Glenn Oczkowski was young, in his early twenties, and living with his parents as he tried to map out a future for himself. Enrolled in nursing school, Glenn was moving through the rotations—maternity, acutely ill, oncology—and while the other students were full of enthusiasm, Glenn was not. It wasn’t until he entered the psychiatric rotation that something big and lasting clicked in.
“The psychiatric rotation wasn’t about IVs and machines that keep beeping,” Glenn says. “It was about people listening to people. I was hooked.”
Glenn’s nursing degree took him into a hospital environment, where for five years he worked nights and weekends, emergencies and protocols, intense situations and patient despair, until the schedule was just too exhausting. For the next five years, Glenn worked “regular” hours for an insurance environment, helping to sort through behavioral health claims. Later, missing his conversations with patients, Glenn accepted a role with a healthcare company, where first-call resolution, as opposed to continuing conversations, became the corporate norm.
In 2011, a friend showed Glenn a newspaper story about a company called Accolade, a company focused on building long-term relationships with individuals and their family members covered under health plans. With three openings for Behavioral Health Assistants just posted, Glenn applied and was soon hired. He’s been one of the company’s greatest advocates since, a man who, in Accolade, finally found the perfect environment for his own passions and talents.
Six years later, Glenn is one of three stewards on the nearly two-dozen person Accolade Behavioral Health team. Composed of psychiatric nurses, social workers, and counselors, the team is profoundly well equipped to work with Accolade members experiencing depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol addiction, autism, eating disorders, and any other behavioral health challenge.
There are days when team members answer the phone and encounter a potential suicide. Days when a member’s struggle to manage anger precipitates a call. Days when a mother simply does not know where to turn for a child who is cutting or not eating. All of this is part of the world that Glenn now fully inhabits.
As a steward, Glenn makes sure that his team members have everything they need to get through days that can be deeply intense and meaningful. “The people on my team have challenging jobs,” Glenn says. “Every day they’re taking part in emotional and draining conversations. They need someone who can be a stabilizing force and have their back if questions come up.”
Meanwhile, Glenn continues to maintain a small group of clients—people in whose stories and care he remains deeply invested. He tells the story of one gentleman who, at the age of 63, experienced an onset of Bipolar I, something that typically emerges in college-age individuals. The man had been newly confrontational at work when he was asked to contact Accolade by his manager. He’d become a threat to his own career, his marriage, his relationship to his children. He was spending money at a frightening clip.
“I listened to him during that first call—his way of speaking, his patterns of thought—and it was clear to me that he was manic,” Glenn said. “I suggested treatment options, but he refused to follow through. I tried to help him see how much damage he was doing to those around him, but this was one of the worst manic phases I’d ever seen.”
Over the course of three months, Glenn kept trying. Throughout all that time, the client refused to follow through on suggested treatments, though he committed to staying in touch with Glenn. Finally, the client agreed to see a new doctor Glenn had found. That doctor, and the client’s adherence to the treatment, changed everything.
“This gentleman has gone through such a remarkable transformation,” Glenn says. “He understands the importance of the treatment he is receiving and is committed to seeing it through. He’s kept his first job and is now working a second to help compensate for the financial losses he accrued. His daughters are talking to him again. He’s been allowed to see his grandson, to babysit him alone, even. He’s in couples therapy with his wife.”
This interaction, says Glenn, has been one of the most fulfilling in his professional career. “I couldn’t have made this impact anywhere else,” he says. “I couldn’t have done it in a hospital, because once a patient is discharged, psychiatric nurses won’t see him again until there is a relapse. I couldn’t have done it in an environment in which first-call resolution is the primary goal. I could have only done this at Accolade, where long-term relationships are encouraged and resources are well-developed and we’re given the time and the room to keep trying until a good solution is found.”
Having been on the forefront of so many calls, Glenn is happy to support others like him on the Accolade team. “There is so much good that we can achieve each day,” he says. “I’m in this for the long haul.”
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