CHOOSING A CAREER / OCT. 09, 2014
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How to Become a Patient Advice and Liaison Officer in the UK

If you have a great deal of empathy and find satisfaction in helping people through some of life’s most difficult challenges, you may want to consider a career as a patient advice and liaison service officer.

What do patient advice and liaison service officers do?

Patient Advice and Liaison Service Officers (PALS) provide information and support to patients, their families, and other caregivers. PALS officers may also provide information to the general public as well as to hospital staff. Responsibilities may include:

  • Accepting and investigating complaints and/or concerns about patient care
  • Helping patients and their families navigate the NHS complaints process
  • Providing information to families about options and/or available resources
  • Educating both patients and the general public on how they can become more involved in their own healthcare
  • Reaching out to other departments to discuss patient complaints and suggestions
  • Directing patients and families who want to get independent help with their complaints
  • Managing a team of volunteers

Work Environment

  • Most PALS officers work a regular 9-5, Monday-Friday week. However, evening and weekend work may sometimes be required.
  • PALS officers are frequently based in a hospital, but others may be based in community clinics or with ambulance services.
  • Some PALS officers travel by car to different locations.

Salary

PALS pay is determined by the NHS Agenda for Change. Most PALS officers are on Band 5, but some highly experienced PALS officers are on Band 6.

 

 

Low end

 

Mid-range

 

High end

 

£21,478

 

£27,901

 

£34,530

 Required Skills

  • Empathy
  • The ability to listen to complaints objectively and without becoming defensive
  • The ability to remain calm and tactful in emotionally charged situations
  • The ability to remain calm and patient with angry patients and family members
  • Mediation skills
  • A non-judgmental approach
  • The ability to prioritise and manage a heavy, varied case load
  • The ability to work both independently and as part of a team
  • The ability to train volunteers as well as new paid PALS officers
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Respect for patient confidentiality
  • Basic computer skills

Entry Requirements

  • While many NHS organizations don’t require a degree for PALS officers, most do require a good standard of education GCSEs (A-C), especially in English and Maths.
  • Most NHS organizations will want you to have some relevant experience in either healthcare or customer service.
  • Some NHS organizations will want you to have working knowledge of the NHS.
  • A background in a caring field, such as nursing, can make you more competitive.
  • Many people start as volunteers before progressing to paid PALS positions.
  • Others start as a secretary in a PALS team and work their way up.

Training and Career Development

  • Most of your training would take place on the job, working side-by-side with one or more experienced PALS officers. On-the-job training would cover things like learning about your local NHS authority and other available services, handling complaints, maintaining patient confidentiality, and protecting data.
  • Some NHS organizations offer additional short courses on things like communication skills, diversity, problem-solving, and bereavement.

Job Opportunities

  • With additional training – usually a graduate degree in a field related to healthcare, social services, or education – you could become a senior PALS officer or the manager of a team of PALS officers.
  • You could also move into other management/administrative roles within the healthcare industry.

If you’re able to show empathy while remaining objective and can keep your cool when everyone around you is anxious or upset, a career as a patient advice and liaison service officer could be just what you’re looking for.

 

photo credit: flickr via MarylandGovPics, 2012

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