Irish Medical Organisation

The Doctor as Advocate - April 2013

IMO Role of the Doctor Series

The Role of Advocate has been identified as one of the most important duties and responsibilities of each and every doctor.  Doctors as professionals are expected to provide the best possible care to patients and to do what they can in the interest of their health.  Doctors therefore advocate at different levels whether it is to secure the most appropriate care for individual patients, to ensure the provision of adequate health services at a local or national level, to promote healthy lifestyles or to address broader societal issues that impact on health.

In July 2012, the IMO carried out a survey of IMO members on the role of the Doctor as Advocate. The aim of the survey was to find out what the advocacy role means to Irish doctors, what are the qualities and attributes required, what advocacy activities IMO members engage in and what barriers, if any, prevent IMO doctors from fulfilling this role.

The IMO’s Guidance on Public Advocacy can be derived from the following:

·         Do your research. Review the literature for evidence to back up your position. If the research is not available consider carrying out research yourself. If this is not possible clearly define the problem and the rationale behind your solution.

·         Identify /choose your audience. Identify your target audience, whose behaviour you want to change. Then identify your secondary audience who can support you, help influence your target audience or who can implement policy to bring about change.

·         Know your audience. Find out about your audience, their background, interests and priorities. Tailor your message to your audience. Chose evidence that your audience can identify with and action that they can reasonably undertake.

·         Keep your message clear and concise. Choose a maximum of three points and repeat and reinforce them over again. Adapt your language to the audience and the given format.  Leave written material behind.

·         Be prepared but know your limitations. Be prepared for questions but stay within your area of expertise. Approach other professionals for their relevant expertise.

·         Follow-up. Evaluate your efforts and monitor your progress. Look for feedback on your efforts to see if the message has been understood and if action has been taken. Use this feedback to strengthen your message.


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