Computer and Online Mastery: Basic Tech Skills for Successful Advocacy

podcast and resources belowAPHA Expert Call-in

June 2018

Are you sure what a browser is? How about a URL? WHAT DOES IT MEAN IF YOU TYPE ALL IN CAPS? Do you know how to link to an article you want to forward to a colleague?

These, and similar questions, sometimes challenge and frustrate an otherwise highly skilled advocate. Not knowing the answers, the processes, or procedures can make a dent in your confidence, and the difference between success and failure of your new practice.

Some people picked up basic computer and internet skills long ago and use them as deftly today as they dial a phone. This Expert call is not for them!
It's for those of us who are confounded, frustrated, and have even developed bad attitudes when it comes to using the technology that’s at our fingertips; especially if embarrassment or confusion about what to ask might be standing in our way.

We’ll have three experts helping us remove the mystery from computer and internet mastery: Linda Adler, APHA’s Tools & Tech Advisor, Kathy Lee, founder and CEO of DoubleSpaces, and Trisha Torrey, APHA’s Director.

The key to this call is not to show you lots of tricks. Rather, we'll show you how to figure things out – to take you into the future with less stress and a new confidence level in the use of your computer and online resources.

 

headset Podcast will become available after the call

 

  resources-sm Resources used during the Call:

  1. resource - Linda and Kathy
  2. resource - Linda and Kathy
  3. resource - Linda and Kathy
  4. resource - Linda and Kathy

 

Find dozens of additional resources in the APHA Tools & Tech Center.

 

Discuss this topic:

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The Sinkhole

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The Sinkhole

Regular readers of this blog know a couple of things about me. For one thing, they know I live in Florida, having moved here from Upstate NY two years ago, no longer willing to freeze my cabungus off during the winter. (Or, as my husband phrases it, “you don’t have to shovel 90 degrees!”) They also know many of my blog posts are metaphorical, based on inspiration I get from my daily life which at times is well, yes, pretty darn metaphorical! And thus we set the stage for today’s post – The Sinkhole. Pure Florida. Pure Metaphor. See what you think. After spending the past several days in Chicago for the APHA Chicago Summits, I returned home late last night to a quiet and peaceful neighborhood, just as it should be. And this morning, all hell broke loose. As I took my little puppy dog for his morning walk, I encountered several neighbors blocking the road to prevent anyone from driving up to, in to, or over a newly formed sinkhole. Sure enough – about 100 yards from my house – a small hole in the road. As I write this post, a few hours hours later, the sinkhole is 10 times that size. It doesn’t appear there is any danger of losing any homes, thank heavens. Looks like we’ll just lose more of the road, curbing and possibly part of the golf course behind it. Sinkholes happen all the time here in Florida. They are not at all unusual. The biggest problem with the early hours of a sinkhole formation is the impossible-to-answer question about how much bigger it will get. What will it eventually swallow? A few years ago, about 100 miles from here, a young man died when a sinkhole swallowed his home – while he was sleeping in it. Could that happen again? And so we will wait and see. Am I nervous? Yeah. A little. As a result, sinkholes as metaphors are on my mind, and the very nature of them has taken on an entirely new thought pattern in my head, as follows….…


 

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B*tching and Moaning – Therapeutic and Educational

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B*tching and Moaning – Therapeutic and Educational

It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s always an eyeopener and usually quite unsettling. When done well, and handled well, it can turn out to be therapeutic, and has the potential for great opportunity. I’m talking about moaning, groaning, complaining and yes – b*tching. Whether it’s a client complaining about an advocate, or the other way around, sometimes it’s fair and understandable, sometimes not. Sometimes it can escalate. Other times it can be diffused. In all cases we can learn from complaints. So let’s take a look. Sometimes Clients Complain about Advocates In the past 10 years, I’ve received a small handful of complaints from clients about advocates they hired, and they are always very disturbing to me. Advocacy is supposed to be about trust and reliance, about smoothing one’s path through the healthcare system. If I see a complaint, I know that hasn’t happened. Last week I heard from a complainer (I’ll call him Tony) who was loaded for bear, but very short on details. He asked how to lodge a formal complaint against one of our AdvoConnection advocates, stating, My family hired a healthcare advocate who is listed as a member of your site and organization. We enlisted in a very intensive program with the advocate; and as things progressed it became clear that she was not only not effective but was actually doing things to damage the healthcare that our family member was receiving. Her performance and her way of working was damaging enough that I am concerned there is risk to other patients that hire her.  Whoa!  That’s quite an accusation!  Then he asked how our “industry” handles complaints. Of course, APHA is not an entire industry, but I sent him a link to our complaint form which explains how we handle this sort of feedback. (You may be interested in our feedback process. It was developed by a task force of advocates a few years ago, with the major goal of making sure any complaints become learning opportunities. It was not set up to punish. It was set up to improve service. It…


