Hey Little Girls: Yes, Women Can Be Brilliant!

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(To my gentleman readers – please pardon this week’s post. You are more than welcome to read it, of course, and there will be advantages to doing so, but it’s really aimed at the females among us. That will make sense momentarily.)

This week’s post comes as a result of three experiences from the past few weeks, all reminders of the necessity of tooting one’s own horn.

We’ll set the stage with one of those experiences; that is, publication this week by the AP of this article

Little girls doubt that women can be brilliant, study shows

Now, I’m a firm believer that headlines are really only intended to suck us readers in – so I didn’t just take the headline at face value. 

I read the full article… Unfortunately, and frustratingly, the headline is a very accurate representation of the research results.  And I am appalled. 

So much so, that it made me double down on the meat of this post – to be revealed in a moment – and the reason why this matters to us as patient advocates (no matter whether we are male or female.)

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Breaking the Rules

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If you think about it for a minute, rule-breaking plays an enormous role in the life of a patient advocate.

Rule breaking – is one reason (even if it’s not the only reasons) we exist – a problem we fight. One reason we are hired.

Rule breaking – can be a success tactic – one way to win the fight.

Rule breaking – is one of the major factors that separates private, individual professional advocates from our hospital and insurance counterparts – the distinction that often makes the difference to patient-clients’ outcomes.

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It’s the #1 Reason: YDKWYDK

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They’re getting worse. Or at least it feels that way.

I’ve just spent a week away, traveling across the country for both business and pleasure.  While on the road, I’ve talked to dozens of people I’ve never met before. When the subject turned to the “what do you do for a living” question, and I answered, almost every one of them regaled me with a story – one story more surprising, frightening or tragic than the next. Either they or a loved one have been caught short by the medical care system, leading to inconvenience at the least, or debilitation, a huge financial hit, or even death at the worst.

There’s nothing new about the stories. I know you hear them frequently, too. Sadly, it has become a bigger surprise if someone doesn’t have a story than if they do.

But what disturbs me the most about this can be summed up in one word:  Volume.

Now, I have no statistics to back this up, but it seems to me that I’m hearing MORE bad, sad and ugly stories about care AND cost. Or maybe it’s just that peoples’ stories are more heinous or abhorrent than they once were.

Here are the stories from last week alone:

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Leading By Example

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Long time readers of this blog know that when it comes to private advocacy, I preach the gospel of learning to run a business.  I know – it seems counter-intuitive sometimes. But it’s true; that being a successful business owner is often less about being good at the core business, products and services one offers, and more about practicing good business tenets.

So, I have spent the last week leading by example. And today, I am so very ready to get back to working with advocates instead! 


APHA Members may remember the announcement a few months ago:

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And They Called it Puppy L-o-o-ve

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firstlove< ….cue Paul Anka or Donny Osmond…. >

….  Remember when you were a teenager in puppy love?  Oh! You couldn’t stand to be away from the new person in your life!  You knew you would love each other forever – but the rest of the world that was getting in the way of that love. THEY thought you were too young, but you knew better! ….

And they called it puppy love
Oh I guess they’ll never know
How a young heart really feels
And why I love her so

It was the highest of highs, finding love for the first time!  Like no other, you couldn’t imagine feeling any better than you felt at that point in your life.

Hormone-driven passion… the dopamine, serotonin, estrogen and testosterone… Giddy with new-found love, you took chances and made stupid decisions….

And, as happens with any risk… sometimes you got caught in compromising positions – sneaking out, passing notes in class, or even the ultimate in getting caught when you thought no one else would be home….

At the extreme you might have even paid an “ultimate” type of price. Your reputation, a teen pregnancy, a total rethinking and reshaping of your future….

Of course, what we all know about puppy love is that it doesn’t last. The reality of puppy love is that you eventually have to deal with the real world (like parents and money!) no matter how distasteful that might seem and no matter how much it appears, at the time, to shatter your dreams. Few puppy love relationships last longer than a blip on the radar of a lifetime. Yet, we learn so much from the experience.

