Why We Should Avoid Using the Title “Certified Patient Advocate”

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Why We Should Avoid Using the Title “Certified Patient Advocate”

It’s a big question among patient and health advocates – whether or not someone is considered “certified” as a patient advocate. Last week I answered a question that came from an advocate about why someone would bother taking a course or finishing a program if they wouldn’t be considered “certified” at the end…. But there are even bigger considerations – some food for thought for those who disagree with my stand about claiming certification. I believe the use of “Certified Patient Advocate,” in these early stages of the profession’s development has the potential of hurting both you, as an individual advocate, and the potential of hurting the profession, too. Here’s why that “certified” title hurts both the profession and you, too: 1.  No consistency:  The existing patient and health advocacy programs run the gamut from webinars, to weekends to months, even years of education.  Their admission policies are totally different:  some are open to anyone, others are open only to chose with a clinical or social work degrees or backgrounds, some require an existing bachelors degree or enrollment as a medical student. Further, the educational program offered by each is very different: some offer disease management courses or internships, many do not. Some offer business management courses, most do not. A student who attends a weekend “intro” program and gets a certificate at the end does not have equal preparation, an equal education, or an equal certificate, to someone who attends a year-long, multiple course, many faceted program. Yet, today, “graduates” of all these programs are calling themselves “Certified Patient Advocate.”  I believe that using that label in the face of this lack of consistency and standards, dilutes what the title means for everyone. In the long run, that can be damaging to the profession. 2.  Some of the existing programs promote their ability to provide “health advocacy certification.”  But we have to ask – certified by whom?  There is no existing agreed-upon standard, no list of expectations or  competencies that define that certification.  Making such a claim is a major conflict-of-interest, as if that specific group has some standing…

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