Inspired to Advocate for Our Profession
12 minute read
As students we feel that advocating for our profession and our patients is important. So much so, that as members of the APTA Student Assembly's Advocacy Project Committee, we feel that it is very important for students to find their place in advocating for our profession. We hope that our experiences will be helpful for anyone looking for a place to start.
During my second year of physical therapy school, my program had students attend Minnesota's PT Day on the Hill at the state Capitol with other students and practitioners. I was excited, but unsure of what to expect.
Remarks were given by chapter leaders and others to kick off the day. One message I remember resonating with me was from our lobbyist. He said that for everything we can do as physical therapists and physical therapist assistants we can follow a string back to this building, the Capitol, where congress people are making decisions about our profession and for our patients. Therefore, we need to make sure that we are educating our legislators on what we learn, what we do, and how we impact society, because none of them are physical therapists themselves.
When I met with both my representative and senator, I spoke up in my group to share more about our profession because I realized that it was true — we know what we do, and a lot of times our congress people do not.
It was an energizing experience to be able to speak up for our work and our patients! After leaving that day, I knew that I wanted to go to APTA's Federal Advocacy Forum in Washington, D.C., and do the same thing in our nation's capital.
Advocacy is done in all sorts of ways: talking to your legislators in person, sending them a message from your computer or phone, or educating your patients and the public on the role of physical therapy. However you do it, advocacy is an important part in our profession, as it guides the work that we do on a daily basis.
— Elizabeth Hermodson-Olsen, SPT (firstname.lastname@example.org), St. Catherine University
My advocacy experience started during my second year of school attending the National Advocacy Dinner in Arizona.
As part of the Arizona SSIG, it was my job to promote NAD to students and the opportunities to become involved in advocacy. Luckily for me, our NAD was held at A.T. Still University, where I attend physical therapy school.
At my first NAD, I learned about state and national opportunities students could participate in to learn about advocacy. APTA's Federal Advocacy Forum was discussed, along with priority legislation and other advocacy efforts.
As I attended more APTA events and became involved with the APTA Student Assembly, I became aware of other ways that students can increase their actions toward advocating in our profession: reaching out to legislators in passing bills, using the APTA Action app during the Flash Action Strategy, and promotion of these efforts on social media.
APTA works diligently in taking action to provide PTs and PTAs the ability to serve their patients. This cannot be done alone, which is why education about advocacy is essential to all clinicians and students. This has increased my knowledge and passion for advocacy, as it is important to understand that advocacy can lead our profession.
— Juliette Dassinger, SPT (email@example.com), A.T. Still University
My interest in advocacy began during my observation hours as a physical therapy school applicant. Physical therapists frequently expressed concerns about various issues regarding regulatory affairs, reimbursement, administrative burden, and other issues. At that point, I knew it was important for me to build the knowledge and skills necessary to contribute to solving some of these issues in support of the physical therapy profession and the patients who benefit from physical therapist services.
When the Virginia Chapter offered a scholarship opportunity to attend APTA's Federal Advocacy Forum, I could not wait to start my advocacy journey. I attended the forum in Washington, D.C., in 2018 and I was immediately blown away by the display of dedication to advocacy. Throughout the conference, I attended educational sessions on regulatory affairs, student involvement in advocacy, and met with legislative staff, alongside experienced physical therapy advocates.
Following this experience, I sought additional opportunities to engage in advocacy, such as serving my class as a Virginia Physical Therapy Association representative, volunteering as an usher for the APTA House of Delegates, joining the Academy of Pediatric Physical Therapy Students and New Professionals Advocacy Committee, and finally, organizing a National Advocacy Dinner last spring.
All of these experiences were surrounded by support from mentors in the form of peers and future colleagues. I have noticed a great inclusiveness of the advocacy community on national, state, and local levels, and I look forward to supporting students as they find their role in advocacy.
As future physical therapists, we will all find ourselves in the role of advocate in some shape or form. Advocacy can mean speaking with legislators about our value as health care professionals, utilizing the APTA Action app to advocate for specific legislation, serving on a committee within your state organization, or educating the public about our training and scope of practice, among many others. I look forward to continuing to learn in this new role on the Advocacy Project Committee, as I support students in engaging in advocacy and hosting National Advocacy Dinners!
— Sarah Strong, SPT (firstname.lastname@example.org), Shenandoah University
My advocacy interests began at APTA's 2019 Federal Advocacy Forum in our nation's capital.
I had applied for a scholarship through my state's student special interests group (shout out MSSIG). When it came to FAF, I had no idea what to expect, I didn't know anybody there, and I took a chance. I am so glad that I did because it opened my eyes to how hard APTA works to fight for our profession and our patients.
I also got to meet some incredible people, including students, young and seasoned professionals, physical therapy leaders, and federal legislators. I even got to meet everyone's favorite physical therapist, APTA President Sharon Dunn. Some of these individuals were initially intimidating to engage with, but once you did you could see they were just as happy to talk to you as you were to them.
Following the forum, I continued my engagement in advocacy by attending my state's National Advocacy Dinner that was held during the Missouri Physical Therapy Association's spring conference. National Advocacy Dinners are awesome ways to engage with other students and clinicians to discuss current state-level issues (also there is free food!).
My involvement with APTA has only continued to grow through attending more state and national events, engaging with my classmates about advocacy issues, and becoming a slated candidate for the APTA Student Assembly's Board of Directors. And now I am here as a member of the Student Assembly's Advocacy Project Committee, and I am only continuing to learn more.
