Frequently Asked Questions

As credentialing and certification is a new and complex issue to the practice of patient advocacy, we know you will have questions and comments. We encourage you to share any comments or ask your questions through the comment box (below.) We will do our best to answer them. Please note: In order to receive an answer to your question, you must include your first and last name and an email address.

Your email address will not be published.

Also, please be sure to subscribe to email updates (at right or below) in order to be kept apprised of changes or additions.

PACB = Patient Advocate Certification Board. This is the body which developed this credential. Learn more about the Board.

BCPA = Board Certified Patient Advocate. This is the credential name itself. Those who earn it will add BCPA to their name: “Joan Advocate, BCPA” or “James Advocate, BCPA”


(updated March 2018)



Q: Who is this certification being developed for?
A: The BCPA certification is a national/international standard being developed for patients and caregivers. The intent is to assure the general public that any BCPA advocate they work with has met at least the standards and competencies defined through this credential.

The credential is further being developed for advocates to help them determine their own level of competency. Passing the exam will show they have developed at least the standards and competencies tested.



Q: Will there be an opportunity to be ‘grandfathered’ for certification?
A: Any Advocate wishing to earn a BCPA credential will need to meet the eligibility requirements and pass the certification exam.

Q: Is there a minimum educational requirement as a Patient Advocate to sit for the exam?
A: At this time (early 2018), there is no minimal educational requirement to take the exam. However, the PACB does reserve the right to impose requirements at a later date.

Q: Is there a minimum experience requirement as a Patient Advocate to sit for the exam?

A: At this time (early 2018), there is no minimal experience requirement to take the exam. However, the PACB does reserve the right to impose requirements at a later date.

Q: Do I need to undergo a criminal background check to be certified?

A: The PACB strongly recommends you undergo a criminal background check and post your results publicly so potential clients can be assured of your trustworthiness. However, no such background check will be required for certification.

Q: How can I know if I am eligible to take the BCPA exam?

A: Review the Eligibility Requirements to see if you meet our criteria.


Taking the Exam:

Q: Who should take the exam?
A: Anyone with an interest in proving their ability to serve patients at the level of competence required to pass the exam should take it. You may be an independent, private advocate, or a hospital advocate who goes above and beyond, or working for an employer to serve fellow employees in an advocacy capacity. Once you have earned this certification, you will have proven you know what you’re doing and that you can serve patients well. (Those who have not passed the exam will not have this measure of competency.)

Q: How soon will the exam be offered and how much will it cost?

A: The first exams will be offered during 2018. All exam details may be found here.

Q: What should I study to take the exam?

A: The exam questions are based on the documents published by the PACB including the Ethical Standards, Competencies and Best Practices, and the Definitions. Find exam preparation materials on the exam details page.

Q: What will the exam process be?

A: The exam will be administered by the Professional Testing Corporation, a company with decades of experience in handling professional exam programs. There will be an application period, an eligibility determination made, candidates will take the exam, and the results will be issued. Those passing the exam will be awarded the BCPA credential, and will be listed publicly on the Board website so patients can confirm the credential.

Q: How long will it take to get my test results?

A: This depends on when you take the exam. Find more details with this post.



Public Comment and Participation:

Q: How can I participate in the development of this credential?

A: Since establishing the PACB in 2012, we have invited individual input in several ways, including participation on Task Forces and requests for public comment for each of the documents developed and published during the process. As necessary, the Board will continue to reach out for assistance. Be sure you have signed up for updates (at right, or below)



(as submitted by site visitors)


  • Shannon McFarlin

    Are these certifications only offered to advocates who work Directly for patients, their families and caregivers, and not to those who work for hospitals or insurers? Can you not advocate within the confines of a patient’s medical benefit or network of providers? So a customer service representative for a insurer for example, could not be a certified patient advocate?

    • Danielle Marshall


      I copied the following paragraph from the FAQ section on this page:

      Who should take the exam?

      A: Anyone with an interest in proving their ability to serve patients at the level of competence required to pass the exam should take it. You may be an independent, private advocate, or a hospital advocate who goes above and beyond, or working for an employer to serve fellow employees in an advocacy capacity.

      More specifically, anyone who is in the role of advocating for patients is eligible to take the exam. As with certifications in general, the BCPA includes both competencies and ethical standards which requires the advocate to always place the interests of the patient first. Patient advocates who work in provider or payer settings should carefully examine whether the employer/employee relationship allows for advocacy at that level.

