More on the Paralysis of Analysis – It’s All About the “M” Words

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Last week’s post about the Paralysis of Analysis – the situation that many almost-professional private patient advocates find themselves in – those who hesitate to take that last step – the step of reaching out to new people and asking for payment for their services – the switch from volunteer (I can do this, I’ve done it dozens of times before) to paid professional, in business, make no excuses, doin’ it for a living paid patient advocacy….

It really struck a nerve.

One advocate wrote and asked whether I’d been reading her diary.  Another said she felt like Robert DeNiro in Taxi Driver (“You talkin’ to ME?”) A dozen posts in the AdvoConnection Forum (undoubtedly representing dozens of others who read those posts but didn’t comment themselves) indicated that yes – guilty as charged – they just can’t do it.

What’s “do it”?  They just can’t ask for money. They’ve been helping others for free for years, either loved ones or friends – and they hesitate to make that leap from volunteer to paid professional.

I understand that!  It’s hard to ask for money in the same ways it’s hard to toot your own horn by telling the world about your successes.  Asking for money for your professional expertise is a lot like bragging – and of course – as we were raised, we were all told not to brag! This is particularly true for women, those of us who have grown up in a society where our contributions and hard work have often been undervalued. (I note that none of the emails or Forum posts came from men…. )

So how is it that some advocates HAVE been able to make the leap successfully?  What do they know, and what are they doing – and doing well – that others just can’t bring themselves to do?

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Just Can’t Throw Your Business Switch? The Paralysis of Analysis

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See if this describes you:

You’ve been thinking about becoming a private health or patient advocate for awhile.  You know you can do it, you truly WANT to do it, you know people need help with their medical system challenges…

But something, undefined, just holds you back.

You may have taken courses in patient or health advocacy.  Maybe you’ve been a volunteer advocate for your family members, or friends. Everyone you know thinks it’s a great step for you.  You’ve connected with others who want to be advocates.  You’re quite good at getting at the heart of challenges patients face so you aren’t too concerned about whether you could actually do the work.

But something, you’re not sure what, just holds you back… You just can’t seem to make that leap from being a volunteer who steps in to help, to being a professional, privately-paid, patient advocate or navigator in your own private patient advocacy practice.

Sound familiar?

This is a conversation I have frequently with almost-advocates.  The most recent was this week with a PACE member of AdvoConnection, one of the most knowledgeable advocates I know.  But she hasn’t flipped that switch yet.  No – so far – she just hasn’t officially opened her practice.  She just hasn’t thrown that switch.

It’s called the paralysis of analysis – our tendency to over think, to worry that we’re not doing something exactly right, to be concerned that we’ve missed some important detail…. to the point where it stops us in our tracks.

The good news? There IS a cure. The bad news?  That paralysis of analysis keeps us from pursuing that cure, actually makes us do things we would never do otherwise and, worst of all, prevents those patients we would help from finding us and getting the help they need.

In other words – if you are among the paralyzed, there are people getting sicker or poorer because you haven’t thrown that switch.

There are a number of reasons I’ve been able to identify that cause the paralysis of analysis, and they are all about questioning one’s capabilities:

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Recognizing Private Professional Patient Advocates

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This is it! 

Private Professional Patient Advocate Week (PPPAW)  is recognized this week, March 11 to 17, 2012. It’s a time to  help patients and caregivers learn the many ways they can benefit from the assistance of private patient and health advocates and navigators.

This year there are 21 people participating as featured advocates on the special website developed for them.  They have shared stories about their successes, and we invite media to contact them and interview not only these fine advocates, but the patients and caregivers they have helped, too.

A sample of stories:

  • A man who contacted one advocate on behalf of his brother, a disabled Vietnam Veteran with PTSD and substance abuse problems.
  • A grandson who lives in New York City needed help for his grandmother in Tampa, Florida and called upon an advocate who could provide peace of mind for the entire family.
  • A career woman who met with pain, short-term memory loss and other troubling symptoms and could not get a diagnosis, until she contacted an advocate who helped find the right answer – multiple sclerosis.
  • A gentleman who was enjoying a cruise with his children and grandchilden,when his health deteriorated to the point where the family needed to call in help during the vacation…. This advocate flew to his bedside at an island hospital to help him get the medical assistance he needed.

… and many more great stories…

In each case, these advocates are finding that their attention to the details of their clients’ stories, their ability to listen carefully (beyond what most providers have time for, their knowledge of the health care system and ability to work around it) their great problem solving skills and creativity, and mostly, their passion for helping these folks who need their help so desperately – all of it is paying off.  It’s win-win for the patients, their caregivers and the advocates, too.

