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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Chutzpah! Know When It Crosses the Line

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chutzpahOne of my favorite words:  Chutzpah!  Pronounced “hoots-pah.” A Yiddish word translated as “shameless audacity” or “supreme self-confidence,” as in (according to Merriam-Webster) “personal confidence or courage that allows someone to do or say things that may seem shocking to others.”

….  and sometimes a trait required by the most effective of health and patient advocates.

  • Do you have chutzpah?
  • And more importantly, do you know how and when to use it?

I ask this because I think there are appropriate times, and inappropriate times, when an advocate needs to showcase his or her chutzpah.  Lately I have experienced both, and I wonder how that translates to its use for clients.  I know some of you experience it, too.

Having chutzpah, and being able to use it, means you have enough confidence in what you are asking for that you believe you are entitled to, or possibly deserving of the outcome you request.

An example: your elderly client is in the hospital, sharing a room, and a single room comes open across the hall. You know your client would be much happier in that single room, so you ask to have him moved. Of course, they have already determined that someone else who is private pay is going to get that room, but you make the case (just enough of a stink) and ultimately your client finds himself alone in that single room.  Yes, you demonstrated your chutzpah. Now your client is happier.

Another client-related example might be when that same client gets the bill for that single hospital room, which wasn’t approved by Medicare, and for which you now argue with the billing department to have the extra charges removed from his bill.  After all, you believe it was crucial to his ability to heal.  And, oh, by the way, you’ll do your best to be sure he doesn’t need to return to the hospital within that 30 day window, meaning they won’t lose money on his readmission. <<wink wink>>

That’s chutzpah!  But – does it cross a line? Is it more like bribery? or blackmail?  or….  ?

That’s the big question.  Where is the line? And is it appropriate to cross it?

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