A One Word Resolution for All Advocates

Greetings at the top of new year, with hopes you had a great holiday season and you’re getting prepped for success in 2012.

I always feel a bit of inertia after taking a break, or a vacation, or when my world has slowed down for some deep breath-taking for awhile…. that is, my body at rest still wants to stay at rest! And when I hear about “resolutions” – geesh – that sounds too much like work.

So, as we are bombarded by media talking about this resolution or that, I have one simple one for many of you – not much work at all. There will be some of you who find this suggestion already ingrained in your lexicon. But for others, it’s a habit worth breaking, or a good one worth establishing, for a few different reasons.

That habit is breaking the use of the word “patient” when we talk about the people we work with. If you use that term, then today is your day to stop. Instead, shift to using the word “client.”

Why?The most important reason is because using the word “patient” can get you into trouble. Or put more positively, the use of the word “client” may keep you out of trouble, especially if you are a health or patient advocate who is licensed for medical practice.

Use of the term “client” shows that you do not have a medical relationship to the person you are working with. This is important for legal and insurance reasons. By calling the person you are providing services to a “client”, you are establishing the type of relationship you have, defined by Merriam Webster as “a person who engages the professional advice or services of another.”

In particular, if you have the right kind of insurance for medical/navigational advocacy, subtracting “patient” from your vocabulary is especially important because you are not covered for the types of services that might be offered to a medical provider’s patient.

Another reason it’s important is to help your client better understand the relationship between the two of you. So often our clients want us to provide medical advice. Or they want us to make medical decisions for them. Or they don’t truly understand their private pay relationship as separate from a medical provider. Since you’re not being reimbursed by anyone else on behalf of your client (as someone who treats them as patients does), making it clear that you call them clients, and not patients, can help them better understand, too.

You’ll want to make this shift in your every day speech, your paperwork, on your website and in any other marketing materials.

OK – here’s your choice – use the word client, or lose 20 lbs. Which is easier? Uh-huh. I thought so. Easier to get past that inertia….

A toast to all our clients for the new year!



6 thoughts on “A One Word Resolution for All Advocates”

  1. I like that! I have been using the term client when I give presentations about this new nursing model. I think it’s hard for people to wrap their minds around paying for a nurse as a consultant as we are traditionally seen as care providers, with all the trappings that go with that. Using “client” allows us to be seen for what we are: consultants. The most valuable part of what I have to offer is expertise based on years of clinical experience, and “client” shifts the focus to experience/expertise that comes with our education. Wise thoughts…a small change can make a big difference for us all!

  2. Happy New Year to all. I left my patients behind when we started Compassionate Patient Advocates. The is a cunsulting business far away from the treatments and medical care given as a hospital nurse. We do use the term client. Thank you for these affirming words.

  3. Loved the comment! another reason to use the word “client” is that it helps the person you’re working with move out of the medical model of thinking, where they are “patients” into the empowered healthcare advocacy model, where they are partners!

  4. Yes I agree that client is what needs to be used to define our relationship and be recognized as a consultant, navigator, support system etc. I still have huge problems with getting access to information about “clients” that become “patients” I am told that conservators and POA’s cannot transfer any power to me or hire me to coordinate care for their loved one. I’ve been told that I cannot have access to real time information that I am like a “friend” of the family so they are willing to share what they would with that friend or family member. I’ve been told that I can access information after the “patient” has been discharged whether they are in the hospital or in a convalescent home recuperating. I’m very frustrated. There are so many many errors that are made and I have example after example of things that are missed, deleted, forgotten or just plain not addressed that harm my “client” and their “patient”. I’m tired of arguing, explaining, being nice, polite, etc. its plain ridiculous!!!

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