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Your email address will not be published.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 January 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.



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)


  • 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.

  • 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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