Becoming a Private Patient Advocate [Interview][Transcript]

Teri_Dreher_Patient_Advocate_AccreditationGuest: Teri Dreher
Presenter: Neal Howard
Guest Bio: With over 36 years of clinical experience in Critical Care nursing, home based healthcare and expertise as a cardiovascular nurse clinician, Teri is well acquainted with the complexities of the modern healthcare system. She has served as a nursing leader, mentor, educator and consistent patient advocate throughout her career in some of the best hospitals across the country. Her passion for patient safety and drive to keep the patient at the center of the American healthcare system led her to incorporate North Shore Patient Advocates in 2011, serving clients throughout the northern suburbs of Chicago.

Segment overview: Teri Dreher, RN, CCRN, iRNPA, Owner/CEO of North Shore Patient Advocates, discusses the special education and accreditation that is required in this industry and the kind of experience she looks for in an advocate that she hires.


Health Professional Radio – Patient Advocate Accreditation

Neal Howard: Hello and welcome to Health Professional Radio, so glad that you can join us today. A newly emerging industry of patient advocacy is growing rapidly as more consumers and families are hiring private professional health advocates. Up to 440,000 patients die in hospital each year due to medical errors. Our guest in studio today is Teri Dreher, RN and CEO of North Shore Patient Advocates, Chicagoland’s largest and not only that but the only patient advocacy facility to use a team approach when it comes to protecting a patient’s rights. And she is here with us today to talk about what she looks for when she’s hiring someone to be a private patient advocate. How are you doing today Teri?

Teri Dreher: I’m doing well, thank you Neal. It’s great to be here.

N: Glad that you’re here. The healthcare system has become increasingly complex and well profit-driven let’s be honest about it, profit-driven. Patients pretty much get lost in the shuffle on a daily basis. Now you’ve got years of critical care nursing and you founded North Shore Patient Advocates, as I said the Chicago area’s largest advocacy agency in 2011. What prompted you to start a private patient advocacy facility?

T: Well actually two different things prompted me to start North Shore Patient Advocates. One we had a family crisis, so when my father-in-law almost died when we were on a vacation so I got a unique advantage point to seeing what family members go through. And it just really broke my heart to see from a family member’s perspective – the pain, the fear, the anxiety, just terror involved when someone has a near death experience and they don’t have a nurse in the family. People are really struggling right now. And the second thing that happened was I had an experience where I was almost fired from a hospital that I was working at because I strongly advocated for a patient that I had grown very close to for 6 weeks and she had a lot of complications. And I talked to the doctor about why certain tests weren’t being done to find out why she was having all of these major complications. And he got really upset with me and to make the long story short, I found myself on a 10 day suspension shortly after that for a charting error. And honestly Neal it made me so mad (laugh) it just that because I’ve been their top, I’ve been the nurse who took care of all the VIP’s in the hospital for a long time. And I had really, been employed nurse for that institution and when I almost got fired I thought “Okay, well I’m gonna make sure that nobody ever tells me not to advocate for a patient again.” And so I went out and started my own business because I really understand what people are going through. And I have a skills, the experience and the passion for helping to prevent medical error for people who don’t have a nurse or a doctor in the family.

N: Now North Shore Patient Advocate is been around for four years now, but this field of patient advocacy has been growing with leaps and bound particularly since the Affordable Care Act has been implemented about 20 or so universities now offer graduate certificate programs. There are two leading trade association, the National Association of Healthcare Advocacy Consultants and the Alliance of Professional Health Advocates, you’d belong to both.

T: Yes.

N: Well of course it makes sense that you would belong to both. Talk about some of the credentialing requirement for a new hire, say right out of university?

T: Well there is actually no national credential yet, we’re on the process right now. The Alliance of Professional Health Advocates from the leading edge and NAHAC is also helping with this process too. The National Association of Healthcare Advocacy Consultant spent much of last year putting together the standards and best practices documents so there could be some sort of standard and aspects laid down to regarding who would be qualified for this. And the next chapters going to be developing a national test. I’m a nurse, I believe that nurses are naturally great patient advocates or they’re not the only people that can be strong patient advocates. When I hire a new person to come and join the team here at North Shore Patient Advocates, I’m looking very closely at nurses because I think they have a lot of the skills sets that I find valuable. I want master prepared nurses, have strong clinical experience, good case management experience and a real passion for patient advocacy. I want them to also be the kind of person that you’d like to have in your family, a very nice person, loves people especially loves older people and people with disabilities. I want somebody that is just a super nice person, a super competent person, a very reliable person that goes above and beyond the call of duty, doing whatever we have to do to help patients navigate the system safely today.

N: Now even though they possess the skills that’s required to be an effective private patient advocate, what type of training do they receive that is specific to North Shore Patient Advocates?

T: Well we have a whole training process that I put people through. We have a lot of documentation, same as on some of best standards of what we found really helps. One thing that we offer clients quite frequently is to do a complete review of their medical records and develop a comprehensive medical profile and care plan so that all bases are covered. All the different areas that people are struggling with are laid out in a planned that nurses are trained, how to do care plans very easily. We also have people that work with us that are not nurses, we have a social worker that’s just really excellent with billing and insurance resolution issues. And we also have a dietician that does really, really comprehensive education training on nutrition to help people improve their nutritional status. And we utilize not only traditional modalities but also an integrative approaches. And integrative is kind of non-traditional medicine like supplements diet, chiropractic, acupressure. We have a lot of really wonderful partners out there that help us give our clients excellent care.

N: How expensive is this excellent care? I mean are we talking about folks that are on Medicare or Medicaid?

T: No we put together affordable packages that people wanted to hire us per hour, we cost less than attorney do. And I think it’s a probably a good deal because we save people’s lives not just protect their finances and their property and everything. Actually a lot of the people that really get what we do, the best are estate planning attorneys. And all their law attorney they see people constantly a bit struggling with modern healthcare because they don’t understand modern healthcare or what good medicine looks like or what pills, they pick up their phone and call us, that we can pop the whole package together and keep people safe.

N: In your opinion, give us the number 1 tip for advocating for a sick family member.

T: Just show up, be there, bring a note book along, write down questions, do the research and make sure that nobody touches your family member in the hospital without disinfecting their hands. Hospitals and nursing homes are just breathing grounds for germs right now and for an elderly not well patient to go into the hospital for a relatively minor ailments and contract one of the new drug-resistant microorganism that are so prevalent in hospitals today, they could be deadly. So pay attention to infection-control, confusion weakness, make sure they don’t fall and just write everything down and get people in and out of the hospital just as quickly as possible.

N: And where can we get more information about North Shore Patient Advocates?

T: Well our website Neal is and our direct office number is 847-612-6684. People can also contact us through our website and send us an email. Thank you.

N: Thank you. You’ve been listening to Health Professional Radio and I’m your host Neal Howard talking in studio today with Teri Dreher, RN and CEO and founder of North Shore Patient Advocates. We’ve been here talking about the complexity of the healthcare system and how important it is to have the patient’s right to protected especially when the confusion and well the fast paced world of today’s healthcare system or sometimes offer some really deadly results. It’s been great having you here with us today.

T: Thank you so much Neal. It was a joy to be with you.

N: Transcript and audio of this program are available at and also at and you can subscribe to our podcast on iTunes.

Liked it? Take a second to support healthprofessionalradio on Patreon!