What Health Advocacy Is, What It Isn’t, and Why Most of It Can’t Be Taught

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One of the websites offered by APHA is a listing of all advocacy educational programs (that we know about).  There are programs offered by colleges and universities, private programs, organizational programs, mentors, and more. Some require in-person attendance, some are offered online. Their quality varies, and their results vary….

Often I hear from someone who tells me they have looked over the available programs, but can’t find what they need. What they are looking for doesn’t seem to exist. Or, here is what they want to learn, and will I tell them whether such-and-such a program will teach them that?

Typically what they want to know boils down to this:  Which program will give them the formula for success?  Which one will provide the protocols, and the processes, and the check-off list of things to do?  Which one is the magic, silver bullet that will shift them from employment today, to successful self-employment as an advocate tomorrow?

To which I answer:  ALL of them. And NONE of them.

Here is the problem:  for most of those who ask, they really don’t get what independent advocacy is. They have this idea in their heads that it’s that magical world where they will get to be the advocates they want to be – because they are. “I’ve been an advocate all my life; now I just want to get paid for it,” they tell me. “My hospital won’t let me tell patients what they really need to know, so if I do this on my own, I can change that.” Or other variations on those themes.

Here’s the point I think they are missing:  Continue Reading →

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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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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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Can’t Decide?

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Today’s post will be short and sweet (for a change.)

It’s about making a decision. It applies to ALL decision-making processes.  It popped up in the past week several times, in these scenarios:

  • Conversation with an APHA PACE member. She could not decide whether to quit her job to start her practice.
  • Conversation with an APHA Premium +ADL member. His potential new client could not decide whether to sign a contract with him.
  • Conversation with a potential APHA member: She could not decide whether to join APHA or buy The Health Advocate’s Start and Grow Your Own Practice Handbook.
  • Visiting friends’ conversation: Should we go out to dinner or eat in tonight?

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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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The 2017 Advocates’ Challenges

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Since I started this blog, and as each new year begins, I try to think of ways to challenge advocate-readers (and advocate-wannabe-readers) with ways they can improve their work, their results for clients, and their businesses, too.

This year, that task is so very simple.  Unfortunately, that’s not the good news. Sadly, it’s more like the bad news.

Bad news – because this year’s challenges all come from complaints and problems I’ve been asked to respond to – or even fix – in just the past few months. Oh how I dislike this part of my work!  I hate dealing with complaints – hearing them from people who feel they have been wronged, attempting to be reassuring, defending some of the actions they think were wrong….  And I hate fixing problems, no matter whether I caused them myself, or they have to be fixed for someone else. I suspect you feel exactly the same way.

My biggest concern, which you’ll understand as you read this post, is that not attending to these problems may invite even bigger ones.

So today I’m going to address three of them, all of which YOU can pay attention to, and make sure you’re doing them right yourself. They set the stage for this year’s challenges, turning negatives into positives. There are lessons – and challenges – here for us all. Continue Reading →

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