      I have included some resource links below that might help you further.

      Ethical Standards
      Competencies and Best Practices

      I hope this helps.

  • Registered Nurse
    I just read “How an independent patient can use an Advocate,”. what I read is extremely concerning.
    An Advocate can stand at the patients bedside. I don’t know of a single RN that
    would breach her patients confidentiality to allow that.
    The Advocate can help you understand your medications to be sure there are no
    contraindications. or precipitating event. An Advocate is not licensed by the state
    and has four years of college.
    An Advocate is someone that wants to assist you but only has a Certificate, with
    questions created by a group that developed the Certificate.
    As I can tell they answer to no one. Get answers to your question in their own way.
    They don’t have a Pharmacist or designated Physician to assist them with legal
    What this Certificate allows non licensed people to do is scary.

    • PACBoard


      It appears you are judging this profession without taking a good look at what it is.

      Patient Advocates come to their work with a strong ethical foundation and very specific standards of practice. They are not medical and do not perform any sort of medical function. Instead they are coordinators, bringing in the experts who do have medical knowledge and can advise, diagnose, and treat as needed.

      But they are also much more than that. They are the people who can get physicians to talk to each other, or find the right person to review and negotiate a medical bill. They help patients make their own decisions instead of relying on a medical provider to dictate what those decisions should be. They are the neutral party who can get an insurance claim approved, or ask why their client-patient is being subjected to a 2nd or 3rd X-ray within days of each other.

      They are hand-holders, empathy-givers, translators, errand-runners, care-coordinators, time managers, money-savers; in short, they remove as many of the healthcare system hurdles as possible while making sure the medical professionals get the information and cooperation they need for their patients to find improved outcomes. They do all of that by bringing in the right people to help.

      What they never do is to operate in a vacuum, which is what your comment suggests.

      We invite you to spend some time with our ethics and standards to better understand the profession and the reasons patients and families are so well served by calling on patient advocates to help them.

  • Anne Maria Leistikow

    Questions on the test: If I study all the pdf’s on your website, will I be able to pass the test?
    Do I need to find additional study subjects on my own?

    1. Scope of Practice and Transparency
    2. Empowerment, Autonomy, Rights, and Equity
    3. Communication and Interpersonal Relationships
    4. Healthcare Access, Finance, and Management
    5. Medical Knowledge and the Healthcare System
    6. Professionalism, Professional Development, and Practice

    • PACBoard

      The study materials listed represent the content on which the exam is based and are provided as a resource for exam candidates. Passing the exam requires a thorough understanding of each domain represented which typically is the result of both study as well as practical experience in patient advocacy. As certification testing is a comprehensive assessment of skills and knowledge, PACB recommends candidates become thoroughly acquainted with study materials prior to registering for the exam.

      The list you have provided are only the Domains of Practice and represent only one of the documents you’ll need to study. You can find the entire list of materials to study on the Exam page of this website.

    • Trina Smith

      Hi Anne Maria, I read your post and hoped that I would encourage you by sharing my experience. Ok, first I’ll tell you that I was able to pass the test by studying the PACB’s listed materials recommendations:

      *Ethical Standards for a BCPA
      *Competencies and Best Practices required for a BCPA (THAT is the outline [1-6] YOU listed)
      *Definitions (there is a list that the board had provided)

      Study these thoroughly! These three categories are the main construct, Find practice questions so that you can get an idea of how the info you studied is comprehensively put into questions that require UNDERSTANDING of conceptual application. Those are the basics to master! Good Luck! Best Wishes! I hope this helped out some 🙂

  • Amy Gamso

    When will me be receiving our certificates and the email? I have received my results but no follow-up. Thank you

    • PACBoard

      Hi Amy. We’ve been told by the testing company that the certificates will go into the mail within four weeks of the issuance of the results – so in this case, by the end of May.

  • Hi. Since patient advocacy is not a regulated profession by our government and we cannot be paid through insurance plans for our services (which I like because I do not want to be restricted by rules when I am helping patients), is there a real need for this certification? While I applaud your efforts in making us recognized, yet not regulated, who is to say what our standards should be? I am a private and independent advocate because my passion is for patients and caregivers to get the help they need in the system, I do not want to be held to rules of this governing body when I am working…that is why I left corporate America. One of your board members, Trisha Torrey, wrote an article about this, saying that there are no programs you need to take because advocacy is not regulated. Now I see is updated to support this program. Basically, you are charging a nice amount for something that we can say we do now for free. How will we know before we invest that this is something we should do?

