What Is a Patient Advocate?

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A patient advocate is someone who works on behalf of patients and their families during stays in the hospital or other medical situations. Many different organizations employ on-site advocates to deal with the daily needs of patients, while other organizations use advocates to lobby their position in the medical industry. Most advocates are college educated and have great people skills.

Organizations You Work For

Patient advocates can work for several different types of health care providers. Hospitals provide them for the use of their patients while they’re admitted. Social service agencies use them to outreach to the clients that they serve. And there are private patient advocates who work on behalf of patients who may have something in common, such as a particular ailment.

What You Do

The patient advocate’s primary function is to serve the patient’s needs, along with the need of their family. Those needs can encompass anything from questions about their stay in the hospital, procedures and surgeries, post-operative care and more. The advocate also can help their clients deal with insurance companies, doctors and more related to their health care needs.

A Good Advocate

A good patient advocate is someone who is assertive and can communicate well with not only patients, but also doctors and health care organizations, according to the Palm Beach County Medical Society. Also, good advocates must be willing to be a good advocate. In other words, an advocate’s first duty is to the patient and must treat every situation with that in mind.

Pseudo-advocates

There are parts of the medical profession in which advocacy is part of the job, even if it’s not in the job description. Social workers are a prime example of this, as part of their job is to make sure their clients’ medical needs are taken care of. Other jobs such as nursing, general practitioners and psychologists compel them to perform some kind of advocacy functions.

Education

Most patient advocates are educated on a collegiate level, having attained a bachelor’s degree in the medical field. Most advocates also will have a degree that specializes in the medical industry. In some functions, a knowledge of the legal system is helpful. Personal skills are just as important, as advocates must walk a fine line between showing compassion for their clients and becoming too attached to them.

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