The Dirty Dozen Skills, Abilities, and Attributes of Successful Health and Patient Advocates and Care Managers – Part I

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That’s quite a title for a blog post, don’t you think? I’ve been working on this one for awhile, and it seems to have taken on a life of its own. In fact, it’s so long, I’ve now divided it into four parts.

Further, you’re about to learn is that I can’t count. I call it the “dirty dozen” because it’s a catchy title and it will compel you to link here to read the post (You’ll read more about this in Part III !). But it’s really a list of 16 (yes, 16!) skills, tasks, and attributes that the most successful advocates are, and employ.

Which of these describe you and your abilities?  Which of them don’t?  Where do you go from here? Do your own assessment! 

 

Part I:  Attributes of Success Health/Patient Advocates and Care Managers

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The Birdcage: How to Ruin a First Impression

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Many readers know that my husband and I moved last year to Florida from Upstate NY, where – yes, thank you! – we have truly enjoyed this winter. No shoveling, mostly mild temperatures, lots of sun, and golf! – a big change from the past many winters.

So here in our new home in Florida we’ve decided to bring some of the outdoors in. Or maybe we’re going to take some of our indoors out. Whichever way you look at it, we’re getting ready to build a “birdcage,” a screened room which will be attached to the back of our house.

We began by soliciting estimates from four different birdcage builders, inviting them over to discuss our project.

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Channeling Mary Kay

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I heard from a gentleman this week who represents many of you. Specifically, he was trying to decide whether to pursue becoming an independent patient advocate – or not – because he wasn’t sure if he knew enough to be able to handle every client situation that comes his way.

He wanted a pep talk. He wanted me to convince him he knows enough.

Yes, it was time to invoke one of my favorite quotations, provided to us by Mary Kay Ash (presumably when she wasn’t out washing her pink Cadillac)

“If you think you can, you can. If you think you can’t, you’re right.”

The truth is – it’s not really that simple. In fairness, self-doubt about the ability to do anything new plagues all of us. Whether it was your first job babysitting or bagging groceries, or you’re changing careers at mid-life, or even starting up an encore career at age 60+…  you’re putting yourself out there, you’re testing your own mettle, and you’re taking a risk. The very definition of risk taking means it could go badly. 

But something about his question quite bothered me. It noodled around in my head for a little while, and the more I thought about it, the more I realized he had asked the wrong question.

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“Health Advocate” vs “Patient Advocate”: 7 Reasons the Debate Is a Waste of Time

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Although you may not realize it, there is a debate raging about titles in advocacy. 

I chose this topic today not because I have an opinion on THE right title; rather because I think the debate is a waste of time, and is a distraction from the more important work of helping people understand how advocates and care managers can help them.

The debate is this:  Should we be called Health Advocates?  Or should we be called Patient Advocates?

It might surprise you to know that some people not only have very definite opinions on the answer to that question, but that they argue the point for hours at a time. In my (not so) humble opinion, for every hour they argue, they could instead have promoted advocacy and the many benefits to working with an advocate – no matter what he or she is called.

Here are the reasons I think this argument is a waste of time:

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Sleep Deprivation Spells Opportunity – and Responsibility

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Saturday night (well, OK, in the wee hours of Sunday morning) across most of the US and Canada, we “sprung forward” our clocks, resulting in lost sleep, and at least a day of being totally thrown off because the day seemed… well…. just weird. Since most of us don’t work on a Sunday, the day of adjustment helped us acclimate, and then – life goes on with a longer day of sunshine through next Fall.

But what if you had to lose that sleep every few days, then re-acclimate every few days?  What if you spent your life in a constant battle with the time of day, and the loss of sleep? What if you had to put in 28 hour days of work and then, somehow, try to catch up on your sleep, returning just 8 hours later to do it all again?

And then what if your job was brand new and involved saving lives, because you were a first-year resident doctor (no, they don’t call them interns anymore)… and your patients, who were hospitalized so YOU could take care of THEM, were constantly at the mercy of your lack of sleep?

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A Career, a Profession, and a Calling with Responsibility, Too

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Most of us working as advocates apply the word “profession” to our work.  Those who have been advocates for a longer period of time might tell you it has turned into a career.

I often hear from new advocates, or those who wannabe advocates that they feel that this profession of advocacy (or what might evolve for them to a career of advocacy) is also a calling.  So let’s look at that word “calling” for a minute.

Merriam Webster tells us that a calling is:

a strong inner impulse toward a particular course of action especially when accompanied by conviction of divine influence

Amen.

So now let’s look at “divine influence” – because recognizing divine influence, then acting on it, becomes a huge turning point in one’s life.

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It’s That Time of the Year – Income Taxes! for You and Your Clients

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Nothing thought provoking or brain-straining in this week’s post. Instead you may want to bookmark it (favorite it) and come back to it when it’s time to do your taxes, or print it or send a link to clients and former clients to help them with theirs…

Yes – it’s time to look at preparing our income tax statements for Uncle Sam (or even Justin Trudeau!) How does our paid work affect our taxes or our clients’?

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Repeal of the ACA… So Now What Should We Do?

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Last week marked the inauguration of the 45th president of the United States. No matter your feelings about him or his politics, he’s here to stay, presumably for the next four years, alongside a Republican majority in Congress.

The first order of business?  Repealing the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare), the legislation under which many of us are able to get, and afford, healthcare insurance, and access to the care we need. With the stroke of a pen, the icing on the repeal cake was completed within the first few hours of the new president taking office. Congress had already baked the cake’s layers just a few days before.

The predictions about the effect of this rollback are dire not just for those who depend on ACA insurance, but for all Americans. The non-political Congressional Budget Office estimates 18 million people may lose not just their health insurance, but their ability to get health insurance, too, amid new discussions about pre-existing conditions and high-risk pools.

We hear those politicians say they plan to improve the situation, that insurance will become more affordable, that they won’t take away the ability of Americans to access care. Lots of talk, but so far nothing that looks like a real, implementable plan. Just lots of speculation.

So what are we left with?

The status of healthcare delivery in America has never been in such a state of flux as it is today.

Whether or not you are insured through the ACA yourself, whether or not you have clients who are insured through the ACA, as health and patient advocates we have to ask ourselves, “So what should we do now? How do we help our clients? How does this change our services?”

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