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Your email address will not be published.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 developing this credential. Learn more about the Board.

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


(updated September 2017)



Q: Who is this certification being developed for?
A: The BCPA certification is 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 (mid-2017), 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 (mid-2017), 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?

A: The Board anticipates the first exam will be offered in early 2018.

Q: How much will it cost to take the exam?

A: The cost to take the exam is yet to be determined (as of mid-2017)

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. Exam preparation materials will be issued by the PACB prior to the exam.

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: What will the passing grade be?

A: The passing grade is yet to be determined.


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)


  • becky havard

    My question is: if it is determined at a later date that certain education is a requirement how will that effect the person that has already taken the test and passed? would you still be able to maintain your certification if you do not meet the education requirement?

    • PACBoard

      If we decide to change the requirements based on the data we collect during the first four testing cycles, it will not affect you, the original test taker, if you take one of the first four exams offered. If you pass the exam and are certified when you take the test for the first time, that will stand – for you. You will not have to take the original certification exam again, nor will you lose the certification you have already earned (through your first three years until it’s time to recertify).

      Future test takers (after the first four tests) MAY find their eligibility requirements are affected, depending on what the data tells us about experience and education as they relate to success on passing the exam. But that will not require you to do anything additional because you will already be certified.

      Once you have passed the exam, you’ll have three years before you need to recertify. At that point the eligibility requirements for recertification will need to be met, as outlined in the eligibility document.

  • Robert Columbia

    As a person with a disability who has been shut out of many opportunities due to prejudice, I want to say THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for establishing open eligibility requirements. I have been following the Board’s efforts for a while now, interested in becoming certified when it becomes possible and aggressively self-learning, but was dreading opening up a page and seeing “ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS: Three years of experience” and having my dreams of a career ground into dust again.

    Perhaps many people reading this have the natural charisma and social connections to ensure an unending stream of work and this certification is more or less icing or an extra feather in the cap, but for people like me, certifications like this are essential to help us convince skeptical hiring managers to not kick us onto the street again.

  • Shay Farnsworth

    I am very interested in finding out how this is going to work. I’m not a medical professional, but have been dealing with medical issues for several years and I feel there are not enough advocates out there. I would love to be able to help people who are in my position and in similar positions.

  • Lea Morris

    Do you have a list of recommended programs that currently offer an online patient advocate certificate?

  • Kathy Hinds

    I am an RN with a BSN and more recently CCCTM, I was privileged to be part of a select group to pilot a PATIENT ADVOCACY program in the Graduate College at The University of Toledo several years ago. Having completed the requirements, I graduated and received a Certificate in Patient Advocacy. My understanding years ago when the process for credentialing was just starting was that there was a very good chance we would be grandfathered in to the credentialing and certification. I am hopeful that potential still exists! Thanks for all the hard work!!

    • PACBoard

      Kathy – not all these decisions have yet been made, but here is some information for you:

      • Eligibility to be certified by the PACB will be based on passing the test of competencies, ethics, and standards. No one can be certified without passing that test (currently in development.) There will be no grandfathering that bypasses the test.
      • Eligibility to take the test is different. Under consideration is a scale of education and experience that can make you eligible to take the test. The more education you have, the less experience you will need, and vice versa. What this scale will look like has not yet been determined.
      • Also under consideration: what form of education will be required (degree? certificate? combination? other possibilities?).

      To the extent you have more education than most advocates, and you’ve been working in the field, you will be “grandfathered” because it will be easier for you to qualify (be eligible) to take the test.

  • Jesse

    Hello, I just ran across this board and found it to be very interesting. I am a senior in medical school and will graduate in three weeks. I also am working on my MHA because I have some healthcare business intrests. I think that this certification of patient advocates is a great thing and I would like to participate and take the exam when it is complete. I am very interested in patient advocacy because the majority of patients need someone who can help them understand the medical world. At the hospital, patients constantly ask me why blood must be drawn daily and somehow nobody has stopped for 5 seconds to explain that blood contains various components that are used to monitor health status and the levels of these components fluctuate daily. Apparently, it is very difficult for practitioners to to explain this and my analogy is simply one scenario that demonstrates why advocates can make such an impact in the healthcare world. I am on board 100%.

