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Emerging Occupations

Patient Advocate

In general, a patient advocate guides patients and their caregivers through the health care system. Their goal is to ensure patients 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.

Also Known As

Health Advocate, Mental Health Patient Advocate

Updated Mar 31, 2018

The role of a patient advocate is to:

  • listen to patients’ needs, concerns, and complaints
  • discuss options for managing needs or resolving concerns
  • help patients get the care they need
  • offer guidance and advice to family and caregivers
  • help patients file formal complaints (when necessary)
  • help resolve issues between patients and health care workers (when required).

Patient advocates perform 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 and explain diagnoses and treatment plans with patients
  • answer patients’ questions and advise them when they have to make decisions
  • offer guidance and advice to family and caregivers
  • help patients and their family members make difficult health-related decisions together (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 deal with the Worker’s Compensation Board (WCB), disability filings or malpractice / medical error situations
  • connect patients and their families to further support services (such as the Patient and Family Advisory Council)
  • refer and support clients seeking resources for mental health, counselling or other psychological / psychiatric resources.

Patient advocates document and track patients’ progress through the above processes. They offer follow-up services based on these records. They may write reports or summaries based on what they do. Job descriptions vary since patient advocacy is an emerging field.

Working Conditions
Updated Mar 31, 2018
  • Strength Required Strength requirements vary

Working conditions for patient advocates vary depending on their job description, work location, and if they are self-employed. Patient advocates spend some of their time:

  • working in an office setting doing admin work or meeting with patients
  • attending appointments with patients in clinics or hospitals
  • visiting patients receiving in-patient care
  • visiting patients in their homes.

Patient advocates spend a lot of time in health care settings. As a result, they may face increased exposure to infectious illnesses.

Traits & Skills
Updated Mar 31, 2018

Patient advocates need to possess:

  • a positive attitude
  • a personable, caring, sympathetic, and outgoing personality
  • the desire to help others
  • the ability to remain impartial and unbiased
  • self-motivation (particularly for those who own their own businesses)
  • strong speaking and writing skills.

They should enjoy:

  • helping others
  • solving problems
  • providing advice to individuals and groups.
Educational Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2018
  • Minimum Education Varies

Most emerging occupations develop from more than one occupation. People working in this occupation may come from a variety of education and training backgrounds. Before 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 2-year post-secondary diploma in a relevant discipline such as nursing, social work, or business is sometimes required. Some employers may also require work experience related to patient advocacy.

Patient advocates who run their own businesses should be self-starters. They need to think creatively to market and promote their business. They should also be good at networking and developing business contacts.

To expand or narrow your search for programs related to this occupation, visit Post-Secondary Programs.

Completing a program does not guarantee entrance into an occupation. Before enrolling in an education program, prospective students should look into various sources for education options and employment possibilities. For example, contact associations and employers in this field.

Certification Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2018
  • Certification Not Regulated

Certification is not required as there is currently no legislation regulating this occupation in Canada. However, certificate training programs are available in the United States through the Professional Patient Advocate Institute and some universities.

Employment & Advancement
Updated Mar 31, 2018

Emerging occupations typically are the result of:

  • An increased human need
  • 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 it is unknown.

Most patient advocates are self-employed. However, some work for health care institutions. For example, the Professional Conduct department of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta employs on-staff patient advocates. These advocates assist the public with complaints about physicians.

Employment Outlook

Employment outlook is influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • Time of year (for seasonal jobs)
  • Location in Alberta
  • Employment turnover (when people leave existing positions)
  • Occupational growth (when new positions are created)
  • Size of the occupation
  • Trends and events that affect overall employment

Explore emerging workplace trends in Alberta that could affect this occupation.

Wage & Salary
Updated Mar 31, 2018

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

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 Mar 31, 2018

Alliance of Professional Health Advocates website:

Open Arms Patient Advocacy Society website:

Professional Patient Advocate Institute (USA) website:

Get information and referrals about career, education, and employment options from Alberta Supports.

Updated Mar 31, 2018. 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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