This invaluable guide on how to become a patient advocate provides all the information you need to know about your required training, experience and more. You also find access to professionally written patient advocate resumes and a helpful online Resume Builder that offers step-by-step writing advice and text templates based on your experience and education.
Consider writing a cover letter, with our advice, to impress your future boss! According to a 2020 survey, most hiring managers read cover letters for candidates they’re considering interviewing before making their final decision.
If you are having writers block, our resume examples can help. Choose from hundreds of job titles to find the right example for your needs.
One extra step to impress a manager: A growing number of hiring professionals read cover letters to determine whether they’ll interview a candidate or not. Use our cover letter templates to craft a complete application that lands you the interview.
What Does a Patient Advocate Do?
Patient advocates assist patients within the complex field of health care services. They help ensure patients see the appropriate doctors for their specific health care needs.
Some common patient advocate duties and responsibilities include:
Research patients’ conditions and help educate the patients, family members and caregivers on current medical conditions and at-home care.
Review treatment plans and confirm that they are followed.
Ensure that the patient can receive all available treatment options.
Oversee patients’ health insurance claims to ensure billing departments and insurance companies process the claims correctly.
Collect information and report on patient relations and inter-institutional issues.
Make sound recommendations for operational improvement as needed.
How Do You Become a Patient Advocate?
Demand for patient advocates is developing at an above-average rate. The Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts a growth of 13% for the position through 2024, amounting to a total of 7,500 job openings for health care social workers during that period. The projected growth will be based upon efforts to boost health outcomes and cut health care costs by educating people on healthy habits and behaviors and providing information about how to become a patient advocate.
Earn a bachelor’s degree.
According to our analysis of online job postings, many employers are looking for patient advocate candidates with at least a bachelor’s degree in health education or health promotion. Topics covered in these degree programs include theories and methods of health behavior and education.
Gain experience through volunteer work or certification training programs.
While you study, it’s helpful to gain practical knowledge working with patients and various advocacy programs. You can acquire this experience by volunteering with local community centers and medical or health advocacy nonprofits or registering for clinical rotations through your college program.
You can also use transferable experiences such as previous work as a nurse or other medical personnel. Patient advocate certification programs also exist through most community and four-year colleges to help you build a baseline level of health care experience.
Study and gain a patient advocate certification.
Becoming a board-certified patient advocate includes a one-time certification exam. You’ll need to meet the following criteria to apply for the exam:
- Complete a self-assessment quiz by the Patient Advocate Certification Board (PACB).
- Supply two letters of recommendation from former instructors.
- Complete a bachelor’s degree or higher.
- OR write a 250-500 word Equivalent Experience narrative and provide proof of practical advocacy experience.
Apply for a job.
Every productive patient advocate’s job search starts with crafting a high-quality resume highlighting your skills and experience. Look at our library of patient advocate resume samples for help creating your resume.
Once your resume is ready, search online for patient advocate job opportunities. As you search for openings, check with people in your professional network, including health care workers.
When applying for patient advocate jobs, create a cover letter that expresses your interest in the position and highlights your qualifications and what you can bring to the role. Need some inspiration for your cover letter? Check out our collection of cover letter samples.
Patient Advocate Skills
Patient advocates work with various people, such as patients, family members, private caregivers, medical staff and community resource providers. The ability to successfully advocate for every patient is a necessary skill. Therefore, patient advocates should possess keen social perception, top-notch negotiation skills, active listening skills and the ability to offer sound and relevant advice.
Additional skills that can support your regular responsibilities include:
Insights from a Patient Advocate
In order to get an inside look at how to become a Patient Advocate, we contacted Michelle McConnell, patient liaison officer at DrFelix, and Dr. Carol Gordon DeVore at Amazing Healthcare Consultants, and here’s what they had to tell us.
What Is the Common Career Path for Patient Advocates?
“I have been working as an independent patient advocate for the last four years,” stated Michelle McConnell. “I’ve met a lot of other patient advocates in this career, and they all seem to come from different careers. There are former nurses, former medical assistants, former social workers and even lawyers who found a rewarding career change in this field. Most people have at least some familiarity with the healthcare system, and I have seen quite a few of them move on to work at hospitals once they have done what they set out to do as patient advocates. A few went on to complete nursing degrees, while others pursued careers as social workers. Of course, some of them stick with it, as I have so far, and find it a rewarding field on its own.”
What Should Someone Consider Before Becoming a Patient Advocate?
According to Michelle McConnell: “Patient advocates are usually people who have had some experience in the healthcare system. You don’t have to have worked in healthcare before transitioning to this job, but those who haven’t have had some sort of long-term experience in the system, either through their own healthcare crisis or that of a family member’s. Simply knowing how the system works is going to help you immensely.”
What type of person excels in this job?
According to Dr. DeVore: “Experience, knowledge, empathy and excellent communication skills (listening, patience and being able to meet people on their own "healthcare literacy level") are all essential to excel as a Patient Advocate. An effective advocate must also be accessible, organized, determined, assertive and resourceful.”
What are some of the most important skills - hard and soft - for patient advocates to have?
“Organizational and communication skills are essential, and I can't emphasize enough that when working in the patient/healthcare arena, medical knowledge (or having a partner with same) elevates the advocacy that can be done to an entirely different level,” stated Dr. DeVore. “Also, in this day and age, technological skills are a must.”
What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of being a Patient Advocate?
“I find that the most rewarding aspect of being a Patient Advocate is knowing that our clients are less stressed, less alone, less afraid and less overwhelmed during medically challenging times,” said Dr. DeVore. “Whether their "journey" is due to a medical crisis or chronic illness or aging, knowing that our clients are able to turn over the paperwork, phone calls and time consuming tasks to us and instead concentrate on what's truly important to them means everything to me. Assuring that our clients and their family members truly understand the complex and often confusing medical information they receive from physicians so that they can make informed decisions that are right for them is what continues to drive me to be the best Patient Advocate I can be!
How Much Do Patient Advocates Get Paid?
Patient Advocates are typically paid on an hourly basis, with the median hourly wage in the United States being $24.98. The lowest-paid Patient Advocates make around $14 per hour, while the highest-paid can earn around $45 hourly.
Top 10 States for Patient Advocates’ Salary
Patient Advocates in the following states make the highest median hourly wage in the U.S.:
Patient Advocate Resources
Need more information? We put together this list of extra resources to assist you as you continue exploring a career as a Patient Advocate.
On the Web
Pathfinders Medical Advocacy and Consulting
blog devoted to healthcare advocacy
Pathfinder Patient Advocacy Group
navigation for the healthcare journey
life transition blog
The Alliance of Professional Health Advocates
patient advocacy and care management professional association
Patient Advocate Foundation
provides effective arbitration and mediation services to patients navigating the healthcare systemNational Association of Healthcare Advocacy Consultants
non-profit healthcare advocacy organization that empowers advocates and consumers to successfully navigate the healthcare system