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What Does A Patient Advocate Do?

Those who choose patient advocacy as a career work closely with patients and their families to help them make informed decisions about their medical care and navigate the complexities of the health care system. Decisions about health care are among the most important ones that we make, and we often make them under particularly stressful circumstances. It is the job of the patient advocate to aid their clients in making these decisions in an informed way while simultaneously assisting the patient by relieving some of the stress of dealing with medical billing.

How Do I Become A Patient Advocate?

If you are considering a career as a patient advocate, you should first evaluate whether it is the job for you. This requires some serious self-assessment. Do you have the character and knowledge necessary for this career choice?

In terms of character, you need to be able to balance empathy for your clients with an ability to avoid becoming emotionally overcome by their situation. This can be difficult. You will be standing up for your clients’ rights and helping them to make life-or-death decisions. You need to be capable of standing up to doctors and other medical professionals without alienating them. You will often be dealing with members of your clients’ families, who might be emotionally overwhelmed. Part of your job will be to understand their concerns and fears in order to help them make the best medical decisions that they can. Given the high costs of health care, many of these concerns and fears may be tied up in financial considerations. You will need to be able to maintain your composure in a wide variety of stressful circumstances.

Patient advocates must also have significant knowledge about health care. Many patient advocates have backgrounds in nursing, social work, or related fields. Others have informal experience caring for a family member or loved one. Whatever your background, it is important to have a strong understanding of medical terminology, the legal rights of patients and their families, and the processes of the health care system, including referrals, hospital admissions, insurance, Medicare, and medical billing. You need to be able to translate complicated medical issues into simple, concrete terms that your clients will understand. It is ultimately for this knowledge that your clients will come to you for aid. If there are gaps in your knowledge, but you are dedicated to the idea of becoming a patient advocate, there are training opportunities available. In addition to seminars and workshops, some colleges have programs specifically designed to train people for employment as patient advocates.

If you believe that you are cut out for a career as a patient advocate, then you are in luck. Employment in patient advocacy is growing quickly as the health care system becomes more labyrinthine. It is possible to become a patient advocate as an independent contractor. To do so, you will need to acquire a business license. Many patient advocates, however, seek employment with larger firms or nonprofit organizations.

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