You’ve been thinking about becoming a private health or patient advocate for awhile. You know you can do it, you truly WANT to do it, you know people need help with their medical system challenges…
But something, undefined, just holds you back.
You may have taken courses in patient or health advocacy. Maybe you’ve been a volunteer advocate for your family members, or friends. Everyone you know thinks it’s a great step for you. You’ve connected with others who want to be advocates. You’re quite good at getting at the heart of challenges patients face so you aren’t too concerned about whether you could actually do the work.
But something, you’re not sure what, just holds you back… You just can’t seem to make that leap from being a volunteer who steps in to help, to being a professional, privately-paid, patient advocate or navigator in your own private patient advocacy practice.
This is a conversation I have frequently with almost-advocates. The most recent was this week with a PACE member of AdvoConnection, one of the most knowledgeable advocates I know. But she hasn’t flipped that switch yet. No – so far – she just hasn’t officially opened her practice. She just hasn’t thrown that switch.
It’s called the paralysis of analysis – our tendency to over think, to worry that we’re not doing something exactly right, to be concerned that we’ve missed some important detail…. to the point where it stops us in our tracks.
The good news? There IS a cure. The bad news? That paralysis of analysis keeps us from pursuing that cure, actually makes us do things we would never do otherwise and, worst of all, prevents those patients we would help from finding us and getting the help they need.
In other words – if you are among the paralyzed, there are people getting sicker or poorer because you haven’t thrown that switch.
There are a number of reasons I’ve been able to identify that cause the paralysis of analysis, and they are all about questioning one’s capabilities:
1. Some people are afraid to throw the switch because they don’t know if they are really prepared. So, as a clear avoidance behavior, they decide to take new courses – either focusing on advocacy or focusing on business (one such almost-advocate decided to enroll in an MBA program!) Then that becomes the excuse: “I’ll go into business once I’m finished with my course or program.”
2. Some people are afraid to let go of their current position and paycheck. So they continue to put off their dreams and get even more frustrated each day they postpone what they really want to do. Instead of using work as an excuse, their avoidance excuse is comprised of triggers: “If I don’t get a raise, then….” or “If I have to work through lunch one more time, then….” And when their trigger actually happens? They think of a new one.
3. Some people are afraid to begin asking for money to do work they have volunteered to do up until this point. How can they possibly ask someone to pay them for something they have always done out of the goodness of their hearts? That’s the paralysis of devaluing one’s capabilities. We’re afraid that “you get what you pay for” might be too true, as if, as volunteers, what we offered was worthless, but since we didn’t charge for it, it doesn’t matter. Their avoidance is a value proposition: “If I actually charge money, then people will expect me to take care of them.” Never mind that they are very good at doing just that.
You may have your own reasons for not throwing that switch. But they are all just excuses. Your analysis (or more like your lack of confidence) is causing you to pause unnecessarily. And patients are getting sicker, or paying too much for their healthcare, because they don’t know you can help them.
So what IS the cure? With all due respect to Nike: Just Do It.
1. The beauty of jumping in with both feet is that it will help you figure out what knowledge gaps you have, what you wish you knew more about. If a client needs something you can’t provide, then there are many other advocates you can connect with who can help you out. In fact, one business model would be for you to always refer and never do the work yourself. So – nope – lack of advocacy knowledge not a good enough excuse. Nor is lack of business knowledge, because there are just so many ways to get that and be supported in our businesses.
2. If you are stuck in a job that is not providing the self-satisfaction you need, then when will you leave it, if not today? If you believe you are too dependent on the paycheck, then ask your boss or HR department about some alternatives – like working part time, or taking a leave of absence. Or look at it another way – months or years from now it will be even more difficult to start working for yourself then it is today. You’ll be older, you’ll have more responsibilities, or the requirements to become a private advocate will be stricter. You never want to think, “I only wish I had done that sooner….” There has never been a better time than today to throw that switch.
3. And what about telling people you’re going to charge them for your services? You are forgetting that there are plenty of people out there who have no idea that you have previously volunteered to help family and friends – and will happily pay you to help make sense of a non-sensical healthcare system. What you do (or have done in the past) for family and friends has nothing to do with what you do with your business. (Do you think Joe the Pizza King charges his mother for a pizza? Well – that doesn’t stop him from asking YOU to pay for a pizza! Do you think Nadine the hair stylist gets paid for cutting her kids’ hair? But YOU pay her!) And, APHA members know that there are some great resources for figuring out how much to charge, and how to charge it, within the APHA site. So – there you go – that’s not an excuse either.
Among PACE members of APHA, those who are either just exploring the possibility of becoming private patient advocates, or those who are in the early stages of their businesses, about 20% actually throw that switch in the first year of membership. (They upgrade to real “I’m-in-business-have-my-business-cards-am-part-of-the-directory-and-doing-some-marketing-and-taking-on-clients” advocates – they become Premium members.)
My educated guesstimate is that another 20-30% of you are ready to do so – but are caught in the paralysis of analysis stage.
Let’s talk about it! What will it take for you to invoke Nike – and just do it?
(I’m shutting off comments here at the blog … this is a conversation for the AdvoConnection Forum… let’s shore up your confidence so you, too, can throw that switch!)
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