  • For our profession to continue being recognized as professional within the national community, I suggest current Patient Advocate members are grandfathered as certified. After the grandfathering period, new Patient Advocates should be required to have at-least a Bachelor’s Degree to take the exam. The Bachelor’s Degree education level will maintain our profession on a high level with other national boards.
    I also feel that the board did a great job with the eligibility requirements to sit for the exam.

    • PACBoard

      Calvin, the only grandfathering that will take place will be the recognition that current advocates, those who have experience, will not have to prove they have completed any education requirements; their experience will be able to stand in. Anyone who wants to be a BCPA will have to pass the test. There will be no automatic certification just because someone already has experience.

      If you look at the eligibility draft carefully, you’ll see that we plan to wait until after the exam has been taken several times to see whether applicants who do have a formal education have performed better on the test, and then we will decide whether the more formal education will be required. That won’t be for several more years.

      Sometimes good advocacy is more about good common sense and knowledge of the foibles of the healthcare system than it is about having sat through college classes. At the point we review education for eligibility, we will look at the success of those who have taken patient advocacy courses as well as those who have college degrees. Hopefully those first few exams will provide us with a basis to adjust the eligibility accordingly.

  • Bill Normile

    Will the certification exam be mandatory?

    • PACBoard

      Bill – it will only be mandatory for those who want to be certified by the PACB. But the PACB will have no teeth to require certification from anyone. Even doctors don’t have to be “board certified.” They can practice medicine independently without ever being certified by a board. (You may not want to work with one who isn’t, but there is no requirement for doctors to be certified by a board.)

      “Mandatory” is really only a word that applies to licensing, which is a state / governmental activity. So far, no state or province is licensing independent patient advocates, as far we know.

      • matt oppenheim

        I passed the PPAI exam. Will this exam be similar?

        • PACBoard

          Congratulations on passing the PPAI exam. Matt.

          We are not going to attempt to make comparisons to any other advocacy exams. For one thing, we haven’t taken those exams. For another, we have no idea if they were based on the information the PACB has published.

          We suggest you look over the documents we’ve published so far to see if the material is similar:

  • Seth Peters

    If a patient advocate is employed by a hospital or clinic are they state licensed ?

    • Administrator

      Seth – as far as we know, there are no states that license patient advocates, using that title, at this time. There is no “license in patient advocacy” that we know of being offered, or required, by any US state or Canadian province.

  • Yes, Seeking to empower and inform individuals so they can make the best choice for themselves and/or family, may in some situations be rather a fairly simple process, such as exploring pricing on prescriptive medication so a cost savings can be passed on to the individual –and in other situations be dynamic, multifaceted however always keeping in mind that man is a biopsychosocial being…… and the goal to patient advocacy is to assist the individual in achieving self autonomy..

  • James Hollis

    I am an educator at a post-secondary school. I am curious to know where the board thinks that certified patient advocates will be able to find work. Please help me understand
    (a) From all that I have read on this site, it seems as if this will be a more independent type service than a part of a larger hospital or healthcare organization. With the ethical concerns associated with allying oneself to a healthcare organization, how would a patient advocate be able to work for a patient and a larger group at the same time?
    (b) Without any formal exposure to medical training, how would someone be able to help patients better navigate the system or even encourage patients to seek second opinions or further?
    (c) would this qualify as an entry level position or, would this be something that one would add to other healthcare credentials?

    • Administrator

      Dear Mr. Hollis,

      Thank you for submitting your questions to the Patient Advocate Certification Board (PACB). We very much welcome such dialogue and exchange of ideas, which only helps the field of patient advocacy.

      To address your specific questions:

      As we all know, the healthcare industry is growing ever more complex and continues to shift the cost of care onto the patient. With this, patients increasingly realize that they need to take a more active role in their healthcare. So just as people need a financial planner to provide advice on how best to manage their money, people also need a patient advocate to provide assistance on how best to manage their healthcare. This is especially so when dealing with a complex medical condition or life changing health event.

