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Emerging Occupations

Patient Advocate

In general, a patient advocate works with patients receiving health care and their caregivers to help them navigate the health care system and ensure they receive the best possible care.

This is an emerging occupation. It may have evolved from an existing occupation or emerged in response to consumer needs or technological advances.

  • Avg. Salary N/A
  • Avg. Wage N/A
  • Minimum Education Varies
  • Outlook N/A
Also Known As

Health Advocate, Mental Health Patient Advocate

Updated Apr 14, 2016

The role of a patient advocate is to:

  • listen to patients' needs, concerns and complaints
  • discuss options available for managing or resolving those needs and concerns
  • help patients secure the care they need
  • help patients file formal complaints, when necessary
  • act as a mediator between patients and health care workers when required.

Patient advocates assist patients with navigating the health care system by performing some or all of the following duties:

  • provide advice to patients or help schedule appointments
  • attend meetings or appointments with patients
  • provide relevant information or documents
  • review patient diagnoses and treatment plans, explain them to patients and answer questions, and provide advice or recommendations to patients on decisions that need to be made
  • offer guidance and advice to family and caregivers
  • mediate between patients and family members when difficult health-related decisions need to made (such as moving a patient into a care home or choosing an out-of-town treatment facility)
  • help patients choose and manage their health insurance
  • educate patients and their families about their legal rights under the Health Information Act and the Mental Health Act
  • help patients file formal complaints or compliments regarding their health care institution or facility
  • help patients deal with Worker's Compensation, disability filings or malpractice/medical error situations
  • connect clients and their families to further support services, such as the Patient and Family Advisory Council.

Patient advocates are responsible for documenting and tracking their patients' progress through the above processes and offering follow-up services to clients based on these records. They may also be involved in writing reports or summaries based on their activities. Patient advocates' job descriptions vary, since patient advocacy is an emerging field.

Working Conditions
Updated Apr 14, 2016

Working conditions and environments vary depending on the patient advocate's job description and whether they are employed by a hospital or clinic or are self-employed. Patient advocates spend some of their time:

  • working in an office setting performing administrative duties or meeting with patients
  • in clinics or hospitals attending appointments with patients or visiting patients who are currently receiving care
  • visiting patients in their homes.

As with all professions related to health care, because of the time patient advocates spend in health care settings they may face increased exposure to infectious illnesses.

  • Strength Required Strength requirements vary
Skills & Abilities
Updated Apr 14, 2016

Patient advocates need the following characteristics:

  • a positive attitude
  • a personable, caring, sympathetic and social personality
  • passion for helping others
  • the ability to remain impartial and unbiased
  • self-motivation (particularly for those who own their own businesses)
  • strong communication skills, both orally and in writing.

They should enjoy helping others, solving problems and providing advice to individuals and groups.

Educational Requirements
Updated Apr 14, 2016

Most emerging occupations develop from more than one occupation so patient advocates may come from a variety of education and training backgrounds. Prior to enrolling in an education program, prospective students should contact associations and employers in this field to investigate education options and employment possibilities.

Educational requirements for patient advocates vary based on the employer. A minimum of a two-year post-secondary diploma in a relevant discipline such as nursing, social work or business is sometimes required. Work experience related to patient advocacy may also be required by some employers.

Patient advocates who run their own businesses should be self-starters, have the ability to think creatively to market and promote their business, and be good at networking and developing business contacts.

No certification programs are currently available in Canada. However, certificate training programs are available in the United States through the Professional Patient Advocate Institute and some universities. These certifications are not necessarily required for employment or self-employment as a patient advocate.

For a broad list of programs and courses that may be related to this occupation try searching using keywords.

Certification Requirements
Updated Apr 14, 2016

Certification is not required, as there is currently no legislation regulating this occupation.

Employment & Advancement
Updated Apr 14, 2016

Emerging occupations typically are the result of:

  • an increased human need (for example, alternate sources of energy)
  • technological advances
  • greater specialization within an occupation.

Often there are too few people working in an emerging occupation to gather survey information. Therefore, it can be difficult to define advancement opportunities or employment outlook. Some Albertans already are working in this emerging occupation but future demand for patient advocates is unknown.

Most patient advocates are self-employed although some are employed by health care institutions. For example, the Professional Conduct department of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta employs on-staff patient advocates.

The employment outlook in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors, including:

  • trends and events affecting overall employment
  • location in Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions that never existed before)
  • size of the occupation.
Wage & Salary
Updated Apr 14, 2016

Often there are too few people working in an emerging occupation to gather survey information. Therefore, no current salary data is available for this occupation.

Related High School Subjects
  • English Language Arts
  • Science
    • Biology
    • Chemistry
  • Social Studies
  • Business, Administration, Finance and IT
    • Financial Management
    • Management and Marketing
  • Health, Recreation and Human Services
    • Community Care Services
    • Health Care Services
    • Legal Studies
Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Business, Management and Administrative Studies
  • Health Care and Medical Sciences
  • Social, Community and Protective Services
Other Sources of Information
Updated Apr 14, 2016

Alliance of Professional Health Advocates website:

Open Arms Patient Advocacy Society website:

Professional Patient Advocate Institute (USA) website:

For more information on career planning, education and jobs call the Alberta Supports Contact Centre toll-free at 1-877-644-9992 or 780-644-9992 in Edmonton, or visit an Alberta Works Centre near you.

Updated Mar 21, 2013. The information contained in this profile is current as of the dates shown. Salary, employment outlook and educational program information may change without notice. It is advised that you confirm this information before making any career decisions.

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