Emerging Nurse Career: Patient Advocate


Image: Somos/Veer | Getty Images

I had never heard of a private patient advocate. But I always knew I had more to offer than just carrying out written doctor’s orders, filling out the paperwork and going home.

I started brainstorming and searching around online for answers. What I found was exciting: Private patient advocacy is an emerging field that brings together nursing and medicine with social work and research, and includes the fields of insurance and patient education.

And get this—there’s a professional organization of private patient advocates just forming: the National Association of Healthcare Advocacy Consultants (nahac.com), along with an (affordable!) online credentialing program at Healthcare Liaisons, LLC. The biggest benefit of joining these groups is that you don’t have to know everything about healthcare, but you can bet with the networking available, you can find answers to virtually every question you might have.

What’s the real beauty of becoming a private patient advocate? Finally, I’m able to give more to help.

What are some of the things I do?

  • Consult with clients to understand their goals
  • Provide summaries and explanations of doctor visits
  • Educate family members on how to care for their loved one during difficult times, both in the hospital and after discharge
  • Assist in making difficult healthcare decisions
  • Discuss treatment options, second opinions and clinical trials
  • Work with MD and hospital staff on patient’s behalf
  • Review insurance documents, negotiate charges and other issues
  • Find palliative and other long-term care resources

In no time, I was totally immersed in my new occupation. I attended a workshop and a conference in Berkeley, Calif.; formed business relationships with other professionals; built my Website (CaringEdge.com); got my insurance and business licenses; and was up and running in no time.

Our time as nurses has come. We have a lot of knowledge and untapped talent for our communities. We can make a difference.


Janet Wise

Janet Wise, RN, MSN, is founder and president of CaringEdge.com, a private patient advocate company. She is a career professional with more than 15 years of experience in the healthcare system and has held a variety of positions in the field ranging from psychiatric nursing to orthopedic, medical/surgical, post-op and recovery, and cardiac care. In addition, she has served as university professor and director of education at a Los Angeles hospital. She maintains a current RN license (California) and holds a master's degree in nursing from Vanderbilt University. Janet was featured in Good Housekeeping magazine’s August 2008 issue (click here for article), which profiled women who have made noteworthy individual career choices.

Post a Comment

You must or register to post a comment.

16 Responses to Emerging Nurse Career: Patient Advocate

  1. Amy

    I dont know about your Advocates; but the one where I work has the biggest, most decadent office in the building, a ridiculously bloated salary and does NEXT TO NOTHING….except give the crazy families the reins and let them run us around like servants on a coffee plantation. I have actually had some follow me into ANOTHER patients room. Our advocate does NOT solve any problems, she CREATES then…if there is a school for this…SOMEone send her BACK there and get her OUR of our hair!!!!

  2. Lisa

    This is an emerging career? I thought we were all supposed to advocate for each and every patient? Why do we a need a specialist? Are we not doing our job as patient advocate with each patient well enough that now we need to pay a nurse just to do this?
    Don’t get me wrong, one of my favorite parts of nursing is patient advocacy, but I would like to see it stay with the individual nurse, and for each patient every time there is an interaction between nurse and patient. A specialist can make some nurses feel that they don’t need to advocate for their patient, since there’s a special nurse being paid to do it…

    • Tommy5677

      Lisa. Do you know any nurses who have the time to do this? Really?

  3. It’s unfortunate that the patient nurse, in most hospitals that my wife and I have worked in, don’t get the time to advocate for their patients. Even with California trying to establish nurse-to-patient ratios, the patients are older, sicker or too scared and require much more effort to get healthy.

    The demands on the hospital staff increase; they haven’t decreased despite increased education, technology and training.

    Patient advocacy springs from nurses and health care providers trying to fill a gap.

  4. I wish each nurse had the time to dedicate themselves as advocates to each of their patients. I wish all nurses had experience/knowledge in insurance/pharmaceutical industry/research/medical law and was able to discuss all of this at length with each patient. Unfortunately, with our patient load, patients being sicker, and the fact that most hospital nurses just don’t have enough experience/knowledge about how insurance companies work, what to think about when considering becoming part of a clinical trial, how to set up your legal documents, what options are available to you in your home (etc). Having one advocate to be part of your team, to have this person go with you to your doctor’s appointments, to the hospital, (etc) is wonderful!!!! and, the fact that they can be certified to weed out the lazy idiots from the dedicated workers is wonderful. i hope this catches on. the down side is, it is all private pay and, once again, if you “have” money, you are lucky. the people that really need advocates are those who can least afford it i am afraid. .

