How Do I Get Involved?
4 minute read
One of the very first things that I did after starting physical therapy school was join the American Physical Therapy Association.
I had been following APTA on social media for years as a pre-physical therapy student and was excited to finally have the opportunity to become a member. I spent more time than I care to admit exploring all of the members-only resources, and I could not wait to receive my membership certificate and my first copy of PT in Motion magazine in the mail. However, the excitement faded, and I realized that although I was proud to be a member, I had no idea how I really planned to use my membership as a student.
During a meeting with my academic advisor shortly after joining, I mentioned that I was interested in health care policy and public health issues, and he invited me to the Oregon Physical Therapy Association's Government Affairs Committee meeting. I was very hesitant to take him up on the offer. After all, what did I really know about government affairs? I knew it would be out of my comfort zone, and I decided to take some time to think about it before committing. However, a month later I finally said yes and took that first step toward becoming involved. Although I still don't know very much about government affairs, taking that first step opened doors for me to meet some inspiring people, learn about physical therapy advocacy, and begin my own journey of professional involvement.
I have learned much more than I thought possible during my first year of physical therapy school, but perhaps the biggest lesson has been to just say yes to opportunities. I spent much of my first semester of school wanting to be more involved, but having no idea how to go about it. While I know that I have only scratched the surface of what it means to be involved in APTA, I do have some advice for students who may be in that same boat.
Join APTA. I feel so much more connected to the physical therapy community by being a member of APTA and having the opportunity to be engaged with what is happening in the profession outside of the classroom, which has made me that much more excited to keep studying to become a physical therapist. I recently learned about #PTfam at an APTA Value Talk, and I think that it perfectly describes how it feels to be an APTA member, especially as a student.
Tell people that you're interested. I learned that many of my professors are involved with APTA at the state or national levels. They want to help students get involved, but they have to know that you are interested! If you don't know who to ask, start with your advisor or a favorite professor and simply tell them that you want to be more involved. I have no doubt that they will know who to connect you with to help you pursue your passions. You also can reach out to a member of the APTA Student Assembly Board of Directors or the core ambassador in your state. They exist to help students get involved.
Say yes! I did not know what I was getting into at that first committee meeting, but attending was the first step. I have had the opportunity to meet some awesome people who are doing great things for the profession, and I've learned a lot about what physical therapy advocacy looks like in Oregon and nationally. Once I said yes to that first opportunity, I started to say yes to many more, including being selected to be on Oregon's Student Leadership Committee and serving as next year's core ambassador.
Be a resource for others. I think that it is really important for students who are involved with APTA to reach out to others who want to be involved as well. After all, those students are the very ones who encouraged me to get involved. We are the future of the profession, and the more people we can encourage and bring with us, the better!
The first year of physical therapy school is difficult. Everything is new and challenging, and it took me a long time to feel like I was truly good enough to be in my program and in this profession. However, when I began getting involved with the Oregon Physical Therapy Association, I started to feel much more at home in the world of physical therapy. For anyone thinking about getting more involved, my advice is to go for it! Don't worry that you don't know enough or aren't far enough along in your program, because involvement can be for everyone. I've learned that there are so many involvement opportunities at the program, state, and national levels, so if you're interested, there is a place for you. I am looking forward to growing in my professional involvement and putting my APTA membership to good use in the years to come.
Want to get involved? Check out the student involvement guide and sign-up for APTA's volunteer portal, APTA Engage.
Sydney Neumann, SPT, is a student at Pacific University and serves as the core ambassador for Oregon. You can connect with Sydney on Twitter at @neumann_sydney.