    • PACBoard

      Tiffany – regarding whether you “need” this certification….

      The value of professional credentialing is to protect the public by establishing a vehicle that affirms understanding and application of professional standards across practice settings. Establishing a valid measurement tool via the national credentialing exam is a significant achievement toward this objective. The PACB will continue its work to further professionalize this practice space as strategic development is finalized, publicized, and advanced.

      All that to say: You may choose to be certified or not. That is entirely up to you. But you may want to make that decision by looking through the eyes of the patients you may want to help one day who don’t already know your capabilities and reputation. Certification will help you command the respect you deserve.

      • Trina Smith, BCPA

        Thank you so much to every single board member for making this certification happen. My backround is in nursing, and I too have my own story as a patient who suffered needlessly while feeling as if I had no voice in my own life and well-being. My journey, like many, involved blood, sweat, tears and a desire to live–not just exist. And my goal became to become a voice for others so they did not have to go through the same daunting gauntlet alone feeling helpless. . How much more- if a registered nurse cannot get adequate care- is the person who does not have medical expertise concerning their own diagnoses, at risk for the same, if not worse, harm to be done to THEM?! And believe me, I did not flaunt my knowledge because I was never even asked what I did! That alone made me suspicious.
        I feel extremely grateful to be in the beginnings of a developing and beneficent profession. And I thank God for you all sharing your experience, strength, and hope in such a way as to empower me to help others in their time of need.

        • Desiree M. E. Phillips

          I am really interested in becoming Board Certified, I am an LPN that has practiced nursing for 14 years. I was born with a congenital defect that I am just now getting answers to, and I truly feel that this is the direction I should follow as far as finding my purpose. I found out about PAC through a patient of mine that also sits on the Board of Directors. I really want to make this my next career goal as floor nursing has become a dilemma to my health. I would like to speak with someone that is currently advocating . Is that possible?

          • PACBoard

            Desiree, it certainly sounds like you have good preparation to be an advocate. While we, the PACBoard, do not have a way to connect you to others who are working in this field at this time, we can suggest that you find someone by searching for someone who would do the work you think you would like to do. Here is one resource:

  • Misty Lee

    Will there be a searchable database to verify or find a local BCPA?

    • PACBoard

      Yes, there will be a place at this website where people can confirm the names of those who have achieved certification. We don’t have a due date for it yet, but anticipate that will happen within the next few months.

  • Miguel Arenas

    Yesterday I received notice that I passed the examination for BCPA. And of course, I am thrilled about this achievement. Good luck to all my colleagues who took the test and are waiting to learn the results.

  • Lisa Seaton

    Are you recognized by ANCC? As of yet I don’t believe the CPXP but from what I have heard they are close. A hospital wanting to achieve Magnet status may not recognized the BCOA as an actual certification. Are any of those rumors correct??

    • PACBoard

      The Patient Advocate Certification Board will contact various accreditation bodies to inform them that the Board Certified Patient Advocate Credential is available for professionals working in the area of patient advocacy.

      As you know, we are very new as the first certification examination was completed on March 31st. Now that we have passed this milestone, the Board will be discussing this sort of outreach.

      As we make these connections, we will keep you informed through this website.

  • Arla

    Could an individual who is employed by a hospital as a Patient Representative, provide services such as health care navigation, etc. as part of their employee responsibilities and at the same time refer to themselves as a Board Certified Patient Advocate. Or would this be considered a conflict of interest?

    • PACBoard

      Arla, The designation BCPA, Board Certification Patient Advocate, can be used no matter what the setting. The certification is earned by people who understand, utilize, and enforce the concept of patient-first – putting patients in the drivers’ seat to get what they need. If a hospital patient advocate / representative can work within that parameter, then of course, a hospital patient advocate can function as a BCPA. If the hospital puts restrictions on how its advocate functions (limits the ability of the patient to get what he/she needs) then the violation is to the code of ethics of a BCPA. It’s not so much a conflict-of-interest as it is an ethical problem – which each advocate must weigh and consider him/herself.

  • Eva

    will hospitals be hiring? can you specialize in any feild such as cancer, or neurology?

    • PACBoard

      Eva – Achieving this certification shows that you understand the standards and ethics of patient advocacy. For the moment, there are no certified advocacy specialty areas offered, although that may be a direction this Board would take in the future. Whether any employer has interest in hiring you based on any certification you earn would be up to that individual employer. Best to ask the question of them.

