Patient advocates don't come from one background alone. They're able to work in a variety of settings from emergency rooms to medical facilities and clinics. They can also be hired to advocate for patients in a private setting.
What is a Patient Advocate?
Advocates are meant to help patients navigate the troubling, confusing world of health care. This person will help the patient meet with a variety of doctors, understand the treatment plan set up for the patients and help advocate the best course for the patient through a serious illness. An advocate might help a dementia patient understand the course of treatments or educate family and caregivers on the condition and future plans of the patient.
Job Skills and Requirements
There are certain requirements and job skills that an advocate should have to succeed in their chosen field. This job is new to the world of health care, so there are no strict guidelines in place. Most come from a background in nursing or health care, which allows them to use their knowledge and experience to educate and advise patients. As far as soft skills, advocates need to have patience and compassion when dealing with ill people or those who are in trauma. They're normally full of uncertainty and are frightened.
Education Tracks for the Patient Advocate
There's no set education track for the advocate. Some start out in the field of nursing, but find themselves drawn to other levels of care. Most of the advocates currently working have a bachelor's degree in health care, but not specific to advocacy training. There are various schools adding advocacy curriculum to their programs. This is great for those who don't have a background in health care, but want to start as an advocate instead of transferring their skills later. To compete with bachelor's graduates, the advocate with no experience or schooling will have to find an education path that fits with the field in the best way possible.
Testing the Waters
Some students interested in this career will enter the field in a limited capacity. They might be in college for health care, but want to be sure about their choice before adding advocacy classes to their semester course. For those who are testing the waters, volunteering can be a great way to decide if the career field is right for them. You don't have to wait for an internship opportunity to volunteer as a patient advocate. You'll be able to work directly with facilities and patients to better understand if this is the career path for you.
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Potential Salary for an Advocate
A health educator or community health worker can make approximately $21.34 per hour depending on experience and training. It's a field that will see a growth of 13 percent from 2014 to 2024. A health care social worker can see approximately $26.69 per hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While none of these are specific to the world of patient advocacy, they play a role in the field. The newness of the job means that there's no specific data regarding salary yet.
Most people who work in health care currently will transfer to these positions, so anyone who wants to enter the field directly will have to obtain a degree that can compete with years of experience and a degree.