How to Choose the Right Advocacy Educational Program for You

Return to Step 2: Determine where your advocacy paycheck will come from.


Step 3 for private, independent advocacy:

Develop your gap analysis.

If you’ve decided to pursue, or at least to research further, the idea of starting and growing your own advocacy practice, as an independent, private advocate, then your gap analysis will take a different direction.

Independent, self-employed advocates need two main skill sets:
1.    advocacy skills
2.    run-your-own business skills, including bookkeeping, marketing and others (more information below)
Advocacy Skills:
Whether or not you will need more education depends on your background, experience and training as they stand up against the services you plan to offer to your clients.  So, for example, if you plan to sit by a patient’s side while he is hospitalized, you need to have experience in hospitals – understanding who’s who, how they are run, the schedules they keep, the expectations, and most certainly patient safety.

A caveat: don’t assume if you are a nurse or other provider who has worked in a hospital that you really understand hospitals!  You need to be intimately knowledgeable about the hospital from the patient’s point of view – often directly opposing the way providers see it. Clinical experience in a previous career is no predictor of success as a private advocate.

Review the master list of private educational services to see which ones you hope to offer.  Then check off, or cross off, those you feel competent and comfortable providing to others.  The remaining skills will be your gap – the gap you need to fill with new courses or programs.

Business Skills:
The daydream of being in business for yourself – and the reality – are two different things.  If you have never run your own business before, you may be in for a real eye-opening, rude awakening unless you prepare yourself ahead of time.

Legal concepts, liability insurance (for your business, not clients in this case), marketing, customer acquisition, customer service, financials such as cash flow and budgeting, bookkeeping – these are all skills you will either need to use yourself, or for which you’ll have to pay for services from other professionals.

If running a business isn’t yet your forte but you’re still determined to be an independent, private advocate, then add those skills and needs to your gap analysis.  You’ll need to read, study, interview or take workshops to learn how to run your business.

(Learn more:  The Health Advocate’s Start and Grow Your Own Practice Handbook , and The Alliance of Professional Health Advocates)

 •  Step 4:  Choose from among the existing programs based on your gap analysis.