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Advocacy for Yourself & Others

Having a support system – a friend, family member, or health professional – is helpful when you or a loved one gets sick.

​Your support system can help you:

  1. ask questions
  2. get information
  3. navigate tests and appointments
  4. access healthcare providers
A good health advocate is someone who you trust and who acts in your best interests and champions your health care rights.
Health care advocates

Professional healthcare advocates work in hospitals or community healthcare centres to help you get the services you need.

Health advocates go by different names in different organizations:
  • patient navigators
  • patient liaisons
  • patient advocates
Health advocates are often nurses, social workers or professionals with health care experience who help you:
  • find out where services are located
  • book appointments and prepare you for medical visits
  • gather health information
  • understand your diagnosis
  • explain medical conditions
  • make decisions about your treatment options
  • understand your medications
  • obtain support services
Patient navigators also provide information on community support services, help direct you through the cancer care system, and provide emotional support.

Some patient navigators help you if you have a specific disease or need support based on your background, age, language or spiritual needs. For example, the Breast Health Patient Navigators (BHPN) at the Victoria Breast Health Centre are nurses who answer questions and prepare you for treatment visits with specialists. 
BC Women’s has support people to help you and your family members get the services you need.

Indigenous patient liaisons
Indigenous and First Nations patient advocates offer in-hospital assistance to help you with information and support.

Visit Indigenous Patient Liaisons for more information.

Nurse practitioners
These registered nurses have advanced knowledge and skills enabling them to diagnose and treat primary care level health conditions in various BC Women’s community and in-hospital clinics. They help connect you with community resources and services, specialist care and provide counselling and support services.

What is a Nurse practitioner? (PDF).

Social workers
BC Women’s social workers offer support, counselling, information, education, and assistance to women, girls and their families receiving care in hospital or as an outpatient.

Visit Social work & counselling for more information.

Spiritual care practitioners
These non-denominational chaplains offer spiritual support, help with ethical challenges and spiritual guidance.

Visit Spiritual care for more information.
Advocate for yourself & others

BC Women’s supports women and girls to be informed and active members of their healthcare team. We want you to have maximum choice and control over your own health care whatever your background, age or medical needs. 

How to advocate for yourself & others

1Get informed

Learn about health promotion and disease prevention to know what you can do to become and stay healthy. Visit Tips for Staying Healthy for more info.

2Provide information

Tell your healthcare provider what’s going on. 
  • describe your symptoms in the order they occurred
  • bring a list of all the medications you are taking

3Ask questions

Write down and prioritize questions before your visit with a health professional to make the most of your limited appointment time. 
  • Ask your health care provider for specific information about your disease or condition.
  • Ask about risks and side effects, treatment options and follow-up care.
  • Ask for evidence-based resources on your health issue.

4Bring someone with you

Bring a friend or relative with you if privacy isn’t a concern. They can provide support or ask questions you may forget. They can help you remember what was discussed after the appointment and help you understand next steps.

5Ask for an interpreter if you need one

A professional interpreter is best but if one isn’t available, bring a friend or family member to translate. 
  • Tell the clerk when you are booking your appointment that you need an interpreter. At BC Women’s and all Provincial Health Services Authority hospitals, interpreters can be booked through the Provincial Language Service.
  • Ask your family doctor if they have access to interpreter services. 

6Summarize the information

Make sure you understand everything before you leave your appointment. Take notes during the appointment, or ask your support person to take notes to help you remember important information. Ask for further resources on your health condition.

Advocating for Loved Ones

The same tips outlined above apply when advocating for a loved one or family member as when advocating for your own health and well-being.  

For additional support and advice, the Family Caregivers of BC provides a free online Resource Guide for Family Caregivers

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