If someone asked me what question I am asked most frequently, I’d tell them the answer is some variation of this family of questions:
- How much do advocates charge for their services?
- What is the hourly rate for patient advocates?
- How much do patient advocates make?
- How much money do patient advocates get paid?
- What is the average amount a patient advocate charges?
We’ll begin by answering these questions with a question (bad form, but it makes our point…)
- How much does it cost to take a vacation?
- What does it cost to go to college?
- How much more can I make if I get a new job?
Think about those questions for a minute: they are actually kind of silly. In fact, there is only ONE answer; the same answer to the questions about advocates, cost, and pricing.
So of course, now you want to know… “Depends on what?” There are two answers:
Twice in the past week, I heard from people whose APHA memberships expired, explaining why they didn’t renew. In both cases excuses in the form of complaints about their memberships were made. A little bit of research turned up the facts that those complaints were at least misguided. I responded to each of them about their frustrations. In both cases, they felt insulted.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I receive criticism and suggestions on a regular basis, sometimes including good, usable, feedback. I’m always appreciative of constructive feedback and ideas even if it’s in the form of criticism. That’s how we improve the benefits APHA offers.
Further, I recognize there are many reasons someone might not want to renew a membership. Sometimes health challenges have gotten in the way. Sometimes someone just decides independent advocacy wasn’t a good fit for them. Most of the time I hear nothing at all.
But that’s not what these exchanges were. In both cases they were making excuses by using APHA membership as the whipping post. Not kosher.
Where have they been for the past year? Why did they wait until their memberships expired to complain? I wonder how they think they can be good advocates for other people if they don’t even advocate for themselves?
You have probably heard that old joke about a Boy Scout who was determined to help a little old lady cross the street. After a number of attempts and iterations, he finally picked her up and carried her to the other side of the street, set her down on the sidewalk, and left, having completed his good deed.
But the joke was really on him – because the lady had no interest in getting to the other side. She had wanted to stay right where she was.
We frequently receive requests to take Granny across the street. They come in the form of Unmet Needs requests from well-meaning friends and family who want an advocate to help someone they care about.
Too many of those patients are just like the little old lady, and too many advocates are trying to play the role of the Boy Scout.
When I decided for the first time in the 1980s to go into business for myself, my father thought I was crazy. “Why would you want to work 12 hours a day for yourself when you can work 8 hours a day for somebody else?” he asked.
“Because they are the 12 hours I choose, Dad! I might work 12 hours today, but I can work just 4 tomorrow, or even take the day off… my choice! And – I get to do what *I* want to do.”
My response was intended to help Dad better understand the flexibility of being self-employed.
But he didn’t really get it. Not then anyway. And, it turns out, neither did I.
To many people, it seems like the working-person’s nirvana: the notion that when you are self-employed, you work for yourself, call all your own shots, and can be as flexible as you want to be. No boss to lord over you or to require you do things you would rather not do. No having to call in sick if you don’t feel well enough to work. No co-workers who drive you nuts. No having to work with nasty people. No having to justify knocking off early one day, or taking a long weekend – or not even working at all.
Freedom… flexibility…. the ultimate way to make a living!
But the truth is – that flexibility is often a crock. It’s a figment of the soon-to-be self-employed person’s imagination.
Turns out – Dad was at least partially right. Today I’ll share with you some important distinctions that neither of us realized then, but have become so very apparent since.
In response to one of the most frequently asked questions I get as the director of The Alliance of Professional Health Advocates – I might be providing an answer you don’t expect.
That’s OK! Because if you don’t expect it, then you may hear it even more clearly than you otherwise would. And that can only be good.
I hear the basic questions in a number of formats:
- Do I need to get a degree or certificate to be a patient advocate? Followed by, “what degree” or “what courses do I need to take?”
- Do I need to be certified to be a patient advocate? or Do I need a license to be a patient advocate?
- I already have a degree in ______ (healthcare management, or nursing, or other system-related credentials) – so do I need to study anything else?
The answer that may surprise you is this:
You aren’t asking the right questions.