2011 House of Delegates: Emergence & Evolution
Guest post by Ben Braxley, PT, DPT, NCS
For those not acquainted with APTA's House of Delegates, I describe it as the physical therapy profession's Congress but without the whole "bicameral" thing. While it is exceedingly difficult to summarize the work of such a complex political body, I'm not one to back down from a challenge! The House of Delegates, or the House, as it is known, is the highest governing body of our association. It is the only event that brings all states, specialty groups, and membership categories (PT, PTA, SPT, SPTA) together to debate, discuss, and dictate the policy and direction of our organization. It's a big event! And the 2011 House was exceptional for several reasons.
The topics on the table included everything from philosophical and practical debates about PT extenders and the PT/PTA relationship to national issues regarding payment, advocacy, and policy, to the appropriateness or inappropriateness of establishing a new vision for our profession. The 401-member group also took time out to elect new APTA leaders, dive into the ongoing APTA governance review process, and set the stage for a large rally on Capitol Hill. National Harbor was a fantastic sampling of all that APTA does for our profession. It will undoubtedly be one of the most memorable conferences of my career!
Though it was my sixth time in attendance (3 as a student, 3 as a delegate from Georgia), this year was different in many regards. I would propose that 1 theme of this year's House was "Emergence." We saw it in House business, as debate divided delegates between keeping Vision 2020 and creating a new vision for our association. We also saw it reflected in the candidates for national office, as a variety of new leaders were brought forward for possible service on the national stage. These 2 examples, along with the tone of several debates, inspire enthusiasm and pride in my expectations for physical therapy's future. I believe that our profession is beginning to move to a place of higher importance in the health care field. And now our debates and strategies are beginning to move along with our potential. Can we continue to pursue 1 vision while broadening our horizons for the next? The House voted yes!
The second major theme could be "Policy Players." While the concept is tied to PTs being emerging leaders in health, a focus on policy demonstrates where we intend to lead. Multiple items of business sought to influence how physical therapy fits in a multidimensional world, the world outside of APTA. We discussed statements regarding the ethics of copays, the politics of payment for PT vs PTA services, the importance of physical therapy as a prominent voice in the rehabilitation technology realm, and the benefit of having a PT as a recognized partner in end-of-life and hospice care. Physical therapy is moving beyond some of our more traditional settings. As we do, so we are seeing more and more places our voice can be, should be, and need to be heard. Should APTA be positioning itself to influence national politics or making statements on cultural and ethical viewpoints? Again the House voted yes.
The third major theme I propose for the 2011 House is "Evolution." Two new technologies appeared in this year's House: remote control voting and the first-ever videotaped candidate interviews. Additionally, APTA's governance review process was repeatedly discussed, and delegates provided realtime feedback regarding the process and their expectations thereof. Last, a delegation asked if delegates should be supported by local or national funding. Each new element attested to the fact that our association is not static but willing to question itself and explore alternatives to established ways of doing business. Has APTA "perfected" its way of doing business? The House gave a clear yet supportive no."
For those who do not believe this type of event has relevance or could be inspiring, let me share my favorite personal anecdote. In June of 2003 I sat in a classroom learning about APTA's Code of Ethics. In June of 2010, I sat in the House of Delegates and voted to change it. The House is an inspiring place filled with amazing people. I hope I have given you a peek into the world at work behind the scenes.
I encourage every PT and PTA to know a delegate. Let your voice be heard through them.
I encourage every delegate and representative to reach out to members and nonmembers alike. By expanding our reach we strengthen our collective voice. The House is where that voice echoes loudest.
Ben Braxley, PT, DPT, NCS, is a member of the APTA Nominating Committee, a Georgia delegate, and the manager of "Move It: The New Professional Collaboration Blog."