Teaching Your Clients to Fish Starts by Leaving the Rod and Reel at Home

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Teaching Your Clients to Fish Starts by Leaving the Rod and Reel at Home

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”  (Maimonides) As a former classroom teacher, and now a teacher of advocates, I’ve always embraced the “teach a man to fish” concept. It’s part of my core. It’s in my DNA. It’s what I do with both my patient empowerment and my patient advocacy work. Many of you have been beneficiaries. And my great reward has been to watch you go off into the waters to successfully fish on your own as your practices grow and thrive. It’s all about helping others help themselves. Many of you, especially those of you who have worked in helping professions prior to your interest in patient advocacy (nurses, physicians, teachers) consider yourself to be fishing teachers, too. It’s your natural reaction to questions and situations to want to help by helping others help themselves. Whether or not you’ve ever heard that quotation from Maimonides, your approach to others has always been to teach them how to fix things themselves, rather than to simply fix things for them. You’ve taken the long view of how to help them the best, by giving them the tools they need to get what they need. So it’s with some irony today that I’m going to tell you that in order to teach your clients to fish, to help them the best you can in the long run, to be the most successful advocate you can be, you must resist teaching them to fish in the short run. Let me repeat that: In order to succeed as a private advocate, start by leaving the rod and reel alone. Say what? Let’s look at an example: Mrs. Swenson phones you to see whether you can help her get the information she needs from her doctor. She has been diagnosed, doesn’t really understand the diagnosis, wants to get a second opinion, needs her medical records, and the doctor’s office is not cooperating. Then she asks, Is this something you can help her with? Here’s how many…


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