Back in the 1950s, into the 1960s, a game show called Who Do You Trust? aired where couples were asked questions, and one had to “trust” the other to answer it (or not!). If you remember the show (some of us do) you may also remember that Edgar Bergen (yes, Candace Bergen’s father) was the MC for the show.
However, what you may not remember is that a year or two into the show, Bergen was replaced by Johnny Carson – who often “helped” the couples get the right answers. He helped them – well – TRUST.
The irony of this particular game show, one with TRUST in the title, is that it aired during the years of the game show scandals – yes – scandals! The game show scandals were all about cheating, and giving answers to pre-determined winners, and money changing hands in ways it shouldn’t.
Perhaps the anti-irony is that this was one game show that did not get caught up in the scandal, and its producers were never charged with any crimes.
… which tells us something about how it was run, and how it avoided that broad brush of scandal… and is a lesson for us, as advocates and care managers, who work in a healthcare world that is RIFE with unfairness (at the least) and downright crime (at the most.)
We must remain above the fray. We must always behave with integrity, behaving ethically and honestly. We must always be trustworthy. Our clients, and potential clients, must be able to instantly assess that we are those things, so they can have faith in us throughout our relationships.
How? It’s really not difficult, but it requires a certain demeanor, a certain way of being and doing (or not doing). It’s about your integrity and character – who you are as a person.
What are those character traits that help others know you are trustworthy? Here are a few:
- You are your authentic self. You never appear to be pretending you are someone you are not, or claiming to do something you really can’t do.
- You are honest. Big things and little things – you don’t exaggerate, you don’t make claims that are untrue or even suggest the need for scrutiny. (see “own your mistakes” below, too.)
- You keep your promises (maybe even under-promise a bit). If you promise to complete a task by a certain date, you deliver it a day early. If you promise to keep your bill under $1,000, you bill for $990.
- You manage expectations. No matter what is going on with your work together, you keep your patient-client and their circle of loved ones and caregivers in the loop – good and bad.
- You are consistent. When you say you’ll do something, you do it, when you said you’d do it. You represent yourself consistently, too. Example: Even with your clinical background, you make it very clear to your clients that you are non-clinical as an advocate or care manager, including photos and verbiage in your marketing materials.
- You keep private information private. Even beyond HIPAA, your work with one person is no one else’s business – even if that person’s loved one asks and you aren’t sure the information should be shared.
- You avoid sharing extraneous, non-applicable information. Examples: you don‘t discuss politics with clients who may not agree with you. Or you don’t talk about a neighbor who you both dislike.
- You’re not afraid to say “I don’t know.”
- You own your mistakes. Everyone makes them. It’s how you follow through afterwards that allows a client to continue trusting you.
- You recognize that past behavior is a good indicator of future behavior. Behaving ethically and honestly is not something you do this week. It’s something you do always.
Of course, all these character traits are intangible. They really aren’t things you can “prove” easily. But here are some steps you can take to show that you are establishing a track record of trustworthiness to help the potential client, in particular, recognize that you’ve proved your understanding of trust:
- Get a background check.
- Get bonded.
- Subscribe to the Health Advocate’s Code.
- Earn your BCPA (Board Certified Patient Advocate).
Private advocacy is off to a highly ethical start. I predict one day it will be considered one of the most ethical professions in the country.
So if those character traits DON’T describe you, and since you can’t rely on Johnny Carson to bail you out, then please consider another profession.