Respecting Choices

Facilitator Certification

The Role of the Advance Care Planning Facilitator


The advance care planning (ACP) Facilitator is an emerging role in healthcare. ACP Facilitators are instrumental in helping individuals, their families, and their loved ones become more engaged in person-centered decision making. If ACP conversations were easy, they would be more commonplace than they are today.

The role of the ACP Facilitator is a critical component to achieving the ACP desired outcome—to know and honor an individual’s informed healthcare decisions.

Because ACP is not a one-size-fits-all conversation, ACP Facilitators must be trained to have conversations with individuals at different stages of health and in different settings of care. ACP Facilitators add value to an organization and community and are central to any program’s success.

The value of the Facilitator role is demonstrated through:

  • Timely and appropriate referrals for ACP services,
  • The person-centered decisions individuals and families are assisted in making,
  • The overwhelmingly positive individual and family satisfaction with this role, and
  • Professional competence and confidence in providing skilled facilitation and delivering care that is consistent with an individual’s goals, values, and beliefs.

Respecting Choices ACP Facilitator Certification

Advance care planning provides the “knowing” part of “knowing and honoring” required for person-centered decision making. The Respecting Choices ACP Facilitator Certification standardized curriculum has been tested for over 25 years. The goals of this standardized approach to Facilitator certification are to:
  • Certify individuals in a competency-based approach to ACP facilitation.
  • Ensure the delivery of a consistent and reliable ACP service.
Respecting Choices has adopted a philosophy called “flexibility within a framework” where core elements learned are critical to person-centered conversations (the ”framework”) with the ability to adapt how each phase of the conversation proceeds specific to each individual/patient (the “flexibility”).
The ACP Facilitator Certification curriculum is designed to accelerate the process for those who intend to become certified in more than one stage of planning. By building on the skills learned in one ACP Facilitator Certification course, participants can focus on acquiring the knowledge and skills to be agile and critically think how to seamlessly serve individuals where they are at in their disease.

The Respecting Choices Facilitator Certification course may be provided:

  • By Respecting Choices within an implementation agreement (First Steps, Next Steps, and Advanced Steps);
  • By ACP Instructor/Faculty (First Steps, Next Steps, and Advanced Steps); or
  • By attending a Respecting Choices National Course (First Steps, Next Steps, and Advanced Steps).


I had been leading group facilitations and met a woman (“Jane”) who signed up for a follow-up one-on-one facilitation. I encourage individuals to bring their families as they can also hear their adult children’s wishes. Jane brought her husband and two adult sons.

When you walked in the room you could immediately feel that three of them didn’t really want to be there. Jane commented, “Everyone is doing this as my Mother’s Day present.” I noticed that one of the two sons (“Joe”) was in a wheelchair and I thought to myself that his situation might make for a richer discussion during the exploration of experiences with illnesses and injuries. However, when asked, no one volunteered any experiences.

I really relied on my Facilitator training and called out the elephant in the room. I asked the son, “I see you are in a wheelchair. Were you in an accident?” Everyone was silent. He responded that he had tried to commit suicide. Jane said that they had never talked about it before. I asked them if they were comfortable talking about it now.

What an honor and a gift we are giving this family to create a safe environment for conversation. Jane shared how scared she had been and how they wanted to do everything to help Joe. Tears were rolling down Joe’s face to hear his mom talk about how scared she was.

Jane’s family came in apprehensive and left grateful. Jane was so thankful for the conversation; she hugged me on her way out and later sent me a thank you note. As a Facilitator, what a gift to be invited into these family’s homes.

It is just so amazing. Each conversation is so different and so powerful.

Jennifer Tiedemann, First Steps® ACP Facilitator