How Do I Become a Patient Advocate With A Degree In Social Work?

Patient AdvocatePatient advocacy is one of the fastest-growing fields in the medical sector, and many considering a career change are wondering whether or not they can become a patient advocate with a degree in social work. The good news is that patient advocates work currently is not restricted by any specific college degree requirements, state tests, or comprehensive certification procedures. This job is open to virtually anyone who has the skills needed to guide patients toward the right medical professionals, the right healthcare facilities, and the proper decisions for all kinds of incidental or terminal illnesses. For those with a social work degree who are considering this field as a new way to channel their unique skills, there are a few things to keep in mind when securing a position.

Bring a Solid Understanding of the Healthcare Industry

Patient advocates are placed in charge of informing their clients and guiding them toward the proper facilities, treatments, professionals, and more. In order to accomplish this, advocates must make sure that they understand how healthcare, health insurance, and medical treatments actually work. They need to understand the key differences between smaller clinics, large hospitals, long-term care facilities, independent or assisted living options, terminal illness care, and several other key areas that serve older or sicker patients. These patients are typically the ones that require inside information on the industry and they’re the ones most likely to seek the assistance of a patient advocate.

Patient advocates also need to thoroughly understand healthcare insurance coverage so that they can help patients choose a treatment option that’s appropriate for their health needs, their insurance coverage, and their budgetary restrictions. This is an absolutely essential area of the job, and a failure to have a full grasp of insurance could be a significant disservice to patients.

Bring a Willingness to Learn, to Meet, and to Assist at All Times

Patient advocates are much like social workers, in that their primary responsibility is counseling their client and guiding them toward better decisions that will benefit them over the long-term. In this case, however, social workers will trade in their understanding of low incomes, abusive homes, and substance abuse, for issues that revolve around cost, treatment facilities, professional qualifications, regulatory hurdles, and more. While patient advocates are expected to have a solid understanding of these issues at the time of their initial job interview, they’re not expected to be seasoned experts on day one of the job itself. Training will be provided, and social workers should be prepared to learn in-depth information about the broader healthcare sector.

Those seeking a job in this area should also be ready to assist their patients whenever and wherever necessary. Whether that means working on some Saturdays, or providing consultations on weekday evenings, advocates need to be ready to actually advocate for their patients at a moment’s notice. To do so, they will need to tap into their inner social work skills, meeting the patients and understanding their concerns so that, when needed, they can make quick and informed decisions for long-term care.

Related Resource: School Social Work Jobs

A Growing Field for Those with a Desire to Help

Patient advocacy is growing because America’s population is increasingly confused about healthcare needs, regulations, and key decisions. According to Get Educated, those who are looking to become a patient advocate with a degree in social work already have many of the necessary skills, and will quickly learn others that will help them excel in this growing field.