  • Carmen Diaz

    What’s the difference between the Certificate in Patient Advocacy from the Beryl Institute and what you are offering? I am interested in taking the exam but want to make sure it’s not duplicate. Thank you

    • PACBoard

      Hi Carmen – this is a good question and we suspect you are not the only person who has it.

      The PACB’s certification is for anyone who identifies themselves as a patient advocate who provides direct services to patients. These are most often independent advocates (self-employed, or working for an employer that is not a healthcare-related business).

      The Beryl Institute’s program is offered to hospital advocates and others who will use it with healthcare-related employers.

  • Debra Holmes

    What healthcare entities did you contact regarding this certification? Are hospitals interested in making this certification part of their hiring qualifications when it comes to those who work in this or like capacity at their institutions?

    I spent over 20 years working in strategic development for a large hospital system. My job was to review patient satisfaction results and interprets needs by area based on those results. It included presenting best practices from other resources, such as other hospitals/businesses.

    Does any hospital systems know, understand or care about this certification? Until it’s recognized as a needed qualification for specific jobs, why spend this money and time?

    Which national hospital organizations did you contact and what was the response?

    • PACBoard

      Thank you for the question about hospital systems and patient advocacy. We can share with you the historic context in the development and evolution of the need for a national certification for those who work as Patient Advocates.

      When the PACB was formed in 2012, it was evident that an independent model of advocacy would become more prevalent throughout the United States. That is, patient advocates were working directly for patient-clients, and not through a hospital, or insurer, or other employer. That new model did not yet have a certification it could look to with defined standards and ethics. Thus, that became the foundation for the work of the PACB.

      Hundreds of advocates, advocacy-related professionals, and patient-consumers have contributed through their work on the various task forces in the development of competencies and an ethics standard that defines this certification. Regardless of where a Patient Advocate may be found (hospital, community service, physician practice, employer group, or in private practice), there is now an opportunity to demonstrate to the public an achievement of certification via PACB.

      We invite you to review the Decisions and Documents page here on our website to learn more about the stringent ethics and standards the PACB has developed. In addition, we invite you to contribute in future task forces as testing and documents are updated.

      • Molly Neider

        Thank you for developing this competency for those of us that don’t particularly fit into the box.
        I would ask that the Board keep the certification reasonably priced going forward and if there is to be renewals, to keep those affordable, too. I have taken a few other certifications that I have not kept up due to the yearly cost of membership. And most do not allow one to put their certification into an “on hold” status. So if you’re not working, or working temporarily in another field, you must still pay for the yearly fee.

        • PACBoard

          Molly – to be clear – there is no annual renewal. You took and passed the exam and now your certification is valid for three years. In three years, if you want to maintain your certification, you’ll need to recertify which you will be able to do either by taking the exam again, or by submitting your CEUs (30 of them for the three years, including 6 credits in ethics). Information about how those CEUs will work will be forthcoming within the next couple of months (by Summer 2018).

  • Sue Allen

    This is great! I am so excited to see there now is a national/international certification available for patient advocates, and I look forward to following the updates until I am ready to take the exam!


    Sue Allen

  • Julia Moore

    I am a Health Insurance Specialist and also have my AS as a Medical Biller and Coder. I work for a helath insurance company in the FSA department and wanted to know exactly what the term Patient Advocate means? I take it a someone that would aid others with their medical issues with claims, claims payment, doctor appointment scheduling, teaching/helping patients with the ins and outs of their insurance, what’s allowed and not allowed, FSA questions, etc. Basically, someone woorking on behalf of the patient to help aide them with their insurance and scheduling.

    If I am off base, please let me know. If I am not, I would love to learn more and possibly move forward when everything comes together. I am a subject matter experts and help my husband’s coworkers and would love to do educate members so they aren’t out a lot of money or denied services because they didn’t understand their benefits.

    • Administrator

      Julia – you have described one set of services a patient advocate might perform. You hit the nail on the head when you start with, “someone working on behalf of the patient to help aide them…” We just finish it differently to expand the concept.

      This certification group has published our definition of a patient advocate as follows: A patient/ health advocate provides direct services to patients and their families who are navigating the complex healthcare continuum, seeking to empower and inform their autonomous choices.

      That definition includes all services an advocate might perform. Here is a master list of possibilities, which is sometimes addended as the list grows:

      We hope you’ll want to participate when our certification is complete and the opportunity to earn it becomes available.