  5. Emmmijay

    I have had to be an advocate for multiple family memebers and friends and see that there is a TOTAL need for this type of service and would love to find out where to go and how to do this on a full time basis. Nurses are not allowed the time that is needed to effectively help patients in this manor. Any information on how to get started in the new field would be greatly appreciated. I know so far with the ones I have helped I found and protected these family members from wrong diagnosis and educating them on rights they didn’t relize that they had. Thank you in advance for any information you can provide me!

  6. Jeannie

    I was recently an out patient at our local hospital in the ER
    I had been there a week before because of an infected tick bite. I had to go back to the hospital for a follow up a few days later, which I did. They did a “skin punch” where they removed some of the infected tissue and took me off one of the antibiotics as i had a reaction to it but kept me on on which was a double dose anyway. he asked that i be seen again. The attending physician was proffessional, curtious and kind. He said if I couldn’t get into see my dr. to come back here.
    The reaction that i had to the antibiotic (skin rash) went away and the wound looked great. I thought i was doing good. I had made an appt with my primary care for friday, but thursday night i developed some symptoms, dizzy, shaking, slight fever, pain going from my bicep to my arm pit and under my right breast *same side of the bite. my heart was pounding and i thought i was having a heart attack.
    Now, this is why WE NEED ADVOCATES!
    As soon as I got there I started to fill out the paper work, my boyfriend was with me and witnessed this whole event.
    On the wall of the hospital It tells you “If you are having symptoms of a heart attack alert the attendant immediately. I told her I thought i was having a heart attack, she told me that i had ppl in fromt of me and i would have to wait, when i felt like i was going to pass out after waiting, I again approached the desk and told her i wasn’t doing well can I please be seen, I was scared. She was with a patient and told me to have a seat being extreamly rude every time. I sat down and waited. she called me up and again was rude, sarcastic and would not listen to what I was saying. I had a flannel shirt on and made a remark that we wouldn’t get a good reading and rolled her eyes.
    i stood up and told my boyfriend to get me out of here, that I wanted to go someplace where they were going to take me serious.
    but from the first time i talked to this woman she was confrontational, and I was wasting her valuable time .
    by this time my daughter and daughter in law showed up. I was going to have my family take me to a hospital in a near by town about an hour away. she argued that she was taking me seriously, my Boy friend was concerned and wanted me to be seen asap. So I agreed to go back. But I asked at that time, for a patient advocate. I could see this was going horrible wrong, and I wanted to make it out of here alive. She refused and now she is really agitated which is agitating my family.
    my boyfriend asked for her name, it was an unusal name so he asked her to repeat it. she took her name tag and shoved it in his face, hitting him in the face with it. when he pushed it away, she pulled back and told him to keep way from her that she felt threatend. in shock now, we asked again for an advocate, she again refused and said she would, get her head nurse. but she also called the security guard on us, when I asked for his name as I wanted a copy of the report. he did the same, shuved his badge in my face and said “read it and weep” I was not confrontational, even if i wanted to, i was to weak. all I wanted was the name of the security guard taking the report. i was polite.
    she assured me they would listen to me, she assured me I would get quality care, I told her I feel like I am having a heart attack, the pain, I also informed her as well that i was here last week and why.
    I again was sent to the waiting room, then sent to the back to get my vitals taken. I was told i would be taken upstairs to be seen so that i would be seen faster. an hour later i was made to walk on my own up stairs clear across the hospital. when i got there, they were more interested in what happened down stairs than my symptoms. He asked me some questionos, do you drink? do you do drugs? notthing about my symptoms untill he came to examine me. he did a breast exam!
    when again I tell them i feel like i am having a heart attack he tells me he thinks its symptomatic. that because of what happend down stairs i am now saying i am having a heart attack. I told him i came in here saying that, he implied i was making this up and then walked out. then another nurse practitioner came in, I am crying at this point asking my boyfriend to take me home. The Nurse askes me if I act like this often, from that point on they wanted me to take an adavan pill to shut me up.
    they were extreamly aggitated that i didn’t want to take the pill, they asked what I wanted done.
    I said a blood test to make sure the infection hasn’t gone to my blood and to be put on a heart monitor to make sure i wasn’t having a heart attack.
    I was asked to walk back down stairs i said that I didn’t feel i could make it, I asked for a wheel chair, and the tech said “what you can’t walk now?” I said I didn’t think i could do it and if i could please have a chair. she was obviously annoyed. which ways heavy as you don’t want to be a burden to anyone, you just want to get better. emotionally i was horribly beaten. I never yelled at anyone or treated them with disrespect, all i did was ask for help, to be treated fairly.
    once i was down stairs, it all starts all over again.
    it took over 4 hours after all this to get treated. If i was having a heart attack i would of died due to the stress i was put through. i went to my doctor the next day. he cut my down to half of the meds and I am fine. I was getting toxic levels and i had a reaction to it.
    Health Care Professionals are not all like this, i know this, i have seen some excellent care givers this is an acception. But they ask this way because they can get away with it..
    even down to when they took my blood for the blood work I asked for, the needle they used had to of been huge as it felt as though it went through my arm.
    guess they had to inflict more pain so they could get more enjoyment out of the tourture that they so enjoyed putting me through.
    now, my point here.
    if I had a patient advocate, none of this would of happend and it would have been stopped right away if it had.
    I feel every hospital should have them on staff when ever a problem arises or if a patient is alone.
    what the nurse said above how you make their jobs harder. GOOD! then you are doing something right you are making them accountable!
    thank you for that!

