When Granny Doesn’t Want to Cross the Street

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You have probably heard that old joke about a Boy Scout who was determined to help a little old lady cross the street. After a number of attempts and iterations, he finally picked her up and carried her to the other side of the street, set her down on the sidewalk, and left, having completed his good deed.

But the joke was really on him – because the lady had no interest in getting to the other side. She had wanted to stay right where she was.

We frequently receive requests to take Granny across the street. They come in the form of Unmet Needs requests from well-meaning friends and family who want an advocate to help someone they care about.

Too many of those patients are just like the little old lady, and too many advocates are trying to play the role of the Boy Scout.

How?

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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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Powerful, Useful, and Beneficial — From HBO’s Vice Media: Patient Advocates Can Save Your Money and Your Life

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In April of this year, patient advocates convened in San Diego for the APHA Summits to mix and mingle, learn, and talk shop…

Joining us was the video crew from HBO’s Vice News, led by producer Amanda Pisetzner – a delightful group of young people, with so much talent and enthusiasm, asking great questions…

They worked in the background during our networking event, and separately they met with two of our advocates, AnnMarie McIlwain, and Karen Vogel, as they conducted their important work. The crew even met with client-patients who AnnMarie and Karen found were willing to discuss their own situations and results…

Bottom line – the most powerful public video we’ve seen, creating a very clear picture of the benefits of independent advocacy and why everyone needs an advocate.

We have arrived! (Note: if you attended the San Diego Summits – you might be in the video!)

I invite you to watch it – and then I’ll share a few steps you can take, too, not just to help boost your own practice, but perhaps to find yourself the featured advocate in a future media activity.

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Help Us Assess the LoveFest!

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Once upon a time, the word “advocate” was contentious: doctors didn’t want us in the room, nurses didn’t want us next to a hospital bed, and health insurers thought we patient advocates were nothing but troublemakers.

But in recent years there seems to have been a major shift in attitudes. I’m hoping you can help us assess that.

This point came up in several recent conversations with people who have been doing advocacy work for many years; who have been able to observe attitudes for quite awhile, and who tell me they have seen this shift with their own eyes.

The shift?  From wary standoffishness – to a lovefest! 

As follows:

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B*tching and Moaning – Therapeutic and Educational

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It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s always an eyeopener and usually quite unsettling.

When done well, and handled well, it can turn out to be therapeutic, and has the potential for great opportunity.

I’m talking about moaning, groaning, complaining and yes – b*tching. Whether it’s a client complaining about an advocate, or the other way around, sometimes it’s fair and understandable, sometimes not. Sometimes it can escalate. Other times it can be diffused.

In all cases we can learn from complaints. So let’s take a look.

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