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Every March social workers have the opportunity to celebrate their chosen profession. As with my colleagues I often find myself evaluating my professional objectives in the ever changing healthcare climate. Social workers assist patient and their families in navigating the often complex world of healthcare. To be a truly successful social worker I believe it is incumbent upon our profession to teach the patient and or family to navigate the system independently.

Advocating for yourself or your loved one is your attempt to change the outcome of a situation. In these instances it is imperative that you are knowledgeable regarding the problem, but insightful enough to appreciate that this may not be your area of expertise and asking the right question may be more conducive to change than assuming you know the answer.

I have been on both sides of this issue, a social worker by profession and the daughter of a brain injured father. I found in both my personal and professional life that stating my concerns in a truthful, tactful manner has been helpful. It is important to acknowledge the healthcare professional's expertise and assistance prior to making your inquiry. A defensive posture by the patient and or family will not provide you with the information you are seeking.

It is often very difficult to advocate for yourself and or family member without the rush of emotions. Some suggestions that I use in my professional practice include:

  1. Do not make assumptions before you gather your facts.
  2. Write down your questions in a succinct clear manner.
  3. When speaking to a healthcare professional take notes. It is important that you date the notes and also document who you are speaking to as well as the subject matter.
  4. Attempt not to raise your voice. Your message will get lost an you will lose all credibility.
  5. Become knowledgeable about your topic, but realize that much information on the internet may have a slanted view depending on the source.
  6. State what you want and what would be helpful to you as you navigate this situation. I find an honest statement goes a long a long way to inviting a therapeutic relationship with the healthcare professional.
  7. Finally realize that ultimately when we try our best and find the courage to express ourselves in an honest, thoughtful manner that we continue to maintain our grace and integrity through a difficult circumstance.