COMMON GROUND: WHAT 'PROFESSIONAL' HEALTH ADVOCATES SHARE
The Shelter Rock group agreed that an essential function of the retreat was to define principles, values, competencies/skills, professional ethics, and tools/strategies that we feel should be affirmed and embraced by all health advocates, regardless of position, role, or background.
Maggie Hoffman and Donna Appell
- Promote equity and justice in health care
- Promote health
- Work on behalf of others
- Maintain Hope
HEALTH ADVOCATES SHOULD BE GUIDED BY THESE VALUES:
- Responsibility to respect the context, values and preferences of each person, group, and community.
- Responsibility to be an agent of positive change.
- Commitment to idealism.
- Commitment to finding, using and sharing the best quality knowledge.
- Commitment to serving both the individual and the group.
- Commitment to promote and protect patient rights.
- Commitment to personal transparency about motives, limitations, and conflicts of interest
- Commitment to multiple pathways for attaining Health Advocacy credential
"My work as a health advocate is rewarding, but draining...I am excited for the opportunities for professional development and peer support the Health Advocates Association will provide."
- Maggie Hoffman, advocate for children with chronic illnesses
The meeting concluded that Health/Patient advocates should study the professional ethics of related professions and begin a dialogue that will result in the development of professional ethics that could be a foundation of professional development for advocates. A task force is moving forward with this work. After a code of professional ethics is developed, membership in the Association would include a commitment to the ethical standards agreed on by the profession.
HEALTH ADVOCATES SHOULD POSSESS THE FOLLOWING COMPETENCES AND SKILLS.
- Ability to identify and support each person, group and community, taking into account and respecting their context, history, values and preferences
- Ability to build capacity (patient, family, support network, organization, policy)
- Capacity to ably, fairly, and honestly "represent" others
- Ability to communicate effectively
- Capacity to facilitate access to support
- Ability to know personal limits, including
- What you don't know
- Limits of funding pressures, institutional ideology
- When you cannot competently represent
- An understanding how the health care system works
- Willingness to recognize and disclose conflicts of interests
Elda Railey and Elizabeth French
PATHWAYS TO PROFESSIONALISM
The Shelter Rock group affirmed and reaffirmed that the purpose of the Association is to provide essential resources and support to everyone who wants to be an advocate. The Association is by no means designed to be exclusionary. Although the group agreed that credentialing is necessary in order to protect the public and create an articulated professional core for the health advocacy profession, we remained emphatic that the pathways to eventual "credentialing" through the Association must be flexible and inclusive. Such pathways might include: direct experience (survivor, family member, etc.); formal education; career/professional experience; training (i.e., mastery of a body of knowledge); independent (or self-designed) study
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
Questions still open for debate include:
- What should be the organizational structure of the Association?
- What would be the criteria/processes for evaluating credentials of individual members?
- Should there be defined criteria for joining and maintaining membership?
- Should membership be self-determined, independent of competencies?
- Should members be required to meet certain standards or be working toward certain competency level?
- Should prospective members meet certain skill-based, experiential and/or educational standards?
- What kinds of benefits (e.g., health insurance) and services (e.g., vetting continuing education programs) should the Association plan to provide?