The Last Four Myths About Starting an Independent Advocacy Practice

This is week 3 of our series, and includes the final four myths about starting, building, and growing an independent patient advocacy or care management practice.

To remind you, these myths are based on the comments I’ve heard from advocates who (I’m sorry to say) failed at getting a practice started, not because they don’t know how to be good advocates (they do!) but because they tried to get started despite their misconceptions about what it would be like to do so.

Here are the final four myths for you to consider, in hopes these misconceptions aren’t yours. Or, if they are, we hope this helps you reconsider, and take steps to be sure they don’t sink your advocacy practice.

Myth #7: You have to be a nurse to be an advocate.

This is THE myth that refuses to die, no matter how many times I explain why it’s JUST NOT TRUE! The only people who will ever tell you this are nurses, and too many nurses who tell you this do so in very catty, nasty ways – unless you, yourself, are also a nurse.

I’ve addressed this question many times before:

You absolutely do NOT need to be a nurse (or have been a nurse in the past) to succeed as a patient advocate.

Myth #8: Advocacy is a one-person, solitary service. It’s easy because I can just do it myself!

Check out this list of services health and patient advocates, and care managers, provide. Then you’ll believe me when I tell you that there is not one single person on this planet who can perform them all.

Successful advocates spend their days MAKING CONNECTIONS – connections with clients, of course. But beyond that, they are connecting with other advocates whose skills complement their own, then subcontracting with them to help their own clients. They are connecting with other professionals, too, like providers, social workers, geriatric care managers, and those who can provide supporting services for clients.

There is nothing singular about advocacy, so be prepared to spend your day finding additional resources to add to your trove. Consider attending the APHA Summits, held specifically to help you make those connections.

Myth #9: Being my own boss, and choosing my own hours, will be so freeing!

No matter what kind of business someone who wishes to be self-employed chooses, this is one of the biggest myths that exists. Tony starts his pizza shop thinking he’ll be his own boss. Francine starts her own hair stylist business in her basement because she wants to be her own boss and she can restrict the days she works. And Nancy starts her advocacy business because she’s sick and tired of other people – like administrators and supervisors – telling her what to do, and calling her at home when something comes up. She can’t wait to be her own boss!

But “being your own boss” is a huge myth. The real truth is that by being self-employed, and taking on new customers or clients, you instead acquire many new bosses – every one of those customers and clients becomes your new boss – perhaps dozens at one time.

Of course, the key to staying in business is the focus on keeping them all satisfied (plus!) with your work, so now you are on call for them as much as you need to be, too. Rarely is that “on call” from 8 to 5, Monday thru Friday.

You do get to choose the hours you’ll work. In my case, I laugh when I tell people that yes, I work 12 hour days, but they are the 12 hours each day that I choose! (My husband doesn’t think that’s so funny.) Especially in the early years of your practice, you may have to chuckle, then suck it up, when you grasp the reality of that, too.

Myth #10: Once I am a certified advocate, I’ll be a great advocate.

During the past couple of years, I have heard this repeated many times by people who think that by becoming certified patient advocates, THAT will make them great advocates, and THAT will be the trigger for starting their own practices. It’s as if they believe that unless they can earn some initials after their name, they can’t succeed.

The real truth is actually just the opposite.

Patient Advocate Certification will launch this year. I have been a part of the efforts to build the certification from the very beginning, and I can tell you that unless you have some experience under your belt as an advocate, you will not complete the certification successfully. The exam is rigorous, and will require advocacy experience to pass it.

People who have experience functioning as advocates, getting AROUND the system for their clients, will succeed.

The correction to this myth is actually the opposite of what it says: Once you are a great advocate, then you will be able to earn certification.

So there they are – the 10 myths that too many newbie advocates tend to believe, all of which are not only wrong, but may sink a new practice, too.

Dash them from your mind! Embrace the truth! Get started with your head in the right place!

And join The Alliance of Professional Health Advocates – because that’s one step you can take to help you get past these myths, and on the road to success.


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