of their peers. However, after all the role play was over, when asked what was the most challenging aspect in playing their role, their responses focused on healthcare leadership and management competencies, including, but not limited to: communication, trust, problem-solving, decision-making, organizational dynamics, managing healthcare personnel, ethics and conflict resolution.
    • Create new cases: Have students write their own case studies. It is one thing to analyze a case study, but to create a short story that embodies key issues in health care management is a greater challenge. If you want your students to stretch and grow even more, invite, or assign them to write a case study. In our new book, Cases in Health Care Management, six of the case studies were written by students. I challenge you to have your students do the same.
    • Here is the promised case study template for you to use with your students!

    Background Statement What is going on in this case as it relates to the identified major problem? What are (only) the key points the reader needs to know in order to understand how you will “solve” the case? Summarize the scenario in your own words—do not simply regurgitate the case. Briefly describe the organization, setting, situation, who is involved, who decides what, etc.

    Major Problems and Secondary Issues Specifically identify the major and secondary problems. What are the real issues? What are the differences? Can secondary issues become major problems? Present analysis of the causes and effects. Fully explain your reasoning.

    Your Role In a sentence or short paragraph, declare from which role you will address the major problem, whether you are a senior manager, departmental manager or an outside consultant called in to advise. Regardless of your choice, you must justify in writing why you chose that role. What are the advantages and disadvantages of your selected role? Be specific.

    Organizational Strengths and Weaknesses Identify the strengths and weaknesses that exist in relation to the major problem. Again, your focus here should be in describing what the organization is capable of doing (and not capable of doing) with respect to addressing the major problem. Thus, the identified strengths and weaknesses should include those at the managerial level of the problem. For example, if you have chosen to address the problem from the departmental perspective and the department is understaffed, that is a weakness worthy of mentioning. Be sure to remember to include any strengths/weaknesses that may be related to diversity issues.

    Alternatives and Recommended Solution Describe the two to three alternative solutions you came up with. What feasible strategies would you recommend? What are the pros and cons? State what should be done—why, how, and by whom. Be specific.

    Evaluation How will you know when you’ve gotten there? There must be measurable goals put in place with the recommendations. Money is easiest to measure; what else can be measured? What evaluation plan would you put in place to assess whether you are reaching your goals?

    Now, how do you plan to use Cases in Health Care Management?

    Sharon B. Buchbinder, RN, PhD

    Sharon Buchbinder got into a lot of trouble as a child for making up stories. She is Professor and Program Coordinator for the MS in Healthcare Management at Stevenson University in the Graduate and Professional School and former chair of the Association of University Programs in Health Administration (AUPHA). She is also the author of three books from Jones and Bartlett: Introduction to Health Care Management (with Nancy H. Shanks), Career Opportunities in Health Care Management (with Jon Thompson) and Cases in Health Care Management (with Nancy H. Shanks and Dale Buchbinder.)

    Here are some additional resources if you are interested in this topic.

    Buchbinder, Sharon B. (2012, October 1). Rehearsing for the real world: Case studies and role play. Available at

    Buchbinder, Sharon B. (2012, September 4). This is your brain on fiction: Why teaching with case studies works. Available at

    Buchbinder, Sharon B. (2012, July 2). Writing Competencies: Whose Responsibility Is It? Available at

    Topics: administration, Author, Health Administration, health care management, Sharon B. Buchbinder, Case studies

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