&Law Guest Post: Navigating the Healthcare System with a Patient Advocate


A note of introduction from Heather: Amber Sniff is a patient advocate in Durham, NC. She was an ICU and ER nurse for 10 years and now works to guide patients and their families through the health care system. Amber and I have had a number of conversations about her work now, as well as her experience as a nurse, and the interesting ways all of it intersects with my work as an estate planning attorney. In particular, Amber’s insights about Health Care Power of Attorney and Living Will / Advance Directive documents and the powerful positive impact they have for patients and their families have been invaluable to me. While Amber and I know each other professionally, we are otherwise unaffiliated and the following is offered for informational purposes only.

My name is Amber Sniff and I live in Durham, NC. I started my business, Triangle Patient Advocates, to help clients and their families navigate the messy healthcare system, especially when they are in a time of crisis. I really appreciate Heather and Ampersand Law for allowing me to introduce some of the ways patient advocates can help you deal with medical problems and all of the issues that surround a challenging healthcare problem.

When diagnosed with a new disease or condition, the most pressing and immediate questions are medical:

  • How do we treat my conditions?

  • What are the pros and cons of different treatment options?

  • Should I get a second opinion?

But other important questions soon become apparent:

  • How will these treatments be paid for?

  • Who can help me with care and with insurance paperwork?

  • What lifestyle or home changes do I need to make to improve my health and well-being?

All of these questions can be particularly daunting if you don’t have a support system nearby to help with hands-on care, emotional support, and give feedback on important decisions. Or perhaps you are the support system who isn’t nearby and you need someone you can trust to help your loved ones.

As a nurse, I saw the problems that my patients were going through that didn’t always directly involve their disease but affected their healing nonetheless. Patient advocates help holistically because they can see the entirety of your medical needs, help align treatments with quality of life goals, and keep support networks and medical professionals working together. Having background training in nursing means that I can attend doctors appointments and help talk you about the different options the doctors have given. We help find and schedule the resources you might need for recovery. And we are a constant resource for the entire family.

Finding the right patient advocate is important. It’s a growing field and you can find advocates in almost all 50 states and Canada. If you need help, please contact me or look for resources at Advoconnection.

"And now, a message from our sponsor" Attorney Heather Hazelwood of Ampersand Law ... If you're ready to create (or update) your health care power of attorney (and other estate plan documents), please get in touch with me. If want to learn more about related topics, check out the links below.