      Given this background, patient advocates are already actively practicing in a wide variety of settings and environments. Patient advocates work independently and also for hospitals, managed care companies, cancer centers, social service agencies, labor unions and other organizations. Board Certified Patient Advocates (BCPA’s) will find employment in all of these environments. And we anticipate that the BCPA credential will serve to enhance these employment opportunities and open new doors for patient advocates. Additionally, the BCPA credential will help advocates to get the word out to patients and their families about how to find and what to expect from a patient advocate.

      (a) Although many patient advocates work independently, both as solo and group practitioners, many other patient advocates work in institutional settings. Accordingly, the BCPA credential is in no way limited solely to private patient advocates. In fact, PACB specifically recognizes both independent and institutional patient advocates as integral parts of the profession. (Please see the definitions document at Of course, each branch of patient advocacy must address its own unique ethical considerations. That’s why PACB’s definitions also state that a patient advocate who is paid by an institution “must take extra care in clarifying their professional and ethical responsibilities.” The most important component in this is for the patient to be fully informed about the advocate’s role, duties and responsibilities. PACB has every confidence in the capability of patient advocates in hospital and institutional settings to ethically manage this aspect of their work.

      (b) Of course, there are large numbers of patient advocates with degrees in the healthcare field. But one of the highlights of the field of patient advocacy is the broad spectrum of backgrounds from which people join the profession. Experience has taught us that some of the most effective and skilled patient advocates come from backgrounds other than nursing or medicine. Eligibility to sit for the BCPA exam, while still under development, is likely to require a combination of education and experience. This will reflect the reality that effective patient advocates come from varied educational and experiential backgrounds and bring unique skill sets to the table. PACB views this as a strength of the profession, not a weakness.

      (c) The BCPA credential is not envisioned as “entry level,” but rather as an achievement that reflects education, experience and success on an objective and reliable examination. Nor is the BCPA credential an add-on to other healthcare credentials, for the reasons discussed in (b) above. A patient advocate is not a mere extension of the healthcare field. Rather, a patient advocate is an extension of the patient. That’s what makes patient advocates patient centered. The first word in “patient advocate” says it all.

      We hope this addresses the issues that you raised. Thank you again for contacting PACB. Please be sure you sign up for notices (see the form on the right-side of this page) as we will be reaching out for public comments on a variety of issues as we move forward.

  • Stephanie Rodriguez

    I have been following this journey for some time now. I applaud you on the progress but would like to know if there is a time-frame that you are looking towards for process completion. I have been a Hospital Patient Advocate for 14 years and have been waiting for some type of certification. I am eager to start the process to become Certified. Again thank you for seeing the need for certification.

    • Administrator

      Stephanie, you’ve asked a good question. As a Board, we have many times tried to put a timeline to this process, but have encountered any number of hurdles that have made that almost an impossible task. It could be another two years before this certification is rolled out, or it could be next year sometime. Please know we are continuing to make progress, and encourage you and others to sign up (at right) for updates as they are published.

  • Lisa Murphy-Stirminger

    Think this is wonderful! I have my Associates in Health Information Technology/ Medical Records- Release of Information and working on obtaining BA in Human Services. My passion is educating and assisting patients and families about importance of their PHI and with how technology is closing the gap where there is more intraoperatbility between providers in caring for same patient with patient portals and RHIOs. Will there be subset of this certification for private practitioners and also those who work in hospitals and other facilities such as Health Centers or PCMC facilities

    • Administrator

      Hi Lisa – to answer your question: The BCPA credential will be available to anyone who would like to earn it, and meets the eligibility requirements for taking the test. The Board is currently working on those eligibility requirements, and they will be available soon for public comment prior to their final determination. We encourage you to sign up for updates on our progress (on the right side of this page) unless you have already done so.

  • Bey

    I hope health care advocate becomes completely separate from medical billing and nursing. There are many people in this world who are able to become great patient advocates that may not have the experience in nursing and medical billing.

    This new career field may help eventually millions of unemployed people find a career. Just taking time from nurses who are already high in demand in health care and shuffling them into advocacy doesn’t make sense with the nursing shortage. Nurses are needed to nurse, advocates should be completely separate.

  • Rebecca McDermott

    Any idea when the first testing will be available?

    • Administrator

      No estimate as of January 2016.

      Be sure to sign up for updates on the left side of this page. This is where all such announcements will be made.

      Thanks for your interest.

  • 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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