All of these experiences have had an impact on my professional growth and a greater understanding of the field of physical therapy outside of the clinic. I encourage everyone to become involved in the profession, whether that is through advocacy, community service, leadership, research, education, or a combination of these. Feel free to reach out to those around you who you know are involved. Just ask them because there is always room at the table for you.
— Alex Henderson, SPT (email@example.com), Washington University
As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, advocacy has always been a part of my life.
The Human Rights Campaign, the history of the Stonewall riots, and Columbus, Ohio's, annual pride marches have been instrumental in educating me about the importance of making your voice heard.
So when I decided to join the physical therapy profession and community, I was excited to learn that APTA had many opportunities to get involved.
My first experience with physical therapy advocacy came through the 2019 APTA National Student Conclave. I'm fortunate to be in a program that sponsors students to attend this conference every year. In addition to networking with students from all over the country, I met so many people who shared my passion for advocacy and encouraged me to get involved with initiatives that I didn't even realize existed.
Since that conference experience, I've been able to maintain those relationships with my peers through a variety of avenues. Twitter has been a game-changer for me in terms of staying connected with others in the profession and staying informed. If you haven't made a professional Twitter account (or curated what pops up in your feed) I highly recommend doing so. Every single day I find something that makes me proud and excited to continue my education and fuels my fire for professional advocacy.
Thanks to the connections I've made over the past year, I am organizing a local National Advocacy Dinner. We are planning a fun, casual happy hour with some movers-and-shakers in the profession, learning from each other, fostering connections, and developing deeper understandings of current issues affecting our profession.
I feel lucky to have caught the advocacy "bug" early on in my school career and can't wait to see what the future holds, knowing that APTA continues to grow and support my journey. If you see me at this year's Federal Advocacy Forum or APTA House of Delegates, please feel free to come say hello. I would love to get to know you and hear your story!
— Chase Kuhn, SPT (firstname.lastname@example.org), The Ohio State University
"Just by being here today, it means that you are a leader in your profession." It was my second day at the 2019 APTA Federal Advocacy Forum, and as I sat in a vaulted ceiling lecture hall in Washington, D.C., those words resonated with me.
At this event, I was in the company of upperclassmen physical therapy students, established clinicians, professors, and researchers. It was difficult to consider myself a leader of a profession in which I was not even legally allowed to practice yet.
As the speaker continued, he emphasized that the best way to make a connection with a government official is by sharing a personal story. With that, I settled back into my chair and was reminded of what I could contribute.
For the first time in two decades physical therapy advocacy focus shifted away from repealing the Medicare Therapy Cap. The 2019 FAF had a central theme of improving access to physical therapist services as well as the impact that physical therapy has on the opioid crisis.
By receiving a grant to attend FAF from the Florida Physical Therapy Association, I was able to better connect with legislators by sharing the story of a loved one who struggled with prescription opioid addiction. This individual could have benefited from the therapeutic techniques utilized by physical therapy. But instead, their physician prescribed opioids in response to chronic pain and, thus, sent them down a road that is extremely difficult to turn back from.
The educational informational sessions I attended, legislative meetings I spoke at, and the passionate clinicians and students I met at this event lit a fire within me that has only since grown. I took my experiences at FAF to my own state's advocacy days and felt significantly more comfortable speaking with legislative officials as a student.
Joining the APTA Student Assembly Advocacy Project Committee seemed like the next natural progression. Becoming involved in advocacy as a student can seem like a daunting task — one of the missions of this project committee is to make it a little easier. I've had many students and clinicians guiding me through my advocacy journey, and I hope to do the same for any student who I come in contact with!
— Alyse Hausman, SPT (email@example.com), University of Florida
I had no idea what an impact becoming involved in professional advocacy was going to have on my life.
It was something that slowly became a part of who I am and what I hope to do with my future career.
When I first joined the APTA Student Assembly Advocacy Project Committee last year, it really became an amazing resource for me. I was a part of a group of students who were so passionate about advocacy and knew the best ways to get involved.
While that was happening, my professors were also engaging my classmates and me in discussions about ways that we can move our profession forward. The answer seemed pretty clear to me: advocacy.
I had become increasingly aware of the fact that people did not know the breadth of what a physical therapist does, nor the impact that physical therapy has on patients. I decided then that I was going to take every opportunity to share who we are and what we do.
From there, my passion continued to grow. I started organizing the National Advocacy Dinner for Rhode Island and engaging my classmates, professors, clinicians, and APTA Rhode Island leadership in discussions about the importance of advocacy. I also found myself inspired to attend APTA's Federal Advocacy Forum, taking in the energy of so many amazing advocates for our profession. That led me to be an usher at the 2019 APTA House of Delegates, where I was enthralled by the process that our professional organization goes through to adopt new motions that pushes physical therapy forward. I am so thankful that this process has led me to become the chair of the APTA Student Assembly Advocacy Project Committee this year, and that I get to be a part of another amazing group of students who put in so much work to advocate for our profession.
There is a place for everyone in advocacy and no effort is too small. Take every opportunity to teach the public on our education as PT and PTA students and our profession, so we can continue to help people and grow our field. Becoming involved in National Advocacy Dinners is really where it all started for me, and I feel that it is a huge opportunity for all students!
— Erin Sayles, SPT (firstname.lastname@example.org), University of Rhode Island
Want to get involved in professional advocacy? We'd be happy to talk to you about your interests and involvement opportunities. Send us an email at email@example.com or contact any of the Advocacy Project Committee members. If you have questions about other involvement opportunities please visit our Student Involvement Guide, sign-up for APTA Engage, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.