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University of Toledo Online Patient Advocacy Graduate Certificate Program

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As the health care system in the United States becomes increasingly more complex, the need for patient advocacy has become more pressing. While many patients have family members who can help to act as an advocate for improving patient care, in other cases the medical and administrative issues a patient faces are too complex.

Professional patient advocates are a fairly new role, and the University of Toledo has created an online certificate program to train professional patient advocates.

About.com spoke with Suzanne Wambold R.N., Ph.D., Professor at The University of Toledo, about this emerging program.

About.com: What is the professional background for your typical student in the patient advocacy program?

Suzanne Wambold: The Post Bachelor Patient Advocate Certificate was initiated at The University of Toledo in the fall of 2010. Qualified students must complete four courses (2 in the fall and 2 in the spring). All four courses are offered in the online format. There is no health background requirement for acceptance. Thus, in the first cohort the students have a diverse background. Some of the current students are nurses, some are from a business background, some are cancer survivors.

About.com: How much time should students expect to spend on coursework in a typical week?

Suzanne Wambold: The rule of thumb for our online courses is the same as those of land-based courses. A three credit-hour course requires three hours of class time. Thus students should plan to spend three hours reviewing power points, lecture notes, videos or participating in online classroom discussions, etc.

just as if they had to drive to school and sit in a classroom. Next, for every hour of credit, there is one hour of homework. This homework is typically reading from the text book, and, of course, there is homework to complete such as papers to write. Writing is a big part of the course, and for some students who have not written a research paper in some time, revisiting the APA format is difficult.

We also include reading of law cases so that advocates know what kind of issues they may face and how they may have been resolved. Since there are two courses per semester, students register for six credit hours, so they have to double the time commitment of one three-credit hour class. One financial advantage of our program is that we offer in-state tuition for out-of-state students, through a distance learning scholarship.

About.com: How does the certificate help graduates in their careers?

Suzanne Wambold: Since we have not had a class complete all four courses yet - as we are in the spring semester at this time, I am not sure how this will play out. I do know that a couple of the nurses are thinking of retirement and are working with the hospital to secure jobs as advocates. One student with a computer background sees a place for her by developing web sites for advocates. I have asked the class to review the information at advo.com and to contact Concerto Health Partners, who are advocating to advocates and families.

For more information about enrollment in the University of Toledo Post Bachelor Patient Advocate Certificate, visit their website or call 1-800-586-5336.
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