 

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The Rest of the Story X 4

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The Rest of the Story X 4

Channeling Paul Harvey today…. (Don’t know who Paul Harvey is?  Maybe you’re too young, or you never spent much time listening to Talk Radio… Paul Harvey was famous for his radio broadcasts called “The Rest of the Story.” His stories always featured a twist or turn, or something unexpected.) Over the past few months, I’ve blogged about points, lessons, or stories, some of which have interesting follow-up or twists to them. So I’ve put them into one post for you – and thus we’re channeling Paul Harvey. What Happened to Sam? In April, I told you about a good friend Sam, who had suffered a heart attack in the ER waiting room. The point to the post was that his neighbor, Tom, drove Sam to the hospital instead of calling 9-1-1, and we were concerned that Sam might not pull through because he didn’t get medical attention quickly enough (knowing that EMTs could have treated him on the way to the hospital, perhaps preventing the heart attack to begin with.) Sam died just a few days after I wrote the post. I cannot tell you how upset we are, not only because we lost our friend Sam, but because we will always wonder if Sam would have survived and recovered if Tom had dialed 9-1-1. It’s hard to lose a friend. It’s even harder to lose someone to poor decision-making. But there is a silver lining to this story. The loss of Sam has raised awareness in our community about calling 9-1-1, when and why it’s prudent, and even which hospital to to go for which kind of medical problem. I hope you can find a good takeaway from the post, too.  Please share it with clients, friends, and family. Be smart about emergencies. Don’t let any of them be Tom OR Sam. Did We Find a Screen? In May I wrote about the absence of logic and what to do instead when I told you the story of arranging for a screen to use at our APHA Summits in Newark.  I explained that I always take a projector with…


 

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Serving One’s Country as a Healthcare Soldier

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Serving One’s Country as a Healthcare Soldier

Over the holiday weekend – Memorial Day Weekend – I pondered the sacrifices soldiers have made for our country. I expect you did, too. I’m married to a retired soldier. My husband spent 20 years in the US Air Force during the VietNam War era. I’m so very, very proud of him and his service. Patriotic holidays have a special meaning to us because, well, he lived it. (I was not married to him in those years.) We are grateful to, and honor those who served, including those who lost their lives. All this pondering, and the tendency of my mind to wander (!), got me thinking about a different form of service, too. It’s true, that we as advocates and care managers don’t put ourselves in harm’s way.  But I do believe we serve our countries in critical ways. (I say “countries,” referring to both the US and Canada.) We are healthcare soldiers. Now, to be clear. I have no intent to co-opt the spirit of Memorial Day. This is not a suggestion that our service as advocates is the same as the all-in nature of the service of a military soldier. But I do want to share (and ask you to comment on) my thought process about an advocate’s service. We all deserve to be protected from harm, whether it’s political harm or the harm bestowed by a healthcare system that pretends to provide one thing, when too often it falls short, is too expensive, or causes death or debilitation. It requires different kinds of soldiers with different kinds of training to provide that protection. A military soldier helps protect us from harm intended by our political enemies. An advocate or care manager “healthcare soldier” helps to protect us from harm – care or cost – intended or unintended – from the healthcare system. A military soldier learns discipline and ethics in order to defend our country. An advocate soldier learns best practices, standards, and ethics in order to serve patients who must be protected from a greedy healthcare system. A military soldier defends our rights as Americans…


 

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A HUGE Step Forward for Patients: BCPA

This post has been shared by the AdvoConnection Blog. It was written with a patient-client audience in mind, but might be useful to you, too.

