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All We Really Need to Know About Being Good Advocates We Learned in Kindergarten

As children across the US and Canada start kindergarten this time of the year, I’m reminded of Robert Fulghum’s book, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, a classic, published more than 30 years ago.

I’ve actually written about advocates and the kindergarten principles before, years ago, as applied to some real negativity we were experiencing as a profession then. But today’s piece is updated, much more positive, and contains some further advice not shared then.

So much of this kindergarten wisdom is appropriate to our successful running of an independent advocacy or care management practice – no matter whether it’s back-to-school time or not.

So, with a nod to author Fulghum, let’s review.

1. Be Respectful and Expect to Be Respected in Return

This is 360o advice: be respectful of others, and expect them to return the same. Now, you might respond “Yeah… Duh! Of course!” but I’m constantly amazed at the stories I hear about disrespect in relation to advocacy. I’ve heard about:

If advocates are to continue on our path toward become among the MOST ETHICAL of professions, we must always be respectful, and command respect in return.

2. Make Friends

Early in advocacy, it seemed there was a great deal of tension among the pioneers who were starting this new profession. Further, many advocates were faced with providers who did not want them “interfering” in their relationships with patients.

Now, 10 years in, I hear very little of that – at least not like we used to. In fact, as I observe advocates, whether it’s in the APHA Discussion Forum, or at our PracticeUP! Bootcamps, or at other events, the camaraderie is impressive, extremely helpful, and just plain delightful! In particular, when advocates gather in person, lasting bonds are created that benefit not just the individuals involved, but the entire profession.

Further, over time, provider regard for advocates has shifted in big ways – all good. Making friends has benefits for all – win-win-win.

3. Be Honest

This one is so obvious. But I’m not sure all advocates have the full sense of why this one tenet is so important.

Honesty affects absolutely everything we do. It’s so important that it’s one of the cores of our Advocacy Standards and Ethics, and the basis for Patient Advocate Certification.

Here’s the part not everyone thinks about: if honesty is questioned, it can result in the closing of a practice. Without that advocate available to help patients, lives can be negatively affected – or lost.

Yes, honesty is that important.

ask a question - be curious4. Be Curious

… and I would add: be diligent in uncovering the answers.

There are so very many resources available to advocates who seek them, ranging from medical information, to care areas like clinical trials, to new business ideas or even computer or device apps to make business easier, to current events like changes to the healthcare system or insurance, and certainly Medicare.

As advocates, unless we stay abreast of this kind of information, we can’t serve our clients well. It’s like lawyers and their need to stay current on new laws or policy changes, or CPAs and their need to stay current on changes to tax law. Without curiosity, and answer-seeking, we just cannot serve our clients in the manner they deserve (and pay for).

Read, watch, listen – everything you can. Soak it all up, share, and discuss it with others. Ask questions. Find answers. Be very curious.

5. Be Kind to Others

If I had to sum up advocacy work, it would be filtered through kindness… because being kind to others is the core of who we are. That’s how and why we do what we do.

The results are the major reward so many of us experience from advocacy work. Being kind, and providing our services through kindness, is what elicits the appreciation and gratitude that results. For most of us, that is the fuel that drives us.

The key for those of us who do it independently, as a profession, is to be wisely kind, but not overly kind, both in our client service, and in our business, so we can continue to sustain our abilities to be kind to others.

image - nap6. Take a Nap

OK – true – I’m taking some liberty here. I don’t think Fulghum discusses naptime, even if it’s an important time of a kindergarten day!

Here I use the idea of taking a nap to represent taking good care of yourself, as in…. eat healthily, exercise regularly, drive safely, look both ways, wear sunscreen, cough into your elbow, take a vacation, wash your hands, and yes, stay rested.

True confession: I love a good nap! And, after a night when I haven’t slept well, I find a catnap to be absolutely necessary.

So that’s our kindergarten review for today. We may not be on our way back to school, but it doesn’t mean we stop learning!

Can you think of other kindergarten principles we should share here?


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