One of the most recent developments for a new career is as a patient advocate in the health care field. This growing new career is considered a potentially hot area for future job seekers. Basically, this job is just what it sounds like—being an advocate for a medical patient.
The patient advocate position has many levels: one is more medically oriented; another is more administrative; and others are more service-oriented. The medical patient advocate would coordinate with other medical professionals on a variety of treatment options and patient care issues. The administrative patient advocate would help with the cost and usage of medical coverage, such as paperwork, insurance options, and reimbursements. And, the service-oriented patient advocates would help with setting up and maintaining physical therapy, home care, visiting nurses, home-delivered meals, and other service availabilities.
If any of this sounds interesting, you will need skills that range from being a health professional to being a very patient and empathetic person to be qualified for employment for one of the levels of patient advocacy. All of these types of patient advocates require excellent communications, problem-solving, time-management, and organizational skills.
If you have the interest and skills needed to be a patient advocate, you can start looking for this type of position at hospitals, nursing homes, health insurance companies, a federal, state, or local health department, or a preventative health organization.
Because the field is new, there is no set program or course of action to take to become a patient advocate. Patient advocates aren’t licensed, and there is no federal or state agency with regulations that supervise patient advocates. There is a master’s degree program in patient advocacy at Sarah Lawrence College in New York, and the University of North Carolina and the University of Wisconsin are considering adding patient advocacy courses.
But, the best idea might be to research the position yourself. Try checking out The Patient Advocacy Foundation at www.patientadvocate.org, the American Nurses Association at www.nursingword.org, the Hospital Stay Handbook: A Guide to Becoming a Patient Advocate for Your Loved Ones by Jari Holland Buck, or just examine the job descriptions for patient advocates, such as those on www.monster.com. Various job descriptions listed on this site require some of the following: a nursing degree; a bachelor’s degree with experience with community organizations and /or the health education field; an associate degree in business; a high school diploma; being bilingual in English and Spanish; and customer or patient service experience.