I am frequently asked about patient advocate or navigator training programs.
Patient navigation/advocacy is a new and emerging field. It has come about because of the complexity, inefficiency and cost of the current American health care system. You probably saw from my website (www.patientnavigator.com) how I came to be a patient navigator (advocate, medical mentor, cancer coach) as a second career. You can also get a sense of the services we offer as well as the range of clients with whom we work.
As an emerging industry, there is no clear definition or standard training to call oneself a navigator or advocate. There are a handful of people scattered across the United States doing independent navigation in their own communities. However, we are beginning to organize ourselves. The National Association of Healthcare Advocacy Consultants (www.nahac.com) was launched in August. I was recently elected as its Vice President and we will hold our inaugural conference November 14-15 in Berkeley, California.
There are several parts to the “navigator” landscape.
An increasing number of hospitals in the U.S. and Canada employ navigators to help patients manage their hospital stays. Those hospitals usually require nursing degrees and frequently work with breast cancer patients (because there is funding available from private foundations such as Susan G. Komen).
The American Cancer Society trains navigators in some cities to work with underserved populations. They get funding, in part, from the NCI program to train navigators. http://tinyurl.com/yhswrof
The National Institutes of Health http://crchd.cancer.gov/pnp/pnrp-index.html is funding several patient navigator pilot projects across the U.S. in underserved and minority areas and trains navigators working in those projects. A Colorado hospital is one of those projects and they conduct training: http://patientnavigatortraining.org/index.htm Much of their work is based on the model set by Dr. Harold Freeman in Harlem to develop community-based navigator programs – http://www.hpfreemanpni.org/ They offer training to groups and non-profits seeking to work to narrow disparities in access to cancer care.
I hear often from folks around the country who want to become patient navigators/advocates. The most comprehensive training program I know of is an online training and certification launched by the University of Miami on September 11, 2009. It is called the Healthcare Advocacy Certificate Program. Its courses run between 3 and 8 weeks and follow each other with no break except over the Christmas holidays. There are 9 courses and the last course ends mid-July. The total tuition is $4995 for the program (it is not paid by course). In addition to tuition there are resource books required for each course. The anticipated total book fees is about $300 but can vary based on where the student purchases them. For complete information, http://www.educationmiami.com/en/packagedetail.aspx?p=100 The point of contact at University of Miami is Carol Wilson at 305-284-6600, email@example.com
Separately, Sarah Lawrence College offers a Master’s degree in patient advocacy. http://www.slc.edu/graduate/programs/health-advocacy/index.html
I learned recently of training at the University of Wisconsin at Madison for certificates in Consumer Health Advocacy http://www.patientpartnerships.org/certificate.php
Most of us who do this work come to it through our own experiences dealing with the health care or elder care system (whether as a patient, caregiver, nurse, social worker, etc.) There is no specific background or education that is required. I have found that a passion for helping others, good research, communication, interpersonal and organizational skills as well as the ability to be creative in finding resources and solving problems are what it takes. Here is a link to a guide published by Trisha Torrey about setting up an advocacy business: http://patients.about.com/b/2009/03/31/start-a-patient-advocacy-business.htm
I am currently talking with possible navigators from across the U.S. to try to connect us. To that end, I have formed a virtual Patient Navigator working group through LinkedIn, the professional social networking site. Please consider joining our virtual group as we collaborate to build this profession. All you need to do is go to www.linkedin.com set up a profile and then ask to join the Patient Navigator group.
Elisabeth Russell, Founder and President, Patient Navigator LLC www.patientnavigator.com