  • Hello,

    I’ve recently discovered, I applaud the organization’s recent achievements and look forward to learning of those on the horizon. Goals that lie ahead will undoubtedly present society with such a significant value that commands meaningful reform in both the public and private sectors of healthcare.

    If the “Steering Committee” has yet to declare a name, I’d like to submit a couple ideas.
    M.A.A.P.’s (Macrocosm in Advancing Advocacy for Patients); P.A.M. (Patient Advocacy Macrocosm)
    There can be multiple variations, but I think the term ‘Macrocosm’ communicates the reality of PA covering an incredibly broad scope, which in my opinion, is much greater than that of any other professional healthcare position.

    Macrocosm -noun
    the total or entire complex structure of something.

    J. Horne

  • Jessica

    Sorry, just thought of another question.
    Is the board going to be the one making decisions on who and who will not be certified? The name Patient Advocate Certification Board, to me, infers that you would be making the decisions on who will be awarded certification. If you were just going to be developing the program and initiating it, I would imagine there would be something of that manner in the name. Like Patient Advocacy Certification Program committee or if you did something more general, you could use the committee for other functions and then just list the current topic as the focus of the committee. (I am taking this model from the government lol) For example, the committee for the advancement of professional patient advocacy, and then you could either create a subcommittee for the development of a board certification process. If you do it this way, you set yourself up for other initiatives/committees to solve problems in the future. I don’t know, when I read the name patient advocate certification board, it just made me think that you were the board determining who was granted certification and nothing about you were creating the actual program that advocates will have to go through.

    • Administrator

      Big questions here Jessica. It will not be individuals who make any decisions about who will, or won’t, be certified. There will be specific criteria that need to be met, and there will be some sort of testing process (TBD). Applicants will either meet the criteria, or they won’t.

      Re: programs to learn about advocacy and prepare to be certified – will come under a totally separate umbrella, not related to how applicants are tested or how those outcomes will be determined.

  • Avrom Fox

    I completed the patient advocacy program at UCLA and have been working part time with Teri Dreher of North Shore Patient Adovcates in Chicagoland. I also have an MSW.

    You documents are fair, and totally consistent with ethics and professionalism.

    I am curious as to what time of written testing will be required.


  • Blair Waters

    Would it be fair to say, if someone is looking at getting a certification in patient advocacy they should wait. If someone were to get their certification now from a group, and when the guidelines are standardized and implemented would that previous certification now be obsolete, and thus void?

    • Administrator

      “Fair to say?” – no. Not at all.

      You’re talking about apples and oranges. Earning a certificate from an organization or educational institution is not the same as becoming a certified advocate. Here is more on that subject: If you earn a certificate, it’s an achievement you have earned – like a college degree – no one can ever take that away from you. A certificate comes from one institution that says you met their requirements. This certification will represent a national set of standards for the entire profession, internationally.

      Becoming a certified advocate will be like becoming a certified accountant or engineer or similar to other professions that are certified. In order for those people to earn their certification, they had to get their college diplomas first (a certificate from that college or university), then take an exam or demonstrate their skills in some way to prove they met a national set of criteria to allow them to be certified. That nationally (or internationally) recognized set of standards is what this group is working on for patient advocacy.

      Taking classes and earning a certificate now can only help you and your potential clients, and make it easier for you to earn the national certification once it is available.

  • Terry Reed

    With the phasing in of AHC beginning next year, there is a great need for patient navigators and advocates – yet I had no idea there was not national certification eduation or anything! That’s insane. Are there ANY classes at all, anything to help??

    • Administrator

      Terry – “insane” is way too strong a word. This is a brand new career and is just now beginning to grow. Prior to this time in history it would have been impossible to establish a credential.

      There are about two dozens programs that currently exist, providing organization-specific certification, but more importantly, good, solid advocate education. You can find them listed here:

  • Sandra Lepley

    I graduate in May 2013 with my BSN, and will be taking my state boards in July.
    As a new nurse, is there a position I can start to train for to further help this cause.
    I would like advocate certification and think this is such a worhwhile cause.

    • Administrator

      Sandra – congratulations on completing your BSN.

      There are many available programs for patient advocacy (find them listed at Health Advocate Programs.) However, since no national or international credential for advocacy has yet been developed, none of the programs can yet specifically address what will be needed for that credential. That said, most do address best practices for advocates and we can assume that’s what the credential will use as its foundation.

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