I can tell you that I have been inside The Kaleidoscope, too. As a daughter, caregiver, care coordinator, sister and employee I would experience those all-too-brief times in caregiving when things are became calm, clear and into focus. Then BOOM, everything you’ve worked so hard to maneuver changes and disrupts your pretty view.
Armed with education and relevant work experience my sister and I thought we were the two best equipped daughters on the planet to assist our parents as they aged. My sister as part of a five-county Ombudsman office and I as a Legal/ Financial Specialist within a global EAP we were confident in our phenomenal research capabilities and had a wealth of resources at our fingertips.
What we encountered was a fragmented and complex healthcare system. Soon I saw the gaping need. We struggled to oversee care coordination and ensure adequate communication among providers that would enable us to make informed decisions. We put out fires, like the time a specialist prescribed a medication that we discovered was considered to be dangerous in our father’s case (his was among those listed on the Beers Criteria® for Potentially Inappropriate Medication Use in Older Adults). We fought with a Long Term Care insurance company to even get the claim initiated so that all those years of our parents’ faithful payments would render funding for the care that they now needed. We researched and employed technology, created accessibility, we downsized and right-sized and helped our parents as they moved within Independent Living, Assisted Living and Memory Care.
Here’s an interesting part. We as sisters and caregivers and members of the Sandwich Generation, holding down professional employment and all the while spinning plates became fatigued and debilitated individuals. Grappling with home/work/life situations we found ourselves in disagreement regarding a parent’s care decisions and housing. My sister and I became seriously estranged. At one point I nearly sought to legally contest my sister’s suitability as agent with Power of Attorney. I was flying solo in my own support. You see, we both wanted what was best (for our dad); we just had different ways of achieving it. I get it now. I coined a term for this facet of caregiving, it’s “Quibbling Siblings”. I use it sweetly-sarcastically when teaching now. Quibbling Siblings is putting it mildly compared what I’ve seen since then (whether infighting, estrangement or even downright sabotage) but it was still painful. I’ve been there and I get it now.
I suppose that I became a bit too verbose during all the caregiving calamity but we were meeting with success, truly navigating. Friends and professionals began to seek out my help with their own circumstances and for advice.
More than a few folks declared “You should really hang out your shingle.” My reply for awhile was a steadfast “NO” (no, I could never…things were too fresh and In-My-Face). I loved and valued my work, and since my employer was a benefits company I was secure in them, surrounded by and with access to every benefit imaginable for health, work and life. Why would I ever want to leave that?
Soon a series of events followed, unconnected and unsolicited signs whose result was as close to A Calling as I had ever felt. When peppered with enough signs I had pay attention to it. So the “I could never” became the “maybe I could”, and then the “could” was followed by a “should” and finally the declaration of “I will”. I did.
I’ve never looked back. And there’s very little I would change.
Since 2013 NAVIGATE NC has become a market leader for patient advocacy services, serving as the voice of patients and their families and enabling patients to receive the highest quality care. By 2015 I was teaching in higher education and responding to requests for public speaking on topics surrounding patient safety, healthcare navigation, handing difficult conversations and aging alone. Along with the NAVIGATE NC operations I was providing One-to-One consultations with patients and families to help them understand and manage the care of their loved one. My life was full but so was my bandwidth.
In 2019 different challenges came forward. Requests for consulting and coaching were coming in from within my own industry. I did my best to heed the call, and there were some hasty packages formed. I was satisfied with the quality of the work delivered, perhaps not the packaging. The amount of hours I was putting in was untenable and unhealthy.
Just as in years past I found myself resisting the call. I was logrolling, and I knew it. The requests kept coming in. Just as before the should became the could became the I will. Answer the call, Nancy!
Answer the call from folks new and young in the industry, ones who need help with marketing, and start up. Answer it during the Coronavirus pandemic. Our country cannot afford to lose talented folks that wish to help move the healthcare needle in the right direction. We must harness the talent, the vast and valuable experience and ready them to assist others.
The next change was driven by three prevailing tenets.
There is phenomenal expertise entering our ranks. Professionals that entered the professional advocacy industry had been and remain largely RNs and Social Workers. Our formal education did not include marketing or social media, we are skills and ethics-based professionals used to interfacing with the client who was presenting. Our clientele were provided by way of our employment. We were not taught outreach and we did not know how to locate or connect with the people who need us. We knew the need alright, that much would present ceaselessly. But the needy did not know about the solution without our intervention, hence the Great Disconnect. As a burgeoning industry with mighty skills and seasoned talent, whose members can navigate a complex healthcare system and get the care folks deserve we must become more visible and we need to connect with clients.
Terrific talent will exit their careers from within systems and mega-employers. Secondly I feel that the influence of COVID-19 will have some terrific folks wishing to exit the healthcare system as we know it and with a fervent wish to serve. Here are folks who not only have relevant care expertise but the know the system and processes. Who better to help you navigate? I can ready them, ramp up their ramp up. Teach them how to find and be found, how to anticipate the clients’ needs and respond.
I can help with visibility and connection, to help practitioners and small business owners locate and connect with the people who need them. In truth, this work found me. I consider it to have the magnitude of another calling. To work inside my own profession, to ready folks in greater numbers to provide more remedy to more people than my own efforts could ever produce. To rally professionals whose practices were just beginning during the advance of the pandemic, add to that the folks who will exit the healthcare system with the continuing will to serve, and together we will render some powerful remedy. I am carving out what I consider to be a new form of advocacy, right inside my own worthy industry. I can help you gain new clients which in turn will grow your businesses and the industry as a whole.
Today my focus is coaching and consulting, teaching and speaking, and being the owner of a patient advocacy and care management agency. I simply reorganized to be responsive to the needs.
Every day is opportunity for me. I look greet every day and every encounter and I get to design and provide real remedy. I want to live inside of education, assist with transformation, to provoke thought and bring solution. My antennae will always be up on your behalf, as support and guide, to save you time and money and effort, and to reach the best outcome for all involved.
I can show you the way through The Kaleidoscope.
Nancy Ruffner, BCPA and Founder, Navigate NC LLC
Professional Organizations, Certifications and Affiliations
- Board Certified Patient Advocate 2018
- Member, NC Coalition on Aging
- Member, NAHAC (National Association of Healthcare Advocacy Consultants)
- Member, Greater National Advocates
- Member, APHA (Alliance of Professional Healthcare Advocates)
- Certified Dementia Friendly Business
Additional Skills & Attributes
I began as a sum of my experiences. Now I can add that I am a sum of my and many families’ experiences. I bring a wealth of savvy and a ton of tenacity. I have a work ethic to beat the band, a generous heart, and strong integrity not often displayed in our society today. Not everyone can say they love their work. I am blessed to be able to say that I truly do.