Twice in the past week, I heard from people whose APHA memberships expired, explaining why they didn’t renew. In both cases excuses in the form of complaints about their memberships were made. A little bit of research turned up the facts that those complaints were at least misguided. I responded to each of them about their frustrations. In both cases, they felt insulted.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I receive criticism and suggestions on a regular basis, sometimes including good, usable, feedback. I’m always appreciative of constructive feedback and ideas even if it’s in the form of criticism. That’s how we improve the benefits APHA offers.
Further, I recognize there are many reasons someone might not want to renew a membership. Sometimes health challenges have gotten in the way. Sometimes someone just decides independent advocacy wasn’t a good fit for them. Most of the time I hear nothing at all.
But that’s not what these exchanges were. In both cases they were making excuses by using APHA membership as the whipping post. Not kosher.
Where have they been for the past year? Why did they wait until their memberships expired to complain? I wonder how they think they can be good advocates for other people if they don’t even advocate for themselves?
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.
When I decided for the first time in the 1980s to go into business for myself, my father thought I was crazy. “Why would you want to work 12 hours a day for yourself when you can work 8 hours a day for somebody else?” he asked.
“Because they are the 12 hours I choose, Dad! I might work 12 hours today, but I can work just 4 tomorrow, or even take the day off… my choice! And – I get to do what *I* want to do.”
My response was intended to help Dad better understand the flexibility of being self-employed.
But he didn’t really get it. Not then anyway. And, it turns out, neither did I.
To many people, it seems like the working-person’s nirvana: the notion that when you are self-employed, you work for yourself, call all your own shots, and can be as flexible as you want to be. No boss to lord over you or to require you do things you would rather not do. No having to call in sick if you don’t feel well enough to work. No co-workers who drive you nuts. No having to work with nasty people. No having to justify knocking off early one day, or taking a long weekend – or not even working at all.
Freedom… flexibility…. the ultimate way to make a living!
But the truth is – that flexibility is often a crock. It’s a figment of the soon-to-be self-employed person’s imagination.
Turns out – Dad was at least partially right. Today I’ll share with you some important distinctions that neither of us realized then, but have become so very apparent since.
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.
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!