(Updated: June 2017)
Not a week goes by that someone doesn’t write to me asking about patient advocacy certification. It’s confusing, because they read that there are courses that will help them become certified, and then they find other pieces I have written about the lack of a certification system.
So it’s time to clarify: There is a difference between earning a certificate – and being certified, even if Merriam Webster might tell you those two concepts are related.
“To be certified” carries with it an assumption that there is some sort of national (even international) standard set of skills, recognition, accreditation, or competencies and criteria that someone has met,developed or earned. As if a national body of some sort has said “Yes – this person meets this high standard of education and capability, so we are blessing him or her with our certification.” “To be certified” may even mean to some people that some sort of governmental recognition in the form of a license or listing has taken place.
But there are no governments, nor nationally respected, nor generally accepted groups that have determined a group of standards, nor benchmarks, nor capabilities that supply a certification that is universally recognized. And that is the key: none are universally recognized.
No such a certification exists – yet.*
The confusion comes from the fact… that there is a growing group of educational organizations, running workshops, webinars, courses and programs that culminate in a certificate of completion.
It’s great that so many institutions are teaching people to become professional patient advocates! However… The certificate earned by taking one of these programs is only a certificate that says someone completed those programs. It does NOT say that person meets any nationally, or internationally recognized standards.
Don’t get me wrong. Many of these programs are excellent, because patient advocates are building their skills and knowledge, and because their work grows our profession. But those certificates don’t stand up to each other. Someone earning a certificate from one institution or group has not learned or developed, nor can they then apply to their client-patients, an equal skill set to those who have earned a certificate from another group. Read more about the alignment between patient or health advocate certification and educational programs.
So – the answer for now is – NO – there is no nationally recognized and respected patient advocacy certification for private, independent patient advocates.
* (Although, yes – there is a certification credential being created by the Patient Advocate Certification Board that will become that nationally recognized standard. You can see their progress here, and even sign up for notices as they progress in their work.)
If you are a patient or caregiver, don’t be fooled into thinking that just because someone has completed one of these programs, that they are recognized to have met any standardized set of criteria. If an advocate claims to be certified, ask about that certification to be sure you are clear on what they have achieved.
If you are a patient advocate, you should be aware that it could create a problem for you AND a problem for the profession if you actually call yourself a “certified patient advocate” even when you have completed a course that resulted in receipt of a certificate of completion.
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