If you haven’t already done so, take a look at the Private Professional Patient Advocates Week website.

Learn a great new metaphor for the work we patient advocates do.

And pass the word to friends, families and co-workers about the excellent work these advocates – and others – are doing every day.


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SHE Has a Name and Deserves Respect

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Shirley, my childhood best-friend’s mother, is in her late 80s.  She was quite healthy until a few years ago when she began an ongoing round of very difficult medical problems.  She has had surgery, chemo, myriad tests and treatments…. bottom line, she is sick of being sick, and she’s tired of the “if it isn’t one thing, it’s the next” of her life.

Her daughter has been a stalwart advocate for Shirley, driving 90 minutes each way, week-in and week-out for years. She attends all her mother’s appointments, takes notes, asks questions, fills prescriptions – in short, all those things we do as advocates, which many of us can relate to.

I check in with them both every couple of weeks to see how things are going, to share family stories, to catch up on their lives. One such call happened yesterday…  and yielded a point I knew instantly needed to be shared with you.  One so important, I’ve written about it on my blog, too. Shirley’s report:

“You know – when the doctor is talking, he talks to my daughter – and calls me “She.”  He doesn’t talk to me!  He talks to her, as if I’m not even in the room.”

I can only imagine how insulting this must feel to Shirley – or any patient who is being discussed as if he or she isn’t present.  Further, it’s entirely possible the doctor has no idea how he is coming across to her.

I’m going to guess you have witnessed this, too.  In fact, some of you have done the same thing.  In particular with an elderly person, or a patient with dementia, or certainly a young child, it’s so easy to have a conversation with a spouse or adult child or some other caregiver, and discuss the patient as if he or she isn’t present.

But, when it comes to any adult patient who is conscious and able to comprehend the discussion, it is highly disrespectful.  These patients are not objects to be discussed.  They are living, breathing, intelligent human beings.  You are discussing THEIR bodies, THEIR health, THEIR diagnoses, THEIR treatment needs, THEIR lifestyle changes – and those questions and discussions need to include and embrace them as contributors to the conversation.

My suggestion to Shirley was that she speak up – that she ask a question, or politely remind the doctor that she’s part of the conversation.  Her daughter is not a professional advocate – she’s a daughter.  She wouldn’t know to command respect for her mom.

But you, as a private patient advocate or health navigator can make a conscious effort to include your client in the conversation, whether other participants include providers, or family members or other professional caregivers.  I suspect there might even be a ripple effect – more cooperation, better adherence, improved quality of life.

And while you’re at it?  Don’t call your client HONEY either!) Here’s more about standing up for your patients without upsetting his or her providers: Standing Up for Our Patients – Those Aretha Franklin Moments  

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The 2012 Schueler Patient Advocacy Compass Award Winner Is…

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Announcing the 2012 winner* of the Schueler Patient Advocacy Compass Award…

Elisabeth Russell of Patient Navigator in Vienna, Virginia.  Congratulations Elisabeth!

Elisabeth was the unanimous choice of the selection committee – although – the choice was not an easy one to make.  All applicants were outstanding examples of excellence in their service to their clients.  Competition was stiff. There were no wrong choices.

A few excerpts from Elisabeth’s application:

Patient Empowerment:

Patient-empowerment is the reason I wrote the series of “Roadmaps” that is available on my website. They are self-contained guides in the areas of Medical Management, Advocacy and Patient Education, Resources Available to You, and Insurance. Each is richly sourced to launch a client on his/her way to becoming their own best advocate.

Mentoring others who are considering advocacy as a profession:

Over the past five years, I have answered hundreds of inquiries from individuals hoping to become patient navigators or advocates… I quickly saw from all of the inquiries I receive that I needed to harness the wide range of experience, expertise and passion that folks were sharing with me. In 2009, I created a Linked-In “Patient Navigator” professional networking group. The group now has 792 members and is going strong.


These, among other attributes that were so important to Ken Schueler, and the profession of patient advocacy, were some of the reasons the committee chose Elisabeth for this year’s honor.

So what does Elisabeth win?  To further her commitment to her clients and growing her business, her Premium membership in AdvoConnection will be extended an extra year, she will have the right to use the winner’s logo in her marketing, and we will issue press releases to her local media to advise them of her award.

Learn more about the Schueler Patient Advocacy Award, the attributes the selection committee reviewed, and while you’re at it, consider applying for next year’s award.  We’ll begin reminders next Fall.

Once again, and on behalf of the selection committee – congratulations, Elisabeth!


(*You may remember that the intent is to award two advocates each year – one with a clinical background and one without.  Elisabeth is our non-clinical winner.  No advocates with a clinical background applied.)


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