One of my favorite things about patient advocates and navigators is that they are very generous, kind and giving people. They figure out what needs to be done, and they step up to the plate to do it.
But one of my frustrations with patient advocates is that some are too generous, too kind, too giving. Too many have never learned where to draw limits, how to assess when they’ve taken on too much, or are in danger of taking on too much. They just don’t know how or when they “need to (say) no.”
Conversations with two APHA members remind me of this. And it’s worth sharing with you because it may give you the kick in the backside needed to learn to say no when you know you should. Sometime before you begin dropping all those balls you’re juggling.
One case is an advocate who I will call Molly. (We have no members named Molly, so don’t try to figure out who I’m talking about!) She lamented the fact that she just didn’t have enough work, and was worried about keeping her business afloat – yet – she told me how busy she was with clients. I finally figured out that all those clients were people she was helping for free. They needed help, they could not afford to pay her, so she just began helping them anyway.
How very generous! Remarkably generous, really. And I applaud her for that – except – in effect, she was volunteering her way right out of business. All her time was being spent helping those folks for free, instead of doing marketing, making phone calls, drumming up some speaking opportunities – tasks that could help bring in paying business.
Not to mention the level of stress (and loss of sleep) when we are not only overworked, but worried that business isn’t going well.
“But,” you say. “Those people need help too!” And I agree. But there needs to be a point where you realize that if you spend your time working for free, and don’t stick to building your business, you will go out of business. At that point, you can’t help anyone all. No one. Not on a paid basis OR on a volunteer basis, because you will have to go out and get a job that will make up the difference. It’s not worth it.