One of the most valuable resources any profession has is access to other people who are also invested in the interests of that profession. The internet and social media, of course, provide an opportunity to access this valuable resource on a global scale.
… Which means that participants, including professionals and the people who are striving to join their professional ranks, come from a variety of backgrounds and attitudes, environments, personalities and life views.
Now, mix that together with a specific profession – patient advocacy – where its proponents are highly passionate about their work. Add a dash of mixed opinions, and a pinch of “the rules aren’t yet written”, and what do we get?
A recipe for fireworks! Oh yes we do. And oh yes – we’ve experienced fireworks again in the AdvoConnection / Alliance Forum.
This is actually (only) the second time in the three years since we revved up the Fourm that the fireworks have gotten out of hand. The first time around, we looked at the question of Who Is Qualified to Be a Patient Advocate? It should be noted that those fireworks didn’t really accomplish much since that very question is still being debated, even today.
This time around, it began with a simple request by a new, already-in-business advocate who wanted to know whether anyone thought it was a good idea to establish a monthly membership approach to her practice, and if so, how could the pricing structure be determined?
The first few folks who responded shared what they are doing along those lines, and their success levels. Then one member, who happens to be a legal nurse consultant, suggested that such a discussion might violate the law, as if it was price fixing.
The complexion of the conversation immediately shifted, and soon we witnessed personal attacks, lawyer bashing, and downright negativity. The conversation has now been closed (although you can access it through the forum to see what was said.)
So what can we learn from these fireworks?
You might actually be surprised at my thoughts on the subject. I’ll share them – along with an invitation to you to share your thoughts below, too.
My first opinion will be no surprise and frankly, shouldn’t even need to be printed. That is: respect, and polite discourse need to be primary. No topics are off limits as long as they are legal and appropriate to patient advocacy in all its forms. But differences need to focus on points – not people. Name calling, other profession or personal bashing are not allowed – at all – in any form. Period.
My next thought, however, may be a little less expected. That is: I actually love the fireworks! (As long as they aren’t personal attacks.) I think the fireworks are what helps us learn, move forward, and clarify – all that! In this case, a very fair question was raised about whether or not we are violating the law by discussing the way we package advocacy services. Since we have members who are also lawyers, I asked them to weigh in – and they did. We all learned from the experience, we have a better idea of what our limits are, and as professionals, each person who has read the exchanges is a wiser advocate because of it. What’s not to like about that?
My last opinion on the subject is: the law, and the ethical lawyers who practice it and engage with patient advocates, are NOT our enemies. No matter how frustrated you may be with laws and lawyers, remember that the laws were established to protect our patients, and our businesses. That may not always be the outcome, and they may stand in your way, or even cause you great headaches. But sniping at the law or the legal profession does nothing to move our advocacy profession forward.
Further – taking snipes at lawyers in general does nothing to change how the law is practiced. Nor would you want it to! Think about it this way…. there are plenty of doctors who would love to snipe at how patient advocates practice our profession. Does that mean we should change the ways we help patients? Maybe it does.
But internal sniping does nothing to accomplish that. Only collaboration with those doctors does. So focus on collaboration and changing the outcomes instead.
So yes – bring on the fireworks! It helps us graduate to the next level of profession building. But make sure it stays respectful, even in the throes of dissent. We’ll all be better for it.
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