Choosing the Best Health or Patient Advocacy Educational Program for You

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The Alliance of Professional Health Advocates
When you begin to consider whether patient and health advocacy is a good career choice for you, you may also wonder what kind of education or training you might need, and whether or not you need to be certified or licensed.

Depending on the form of advocacy you choose to pursue, there may be dozens of programs available. Of course, the more there are, the more complicated the choice may seem! This article is intended to make it a little easier for you.

Here are some steps you can follow to make the right choice for yourself:
1. Understand the status of advocacy certification.
2. Determine where your paycheck will come from
3. Develop your gap analysis. (employer bound) or (self-employed, independent)
4. Choose your programs based on the criteria you develop in #3 above.
Step 1:
Do you need to pursue patient or health advocate certification or licensing?

As of early 2015, there is no national (or international) certification or licensing for health or patient advocates or navigators.

Yet many programs claim to “certify” their graduates, or their graduates earn a certificate so it seems as if they are "certified." So, you wonder, how can they make that claim if there is no certification?

The answer to this question lies in the distinction between being certified and receiving a certificate at the end of a program.

Many advocacy educational programs provide you with a certificate saying you have completed their courses or program. That piece of paper means you are now certified as having completed the courses offered by ABC University or the ABC Advocacy Program.
But those programs have been developed ad hoc, not based on any national criteria or standard. The curriculum is their own experts’ best guesses on the skills and knowledge an advocate might need. They may be very accurate and comprehensive. Even still, there was no nationally recognized standard on which they were based.

When you complete one of those programs, you will have a certificate. They may even call you “certified” – but you are certified only by them. Later, when you apply for a job, or market your private services, if you want to say you are certified as an advocate, you’ll need to be sure you state who certified you. Example, “Joan S. Advocate, Certified by ABC University.

Make no mistake - there are excellent courses and programs available to help patient advocates grow their skills, capabilities, resources and knowledge banks. But there is no reason to take any courses or programs if your only goal is to call yourself "certified."

(Learn more: The Myth of Patient Advocacy Certification
•  Next - Step 2:  Determine where your paycheck will come from.

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