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Cruel to Be Kind and Kind to be Cruel

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cruelI received an email from a woman named Irma. She wants to become a health advocate, to assist people in her community who have Alzheimers. (Bless her for that.)  But she was laid off from her job, and doesn’t have any money. She asked me if I would let her join Alliance of Professional Health Advocates for free so she could “learn how to do it.”

Irma’s request was not the first I’ve received over the years.  I am also asked to give people free copies of my books, and even loan or donate money to help them get started with their practices.

In the early years of building this patient advocacy profession, I used to struggle over the answers to these requests.  Should I support these folks to help them get started when they didn’t have the means to do it themselves?  If I said “yes” – would that really help them?  If I said “no” – would I be hurting them, and would I feel guilty?  How much did I owe to the profession to build a strong foundation?  How much did I owe compassionate people who want to help others?  How could I even determine which answer served the requester, the profession, the organization, or me the best? Would one answer serve them all?

It took a lot of soul searching…..

And ultimately I came to one conclusion, one point of view that helps me answer them all.

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Babbling Will Get You Nowhere

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rejectionMargaret needs help for her aging father who lives 600 miles away from her. She wants to find someone to accompany him to doctors appointments, someone who can review and organize his medical bills as they arrive, and someone who can discuss his medical needs on a three-way phone call (Dad, Margaret and an advocate) once each week.  Dad is happy with the idea and is willing to pay for the service.

The “perfect” client, right?

Here’s how I know Margaret’s story:  She sent an email to our “info” email address at AdvoConnection, asking for the best way to find an advocate.  We sent our automatic reply that explains how to use the patient’s zip code, and the services needed to find the right person in the AdvoConnection Directory.

Margaret replied that she had already done that, and had called the only advocate listed in her father’s location.  However <quote> “All she did was babble on about herself and her own medical problems. She dissed a couple of doctors in ____ (the name of the town) including Dad’s doctor who is a family friend!  I don’t want to work with her. I need someone else.”<unquote>


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Eight Hour Day? Get Paid for Sixteen

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Businesswoman juggling responsabilitiesPatient advocate Joan H. Elper has been an independent advocate for more than a year now. She has worked with seven clients during that time, and is growing her practice slowly but surely. Her focus is medical-navigational in nature, helping mostly elderly parents of the adult children who hire her understand what their doctors tell them. She also has two cancer patients who want to self-direct their care more than the doctors would like, so some of Joan’s reward comes from seeing those clients make informed decisions based on their own wants and needs, and finding that their doctors have actually respected them for it in the long run.

As she continues to build her practice, Joan sees three potential problems. First, that she has trouble scheduling her work. Some days she works 12 or 14 hours. Other days, she twiddles her thumbs. She’s afraid to grow her business because she doesn’t know what she’ll do if more clients require more than those particularly hours-heavy days. Yet – problem #2 – she’ll never make the kind of money she wants to make if she can’t take on more clients. Further – problem #3 – she really hates marketing. She’s been lucky so far because her church pastor has referred the clients she’s working with, but she knows she can’t build a business just on his referrals.

Joan has been mulling over one idea. Two of her clients have asked her to review their medical bills. Joan and those clients know there may be mistakes in those bills and they may need to be negotiated. But she turned them down because she doesn’t feel as if that’s a competency she has.

So – Joan’s great business building idea, the one that she believes will solve all three of her business problems? …

She has decided she’ll take some courses in medical billing and coding, and then she’ll have a new skill that can help her clients. Even though she has always hated math, bookkeeping and bill paying, if she knows how to do it, she’ll be able to replace those thumb-twiddling hours, she’ll be able to make more money because she won’t have to say “no” – and best yet – she won’t have to do any marketing! Bingo!  All problems solved in one swell foop.

Joan asked me – what do you think of my idea, Trisha?

Not much, I told her. (Although I let her down gently. Right direction…. unworkable solution.)

And since this is a common conversation, I thought I’d share the solution with you, too.

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