Collaboration as Students
Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes
I have been a part of many sports teams over the years, and some of my favorite memories are experiences I have shared with my teammates. The countless hours we spent together at practice, in the weight room, and traveling on the bus to games strengthened our relationships, which ultimately helped us achieve our goals. Our teamwork allowed us to win multiple championships and set school records, so I assumed that my experience of being part of a team would make working with other health care professionals a breeze.
Collaboration has become a buzzword used to describe health care providers working together. So I wonder, are collaboration and teamwork the same?
Teamwork involves a group of individuals working together. Each member of the team has a specific task and a leader who guides the team toward their goals. Collaboration involves a group of individuals working together, but it requires flexibility, creativity, and shared responsibility. In collaboration, there is not one specific leader, but rather the team is self-managed with leaders arising when needed for specific tasks. When individuals collaborate they trust each other, respect the opinions of others, and come together to achieve something bigger than themselves.
In order to provide the best outcomes for our patients, we as PTs and PTAs need to strive to collaborate. A great time to start this collaboration is as students.
Although you may agree that collaboration is important, you could be like me wondering how I can collaborate as a student if the nearest physical therapy program is 78 miles away. Thankfully, for you and me there are many options!
The first step in building a strong collaborative team is to have a good understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the teammates we will be working with. The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) has provided many great resources to help us understand the educational requirements, the specific roles in providing physical therapy, and the entry-level skill set of PTs and PTAs. Previous blog posts by the interprofessional collaboration committee in the APTA Pulse have done a great job of explaining the importance of the PT–PTA team.
Once you have a better understanding of who PTs and PTAs are and what they can do, it’s time to spend some time together. But who has time to drive 78 miles to get together when there is homework to do, group projects to complete, and an upcoming practical? No problem, connect with another PT–PTA program over lunch through a video conference. There are 364 PTA programs and 242 PT programs in the United States. You can connect with a program across the country or in the same state. You can spend time chatting and getting to know each other, or you can work through patient scenarios together to understand the perspective and clinical reasoning each teammate brings to the partnership.
There are multiple state and nationwide activities that encourage collaboration between PTs and PTAs. One example is PT Day of Service. To see if your state has any activities planned contact your core ambassador or state SIG chapter. If nothing has been planned start your own event! Get a group of physical therapy students together to help with a home build, clean up a local neighborhood, or find a local pro bono clinic and volunteer to help take vital signs.
Another great opportunity to connect and build relationships is at state and national conferences. This fall the National Student Conclave held in Rhode Island connected physical therapy students through conference connections and provided the opportunity for students to collaborate together through a community service project during the onsite Build a Hand event in Providence. Look for similar opportunities at CSM in January, and check out the programming to find sessions on PT–PTA collaboration.
With all these opportunities to collaborate as students, what are you waiting for? Strengthening the PT–PTA relationship as students will allow us to collaborate more effectively as clinicians, strengthen the physical therapy profession, and ultimately allow us to provide the best care for our patients. #StrongAtHome #BetterTogether
Sarah Costello, SPT