It is provided so you can find it in a search here at myAPHA.org, but you'll need to link to the original post to read it in its entirety.

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A HUGE Step Forward for Patients: BCPA

When you run into problems with the legal system, who do you call?  A lawyer, of course. When you run into problems with your taxes, who do you call?  An accountant, of course. If you have trouble with your hair, you call a hairdresser. If the wires or pipes in your house give out, you call a plumber or electrician…. Each of these service careers is represented by skilled professionals who have earned credentials through national certification programs. When you go in search of one of these service professionals, you’ll find most of them have earned a certification* that proves their worthiness to provide services to you – to be paid by you for their expertise. These sorts of certifications are provided by nationally recognized organizations that represent the integrity of the professions, making sure they adhere to specific standards, best practices, and ethics. Independent, professional health and patient advocates have been hanging out their shingles and helping patients for decades. But it has only been within the last few months (early 2018) that these advocates had the opportunity to earn certification to prove their integrity; the skills, abilities, knowledge, and ethics of advocacy. As of this post, 149 advocates have proven their worthiness. They were the first group of advocates who took, and passed, the certification exam. Patient Advocate Certification, using the initials BCPA (Board Certified Patient Advocate) is now a way you can be assured that the advocate you hire has become certified. As time goes on, you’ll want to look for those initials after someone’s name, and for the logo that indicates their achievement.  “Jane Advocate, BCPA” means Jane has proven she has the skills, knowledge, and ethics to help you get the most from, and be treated fairly by, the healthcare system. So, when you run into problems with the healthcare system, who do you call?  A professional patient or health advocate! And if you can find one who is certified, who has earned his or her BCPA, then you’ll have some assurance that he or she knows exactly what’s required to help you, and will do so ethically. To find these advocates, take a look in the AdvoConnection Directory.  *Don’t confuse certification with licensing. Licensing is an activity of a government – “state licensed” or “federally licensed”. Health and patient advocates are not licensed.  Instead they may study, test for, and earn a certification showing…


 

 

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Polishing Our Advocacy Rocks

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Polishing Our Advocacy Rocks

I’ve just returned from Newark where we held the second of our 2018 APHA Summits Networking Events. About 30 advocates attended, with backgrounds ranging from leaders (long-time advocates who have built successful advocacy businesses) through a handful of folks who are just getting started and who arrived as sponges intending to absorb everything they could. The experience was, in a word, magical. The energy in the room was electric.There was a constant buzz and hum of shared ideas and experiences. There were the usual words of advice that everyone has read or heard in the past, mixed with some surprises when the leaders were asked, “What do you wish you had known when you started your new practice that you didn’t know then?” There was laughter, there were stories, there was joy, there were “on no!” moments, and there were “aha!” moments, and there was, as attendees departed, a sense of companionship, collaboration, and growing confidence, as in “I got this.” I came away from this experience as I did from the networking experience in San Diego last month, with a stronger belief than before that private, independent advocacy is maturing, and that the phrase “paying it forward” is alive and well. This is a change, by the way. A huge one, worth noting here, because I haven’t always been confident in that notion. When I began to move into the world of healthcare in 2005, having spent decades working in the corporate world, then into advocacy by 2007, I was repeatedly stunned by the observation that too many would-be-advocates are afraid to, or simply refuse to collaborate and help each other out. I’ve witnessed the b*tching, backbiting, bullying, and avoidance. I’ve worked to connect people who I know can help each other only to learn that one party simply refused to reply to an email or phone message. Too often I’ve listened to one advocate make a giant leap to an uncalled for negative conclusion about another advocate. I’ve been told by dozens of would-be-advocates that they contacted existing, working, advocates only to be summarily dismissed with “I don’t…


 

