Monday, January 10, 2011

Health Activist For Pay

I am often asked about working at home as a paid Health Activist. Most often it is writers and patients who ask how they can get these jobs too.

So you want to know how it happens?  In my experience it's much more about what you're doing before any job becomes available that is so important.  I'll try to sum it up in a few words:

* Passionate and positive, but fair and honest
* Patience enough to work on your own for the good of the community before you're noticed
* Gentleness to handle difficult situations with tact and compassion
* Time throughout the day to spend helping whoever needs it the most
* Tireless volunteering, day and night - whenever its needed, for however long its necessary
* having a good rapport with other patients
* having a good history of helping others within your groups, going beyond the norm when necessary
* having a decent basic grasp of technology and an eagerness to learn more
* understanding how groups and patients work together and a background in facilitating that
* having a recognizable voice in the communities of your choice.
* the ability to communicate well within very wide parameters - from the newly diagnosed to physicians and research articles.
* Willingness to over-share personal information one wouldn't normally consider telling someone you didn't know really well, just to help other patients.
* Always, always putting patients and community members first.

Aaah, there are more.  Maybe one of my bosses will chime in and tell you more of what they look for when they consider hiring someone new to join their fabulous teams...

Here's how things happened for me:

My Health Activist story is much more about what I volunteer doing than what I am paid for writing and doing.  I started out as most do - getting involved in a group forum setting because I had health issues that doctors didn't seem to be able to quite figure out.  I figured if doctors couldn't put 2 + 2 together, then maybe other patients might have a clue.  I was very anti-internet at the time, so I started asking questions.  I learned how to do internet searches and find the information that not only patients needed, but doctors wanted them to have.  I became educated very quickly and my health started getting better with a few changes I made that nobody else had ever suggested before.  I wanted other patients like me to know that patients could help them too, so I began contributing answers to questions.

I started very slow and very small.  Very quickly people began writing to me though to tell me how something little I'd said changed them, and I was hooked.  I became very active online in groups and forums and I was very passionate about helping people.  Even when I didn't have the answer they needed, I had the ability to either figure it out through research, or the connections to get them hooked up with other patients and doctors who did have that knowledge.  I became a linkaholic.  I linked to everything so patients would see that I wasn't just talking... I provided proof they could take to their doctors.

I wasn't looking for a job.  I thought that, because I couldn't leave my home I was unemployable.  Eventually, I was contacted through one of the forums in which I participated about my first job.  I was lucky enough to be one of the first hired for a brand new website that hadn't yet launched called WEGO Health.  I was asked to do all kinds of projects and help the website settle into its current position as the go-to place for Health Activists. I love WEGO Health and the part I played in growing it to the place where it is now - a leader in health based social media.

Along the way I've seen some fabulous patient advocates, and a couple have really stuck out in my mind.  I keep a very short list of these patients by my side, and occasionally find an opportunity or two to tell others about their terrific work.  When a job opened up at WEGO Health, I recommended one of these for the position, encouraged her to apply, and was so thrilled when she was chosen.  Now she is one of the most active advocates on the site and sure giving me a run for my money!

My second job came as a result of working for WEGO Health.  After a WEGO Health insight group I was contacted by the brand new site that had been asking the questions in the group.  They were looking for knowledgeable patients to help them build and grow their site too.  I was more than enthusiastic, I was downright excited at the potential to once again get involved with a new site who was so incredibly patient focused.  I am now an active Moderator and blogger for

Are you hoping to find an online job as a Health Activist too?  What are some of the questions you'd love to have answers to?

Are you already a paid Health Activisit?  What other tips and tricks could you offer other HA's in locating and landing new careers helping others?
Comment by Amy K on January 15, 2011 at 4:52pm
Awesome post Ellen! I am so thrilled to see you write this as it is a topic that has been on my mind too. I know that many will benefit from your words of wisdom and your story, as you offer great inspiration to those who are just beginning their Health Activism or looking to make it an income producing activity.

Health activism seemed to come naturally to me, once I started, I was hooked much like yourself. As you know, your efforts and the many different ways you have "mentored" me are invaluable in my book! Thanks for sharing your ideas, encouragement and inspiration!
Comment by Karen Graffeo on January 21, 2011 at 2:19pm
This is such a great post.  I love being a Health Activist - I love the community I've come to know - I love when I put up a post and others tell me they can identify with it or that it helped them.  There are so many rewards one gets from Health Activism.  Would I love to make it a part-time job some day as well?  You bet!  I suppose most Health Activists would - because having a job in a field that you are truly passionate about is such a gift.   Thank you for giving such great advice on ways to make that happen.

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