Health Advocacy: Helping Patients Navigate the Health Care System

By Beth Droppert BSN, RN

With change comes innovation.  As we all watch and participate in sweeping changes facing our health care system, it is an exciting time to consider how we, as front-line health providers, can create a better way forward for patients.  That is what I thought when I created a health advocate company Allied Health Advocates five years ago.

I have been a nurse for more than 40 years and have worked in a variety of settings from hospitals to working with companies to support clinical trial development.  My training and experience has been put to good use whenever family and friends were suddenly faced with a health challenge. I loved making a difference in helping them understand what decisions might be coming or translating what the doctor was saying and making sure the doctor understood what I knew so we could make an impact on diagnosis, treatment, recovery and care.  But, I worried about all the people who didn’t have someone like me by their side.

In 2008, I founded the first private, professional health advocate company in Washington State to help people navigate the health care system.  This is a new, innovative field that is being pioneered by nurses, like us. Some health advocates do the work as a consultant and there are a handful of companies in the country like mine, who have a variety of health advocates to meet the needs of lots of patients.  In the future, there will likely be all kinds of health advocate jobs both independent and in health care settings.

Dream Job

What I love about this job is that it is in the ‘sweet spot’ of what we nurses love to do: educate, focus on the patient’s goals, situation and personal beliefs; we are able to provide patients with an understanding about how decisions are made and can diffuse tense impressions that patients, families and providers sometimes have when in the thick of a medical crisis. Best of all, because private advocates are primarily hired by the patients and their families, we work for THEM. Health Advocates typically do not engage in any direct patient care; rather, we help with the communication gaps that invariably arise when someone is interacting with the health care system.

How to Explore if Health Advocacy is Right For You

Decide if you want to work for yourself or another company.  Independent advocates can work with different types of patients and are in control of who they work with and how much they work.  If you want to join a larger organization, there are several to choose from. To get started, you can check out the following organizations:

  • National Association of Healthcare Advocacy Consultants
  • Alliance of Professional Health Advocates
  • Professional Patient Advocate Institute
  • Washington State Health Advocates Association WASHAA

ARNP Faculty — How Are We Meeting the “Practice” Challenge in Academia?

By Danuta Wojnar PhD RN MED IBCLC, Associate Professor & Chair of Maternal Child and Family Nursing at the Seattle University College of Nursing,
2012 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Executive Nurse Fellow

Schools of nursing around the country are grappling with the concept of faculty practice and how to incorporate clinical practice into the already-busy academic environment of teaching, scholarship and service. Many argue that “practice” for faculty encompasses teaching, research, and the dissemination of findings that contributes to the growth of nursing knowledge.

While this may be true for the “practice” of PhD-prepared faculty, the idea gets more nebulous when one starts thinking of the ARNP-prepared academics who are full-time faculty teaching in the Masters ARNP and DNP programs. These faculties must remain clinically active in order to maintain their ARNP licenses and to effectively prepare new generations of ARNP nurses to meet the current health care needs of our nation.

In the schools of nursing affiliated with the Health Sciences Centers, the challenge of faculty clinical practice appears somewhat less difficult as malpractice insurance for the faculty is offered through the clinical affiliations. These arrangements allowed many Schools of Nursing around the country to open non-for-profit faculty-managed clinics that offer health care services to the poor and underserved and help with the ARNP licensure requirements. However, for the schools of nursing in private universities without such affiliations, the issue of faculty clinical practice continues to be a great challenge.

In 2012, I became RWJF Executive Nurse Fellow. My key leadership challenge is to overcome this issue for ARNP faculty teaching in the universities not affiliated with Health Sciences Centers. My goal is to establish a partnership with the local primary care delivery agencies to design an innovative model of care in which the faculty and students are insured through the partnering agencies.  The purpose of the partnership is to offer non for profit high quality primary care to the homeless, underinsured, and uninsured in our community, and to offer firsthand experience of working with the underserved and vulnerable in an interdisciplinary setting to the ARNP students.  At the same time, it is my hope to resolve the issue of malpractice insurance once and for all. The project will evaluate the outcomes to the patients, partnering agencies, and faculty and students. I will disseminate the outcomes both in terms of challenges and successes, with the ultimate goal to replicate the model by other schools of nursing around the country that face similar challenges.

#GivingTuesday

Hundreds of high school students filled the gymnasium—some in jeans, others in slacks, and several even sporting ties and smart suits—each assessing the rows of booths. Their expressions were transparent: So this is a career fair, and these are my career options. How do I get there?

Since 2004, Washington Center for Nursing has been connecting with students at high school career fairs. We want to make the path to a nursing career clear and attainable. Many students are unaware of the courses required for a nursing career. They see the good nurses do, they may want to become a nurse, but they don’t realize that nursing is technical career requiring science and math skills. For us, engaging with the students, informing them of Washington nurse camps and scholarship opportunities, is our way of helping them start pursuing their goals.

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