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When Life Defies Logic

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When Life Defies Logic

…then it’s time to get logical. And logic will triumph! As many readers know, I’m in the process of coordinating our APHA Summits. We had our first Summit adventure in San Diego a few weeks ago. What a delight! We all learned so much from each other!  Next up… Newark / NYC, then on to Chicago, and two new groups of passionate advocates. (I can’t wait!) What few people understand is the amount of preparation required to make these Summits happen. It’s not so simple as everyone showing up in the same place at the same time to connect with each other. Planning actually begins many months in advance when cities and venues are chosen, initial contacts are signed, the website and registration are set up… much to prepare. Then in the last few weeks prior to each event, the actual choices are made for room set-ups (round tables? classroom style?), food choices (vegetarian? gluten-free? nut allergies?), and AV needs (are we doing powerpoint?  do we need a projector, screen, or wifi?) Of course, each choice comes with a price tag. Hotel price tags vary. And sometimes, those price tags defy logic. And I mean DEFY LOGIC! Which is one reason I say – when life defies logic, it’s time to get logical. As follows: Making food choices usually gets to me. While doing so for our Summits coming up in Newark this week, that was no different. For example, it’s great to have some sort of afternoon snack during the networking event. There are many choices to make, some more outrageous than others. $42 for a dozen cookies. $4 each for bottled water or soft drinks. Those kinds of things. But because the initial contracts all force us to agree that we won’t bring in our own food or beverages, there’s really little choice. Next up – AV decisions, and THE major logic-defier. I will say, that in many years of planning APHA events, this one just totally blew me away, as if we lived in some alternate universe. Years ago I purchased a projector to schlep with me…


 

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Revisiting the Mean Girls in Our New Advocacy Environment

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Revisiting the Mean Girls in Our New Advocacy Environment

The “mean girls” are at it again… or so I’ve been warned by a handful of APHA members. I’m not sure I agree. But I know one thing for sure: the world of the mean girls has shifted. Who are the “mean girls?”  I first applied the moniker about three years ago to refer to nurses who believed that no one should be a patient advocate unless he or she is a nurse. I cited instances when a small handful of nurses had bullied other non-nurse advocates both at conferences, and through emails – yes, actively bullied. I outlined once and for all, and very specifically, all the reasons one does not need to be a nurse to be an effective patient advocate. None of that has changed. Now – because in the past I have been accused of stepping on nurses’ toes when I bring this up (which is never my intention) – let me be perfectly clear. I LOVE nurses! I LOVE their passion and commitment to improving the lives and quality of lives of their patients! I respect nurses for their knowledge, experience, and abilities! And I wholeheartedly support their segue into the world of independent advocacy, with gratitude that they are willing to move to the bright side. I am also very sure that the “mean girl” concept applies only to a VERY small handful; and certainly not to all nurse-patient-advocates. However, the “mean girls” concept came up again recently because a group of patient advocates who are nurses, who belong to a nurse-advocacy organization, have begun raising money to fund patient education. A solicitation email went out to many people (dozens, hundreds?), with an emphasis on the fact that the organizers are nurse patient advocates and therefore they are the right people to be supporting this work. It was then forwarded to several dozen (hundreds?) more advocates… The problem is: not everyone who received the email is a nurse-advocate, and some of the non-nurses took umbrage. While I am sure that no one who sent the email intended for it to come across in the…


 

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Why it’s so important to understand business (why you will fail if you don’t)

This post has been shared by the APHA Mentor's Blog. It was written to help you start and grow an advocacy practice.

It is provided so you can find it in a search here at myAPHA.org, but you'll need to link to the original post to read it in its entirety. Find the link to that post at the end of the excerpt.

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Why it’s so important to understand business (why you will fail if you don’t)

This post was contributed by Elisabeth Schuler, Patient Navigator a mentor for those who are building an advocacy practice.   Often people are drawn toward patient advocacy because in their own lives, they helped family members or friends struggling to overcome obstacles or find solutions as they navigated an illness, chronic disease or the transitions in the life of an elderly parent. Many come out of those experiences passionate that others going through the same thing should not have to “learn the hard way” and determined to use their newfound knowledge to help others. This was certainly my story. My young child suddenly faced a life-threatening diagnosis and there was no one who gave me a roadmap. I had to master quickly a completely unknown universe as we began the journey through her illness. At that time in 1998, I was thriving in my first professional career working as a Foreign Service Officer for the U.S. Department of State. Fortunately, I realized that my skills and training as a diplomat – the ability to learn new issues quickly, to conduct cross-cultural negotiations, to excel in written and oral communications – were perfectly suited to help me to navigate my daughter’s…


 

 

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Should Insurance Provide Reimbursement to Independent Advocates?