  7. I am the author of this article.

    The career path mentioned here is “Private” patient advocate. We are not employed by hospitals, we are out in the community and we are paid by the patient, and that’s the only person we answer to.

    While some hospitals do hire patient advocates, that’s a very different situation. As a private patient advocate, I do not have an office in any hospital.

    Thank you for allowing me to make that clear.

  8. kandee Giannotti

    Thank you for posting this very informative story. I am an experienced LPN ( 30 ) years with a varied background, excellant nursing experience and need a career change due to a anaphalctic reaction to metamucil in the workplace.

    I want to be a private nursing advocate and need direction. Not to mention, have many questions.

    I live in Plymouth Mass, near the Bourne line and have immediate access to both the south and north of SE Mass.

    Thanks for your time. Looking forward to any information that can assist me in my endeavor.


    Kandee Giannotti

  9. Talina McElhany

    I am very interested in becoming a patient advocate. My dad recently had cardiac bypass surgery and had some less than adequate care from the doctor’s that saw him. My interest in patient advocacy began because of his experiences with these doctors. I need some advice on where to begin.

    Talina McElhany

  10. sepi

    I would like to become a patient advoctat. I am a medical assistant with 10 years of experience but need to know where to start?

  11. I am very interested

    I am Registered Nurse with experience in Oncology, Home Health, Hospice, Medical Surgical Nursing. You may contact me by phone or e-mail. My number is 859-380-1616.
    Thank You
    Cathy Rump R.N.

  12. suzi abrams

    I am a registered nurse, with pediatric experience in ortho, neurosurgery, urology, GI, transplant-both kidney and liver,. I have a tremendous amount of personal experience, with my own family,where i advocated for my son,to fight for medication, and a diagnosis of a rare disease, on his behalf. I understand the system from both sides. i am passionate about a voice for the patient. if you have any insight into where i could turn to for this type of work, i would be grateful. i am currently employed by an insurance company. But, patient advocacy is what i would really love to do. Thank you in advance for your help.

  13. after reading the past experiences of people i wish to be a good client advocate to act on behalf of them.as iam a student nurse i wish to be a perfect client advocator in my future ahead….

  14. Kelly Jones

    I have been thinking of trying to get started in something like this myself for a long time, before I knew that this even existed, I need to know how to get started in this, I am in Omaha and I don’t believe that there is anything here like that, I do get lots of calls from family and friends for help and advice. Thanks.

  15. monakuchta

    I am extremely interested in this type of work, and thankful to anyone able to provide me with information on how to get started. Thanks…M. Kuchta