Health and Patient Advocacy Careers: Hospital Patient Advocate

A doctor and patient talk in a hospital.
A doctor and patient talk in a hospital. Portra Images/Getty Images

If you are exploring a career as a patient advocate, you may wonder what it would be like to work as a patient advocate in a hospital. Most hospitals in the United States employ patient advocates. Although nurses and most doctors would also consider themselves to be advocates for their patients, there are also advocates in hospitals who are not medical personnel. Their position is to be available to assist patients, their families and/or caregivers with their concerns.

Position Titles for Hospital Patient Advocates

When you are looking for a position as a hospital patient advocate, you will need to navigate through what they are called in different organizations. Hospital patient advocates may have a number of titles: patient advocate, patient representative, patient liaison, patient relations, consumer advocate, crisis resolution specialists, ombudsman and others.

They most often are part of the risk management team, which is the group within the hospital that addresses legal, safety and consumer issues. Look for the positions to be classified under Risk Management.

Duties of a Hospital Patient Advocate

As a hospital's patient advocate, if a patient has a concern, a complaint or a grievance during her stay in your hospital, it will be your responsibility as the hospital's representative to try to straighten it out.

According to the Society for Healthcare Consumer Advocacy, the national organization that represents hospital patient advocates, (and part of the American Hospital Association), there are nine aspects to a hospital advocate's job:

  • Patients' Rights
  • Grievance and Complaint Management
  • Measuring Patient Satisfaction
  • Interpersonal Communication
  • Customer Service / Service Excellence
  • Mediation / Conflict Resolution
  • Crisis Intervention
  • Data Management
  • Healthcare Management

If those are skills you have, or aspects of working with patients in which you are interested, then a job as a hospital patient advocate might be a good choice for you.

Qualifications for a Hospital Patient Advocate

To be hired as a hospital patient advocate, you'll need the following qualifications:

Education: Usually an Associate or Bachelor's degree, and often a Master's degree is required. It is often required to be in nursing, psychology, humanities, social services, education, human relations, communication or a related field.

Typically: Many hospital patient advocates begin as social workers or in clinical positions.

Dual Responsibility to the Hospital and the Patient - Is It Right for You?

Many who consider patient advocacy as a career are focused on working to improve the system for patients. Hospital patient advocacy is intended to provide solutions for patients who are having problems with their hospital stays. But hospital patient advocates will find that they do not enjoy a pure responsibility to the patient when employed by a hospital.

Hospital patient advocates get their paychecks from the hospital. They are therefore required to make things right for the hospital first.

They will work to solve problems and make things right for both parties, but their allegiance must be to their employers.

This is a factor to consider when you decide on this career choice. You would be representing the hospital's interests and balancing them with the needs of the patient. That may make it a less-desirable career path for some people.

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