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Should Insurance Provide Reimbursement to Independent Advocates?

I had interesting conversations with someday-advocates last week. I love those conversations; I always learn something from them which I can then bring back to the Alliance and the information we share with members. And then again, sometimes the questions I hear are the same ones that have cropped up over and over again, including today’s question:  Is there insurance reimbursement for the work of an independent advocate? This time, I’m going to answer that question with a few questions of my own. When we call an advocate independent, what do we mean? Independent of what? The answer is usually, “Well – independent of the healthcare system!” OK. Next question. What parts of the healthcare system are they independent of? Well… the whole system!  The system is so dysfunctional that people aren’t getting what they need!  As an independent advocate, I will be able to get them what they need! OK. Next question. Why aren’t they getting what they need? Because they can’t talk to their doctors anymore! There isn’t enough time. Doctors are in such a hurry, and patients want their hands held like they used to. They want their doctors to listen to them. They want someone who will help them get what they really need and want. They want explanations and understanding. That’s what I bring as their advocate! OK. Next question. Why don’t their doctors listen to them? Why aren’t they getting the time they used to get? Why do they need you? This is the point where the light bulb goes off in their heads, and they realize what they’ve just said…. One of THE BIGGEST HURDLES to patients getting what they want and need is the providers’ reimbursement system. Providers are NEVER reimbursed for the TIME they spend with patients. They are reimbursed per-patient, and the more patients they see in one day, the more money they can make. Insurers have put such a squeeze on providers that they are spending less and less time with each patient so they can see more and more patients in one day. (To be fair, so often those…


 

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That Very Very Thin Line – Do NOT Be Tom!

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That Very Very Thin Line – Do NOT Be Tom!

My husband and I moved two years ago to Florida where we now live in an “active adult” community*. We love it! We’re very happy here. We’ve met and made many new friends – people we have truly come to care about. I’m following in family footsteps.  My parents did the same thing decades ago. They lived in a different city, but they, too, lived in an active adult community for 20+ years. My father, in a somewhat macabre voice, always called it “God’s Waiting Room.” And, as I learned again this past week, it turns out that we now live in God’s Waiting Room, too. One evening last week a neighbor phoned, informing us that our friend who I’ll call Sam, a fellow we’ve gotten to know and enjoy, had suffered a heart attack, and had subsequent surgery after coding in the hospital waiting room. Sam was in a coma, and we wouldn’t know for several days whether he would pull out of it, and whether there was any long-term brain damage. As of today, we still don’t know. Sam is still in a coma. Now – in God’s Waiting Room this is not unexpected. In less than two years, this is our third such experience, having already lost two friends who have passed away. It’s not a question of if or when. It’s a question of WHO. Of course, I could begin an entire riff on why a private advocate could succeed in this community, but that’s not today’s post. No, today’s post is about taking someone’s life into your hands because you don’t know what to do in such an emergency. I’m writing this post because I’m angry, frustrated – and so very sad. Here’s why: The neighbor who phoned us (we’ll call him Tom) lives next door to Sam. It seems Sam, who lives alone, and experiencing frightening symptoms, appeared at Tom’s door that morning and asked Tom to take him to the hospital. So Tom drove Sam the 10 miles to our small community hospital, then sat with Sam in the waiting room for 15…


 

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Announcing: A Big Change for Admission to the AdvoConnection Directory

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Announcing: A Big Change for Admission to the AdvoConnection Directory

