Health Advocacy can be an overwhelming topic. In this two part series we attempt to inform the process of incorporating elements of health advocacy into your professional practice.
Much of postsecondary healthcare education is guided by competency frameworks that identify health advocacy as a key attribute of healthcare professionals. Nursing education follows the Standards of Practice for Registered Nurses. Occupational therapy embraces the Essential Competencies of Practice for Occupational Therapists in Canada. Dentistry is directed by the Competencies for a Beginning Dental Practitioner in Canada.
My own program, medicine, is guided by the CanMEDs Physician Competency Framework. This framework tells me that, in order to provide patients with the highest possible quality of care, I must be a health advocate and responsibly use my “expertise and influence to advance the health and well-being of individual patients, communities, and populations.”
…Well. That certainly resonates. It sounds professional and noble and a whole lot like why I chose to go to medical school. It also sounds lofty and ambiguous. Health and well-being are broad, encompassing terms. How do I know which facet(s) of health and wellness to “advance?” To what lengths should I go to advance them? And what does “advancing” even mean? Will advocating for one patient take away from another? Which patients ought I to advocate for? Can I advocate at one level (individual, community, or population) without neglecting another? Should I advocate for all three?
On Wednesday, March 6th, the Global Health Office held an Advocacy Training Workshop with the goal of clarifying the somewhat nebulous role of health advocate. The workshop was organized by my fellow classmate, Jennie Parker, and with the help of Angela Day, Dr. Heather Scott, Dr. Colin van Zoost, and Dr. Brian Hennen, participants were introduced to what it means to be a health advocate, the steps and skills required to be involved in advocacy efforts, and examples of what real-world advocacy looks like. From sharing their experiences and passion for advocacy to workshopping through case scenarios, these physicians helped to elucidate the concept of health advocacy and what it entails.
Check back soon to read about what Angela Day, Dr. Heather Scott, Dr. Colin van Zoost, and Dr. Brian Hennen had to say about advocacy in medicine!