Simon and Garfunkel – an Anthem to Advocacy

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OK, yes, I’m dating myself…  One of my favorite Simon and Garfunkel songs is Bridge Over Troubled Water. I’ve been humming it repeatedly over the last few weeks, and last week, we let the advocacy world know why.

When you’re down and out
When you’re on the street
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you (ooo)
I’ll take your part, oh, when darkness comes
And pain is all around
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

The lyrics – are like an anthem about advocacy, aren’t they?  The idea that one person can help another person by creating a bridge over the problems, to make the path to the other side smoother. It’s the work advocates do every day, proudly, passionately, and most often with incredibly positive results.

Beyond the lyrics, the metaphorical bridge goes even further, which is what has prompted the song to run through my head most recently.

So – what happened last week?

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Successes, Failures, and My Biggest Surprise

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12 years. While on the one hand, 12 years seems like a looong time, on the other hand, it has gone by in the blink of an eye.

I’m referring to the 12 years I’ve focused my professional life on building the profession of independent health and patient advocacy, having made the decision in 2007 to begin building an online presence for advocates through the AdvoConnection Directory website. It eventually launched in Fall 2009* and evolved to become The Alliance of Professional Health Advocates.

So I’ve been giving thought to what I consider to be our biggest successes, biggest failures, and biggest surprises during this time, and that’s what I’m sharing with you today. These are my own opinion, of course!  You might make other choices. See what you think:

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Licensed, Certified, Uppercase, lowercase: Where Are You?

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Andrea is confused, and if Andrea is confused, others among you are, too. She’s just the one who asked. (You might want to thank her!)

Andrea posted a comment on a previous APHA Blog post called Revisiting the Mean Girls in Our New Advocacy Environment asking me to follow up now that we have certification for Patient Advocates.  Her confusion (excerpted, but you can read it all here):

In my opinion, the PACB certification does not nullify or restrict a state license in nursing. It feels like these two knowledge bases go hand in hand. I cannot find any information on your caution to RNs to “specifically NOT promote their work as being nurse-related, and not to cross the line”. I see nothing in the linked ethics or competencies that restricts any kind of nursing interventions other than prescribing medications, and actual medical diagnoses. 

In other words, I believe she is asking, “Why can’t I be a nurse and a patient advocate, too?”

And the answer is…. (drumroll please….)

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Independent Advocacy’s Three-Legged Stool of Success

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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.

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The Sinkhole

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Regular readers of this blog know a couple of things about me.

For one thing, they know I live in Florida, having moved here from Upstate NY two years ago, no longer willing to freeze my cabungus off during the winter. (Or, as my husband phrases it, “you don’t have to shovel 90 degrees!”)

They also know many of my blog posts are metaphorical, based on inspiration I get from my daily life which at times is well, yes, pretty darn metaphorical!

And thus we set the stage for today’s post – The Sinkhole. Pure Florida. Pure Metaphor. See what you think.

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