Many readers of this blog are familiar with, or are already listed in the AdvoConnection Directory. It’s THE place to be for private, professional, independent advocates who want to be found and hired by patients or caregivers who need them. It’s the largest, and the only “vetted” directory that exists for advocates. We”re announcing today a big change to what it takes to be listed in the directory which will affect almost everyone who has given thought to being included in the directory – but isn’t yet listed. That may include you! We’ll begin with a little history to help you understand the change. A History of Independent Health / Patient Advocacy Directories When AdvoConnection was first launched in 2009, it was the only directory of independent advocates in existence. And – that’s all it was – just a directory. There was no membership organization associated with it. There were 30 advocates listed – and they were there because they SAID they could be advocates. Period. There was no vetting, no review, and (you’ll love this….) no cost! AdvoConnection Homepage: December 2009 Of course, in those days the circumstances were quite different. Very few people called themselves “patient advocates” or “health advocates.” Certainly no one would ever want to be in a directory if they weren’t really qualified to help patients, right? Wrong. Within months of our launch, it became apparent that such an approach couldn’t last for the long haul.  We quickly figured out: That allowing just anyone to be listed in the directory didn’t serve patients well. Not everyone who wanted to be listed had the chops to do what needed to be done for patients. They would say, “I just want my name in there to see if people will call.”  (This raised all kinds of ethics red flags!) That not everyone who was listed in the directory understood how to run a business. Some offered free services because they thought that would be a good way to launch a practice. (It’s not!)  Too many of the listed advocates began to ask to be removed from the…


 

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History, Tidbits of Interest, and True Confessions about Patient Advocacy Certification

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History, Tidbits of Interest, and True Confessions about Patient Advocacy Certification

Today’s post is deeply personal, the culmination of 5-1/2 years of work, thousands of hours of donated time and effort, and my hopes, emotions, and dreams for this profession of health and patient advocacy that I believe is so vital to the future of safe, effective, and fair patienthood. It regards the launch in mid-March (2018) of Patient Advocate Certification from the PACB (Patient Advocate Certification Board), how we got there, my appreciation and deep respect for the hard work of my fellow PACBoard members, and the immense amount of pride I continue to feel about being a part of the Board, and my role in bringing certification to fruition as one member of the PACB. It also includes some frustration and some lows that went with the highs…. It’s my personal take on history and true confessions all rolled into one. History In September 2012, a group of 25+ interested parties came together to explore the possibility of certification development. Called together by two individuals involved in advocacy, author Jari Holland Buck, and Deb O’Connell from the University of Toledo, they represented advocates, educational institutions, and professional organizations. In the first few months, as we got to know each other, the big picture was discussed. Goals were framed. Eventually a steering committee was elected – and thus began the work of certification development. Thinking back to those early days (and many days since), it’s kind of a miracle that we ever completed the certification. As we got started there were huge personalities involved, including some who didn’t like not being in charge. (Yes, that’s a double negative – so read it again!) I was unpopular from the get-go which isn’t an unusual position for me (strong leaders with strong personalities are to be avoided at all costs!) but realized that my best contribution could be my technical abilities, as in, building the online structures for communications – the website, the document repository, etc. So, I volunteered my time as support personnel – NOT as voting member of the Board. Otherwise? I might not be writing this post today. Work…


 

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A Patient Advocate’s Life

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A Patient Advocate’s Life

This video post was contributed by Caryn Isaacs, Get Health Help a mentor for those who are building an advocacy practice.   A Patient Advocate’s Life Caryn Isaacs Are you prepared to help people regardless of your feelings towards them? Ask yourself: Do you like to get involved in other people’s problems and to take control of the situation? Do you like to get involved in complex issues? Do you like to listen to what others are saying? Are you in good health and physically able to care for otthers? Are you able to distance yourself from situations? Are you able to evaluate and prioritize? Are you able to communicate effectively? Do you like to talk about yourself and patient advocacy? These are the things patient advocates do. They also: Research diagnoses and conditions. Liaison with families and other professionals. Monitor and improve lifestyles. A career in patient advocacy can be very rewarding. A mentor will help you think through these issues.   Find Caryn’s Mentor Listing.   Learn more about Caryn’s approach to mentoring. Meet other mentors who are available to help you. Suggest a Topic for this Blog Return to the Master List of Health &…


 

 

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