Advocacy Credentials : An Argument Against

I am probably going to ruffle some feathers.  I do not support the movement to have patient advocates credentialed,  at least not at this juncture in time.

As a nurse and family nurse practitioner, I have sat for two separate credential exams.  I have worked many clinical hours in a variety of settings.  I decided to become a patient advocate after experiencing the frustration my clients were having navigating the healthcare system.  Enough! It isn’t the right time.

Here are my reasons for going against the flow; the WHO, WHAT and WHY?

1.  Why?   I don’t think  it is the way to secure validity in the market.  Advocate work began as a direct result of  the broken healthcare system and lack of patient oriented thinking.  I am not interested in being validated by the existing system.  I do not wish to be credentialed so I can get insurance reimbursement.   I have spent way too much time working on insurance  forms, appeals, negotiations and credentials in my 25 years to want to add another layer.  The argument may be that consumers are looking for a credential seal of approval.    That question has never come up for me with clients.  Maybe  it is because of my existing credentials.  Bottom line is, I am working for my clients not the system.  I suppose the question is will there be fakes who take money and don’t do anything?  Probably but accreditation won’t stop that.

2. Who?  I take pause at the thought of who will set the criteria for the credential process and the industry it will generate.    The beauty of the patient advocate is the unique personal relationship with the client.  If we start to categorize, standardize and  quantify this, it will get lost.  Most people I have networked with, have left jobs to do this work because it is a passion.  Who will paint the picture of the advocate , will it be based on empowering of clients and who will benefit financially.

3. What?  The question calling to be answered is what is a patient advocate.  The definition is evolving with the healthcare system as it reaches to correct itself.  What is the rush to set another layer of bureaucracy and cost?  Why take the chance that the essence and fabric of a patient advocate will be diluted by rules and regulations at this time when we don’t know the long term system outcomes?

The cultural dimensions of the advocacy movement is just being born.  Let’s take the time to nurture it and not  fall into the pitfalls of the current existing credential processes.  Unfortunately, I know it is a movement that easily gathers support.  It is like the Emperor’s new clothes. I fear it will create more barriers.  The profession needs to build slowly and not rush to look like everyone else.  In time, perhaps, it will be a necessary.