Advocacy: Easy, Accessible, Important
Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes
Hi, my name is Aly Beck and I’m a third-year student at Texas Woman's University in Houston.
I'm a morning person, a black coffee drinker, and a Pisces.
I used to think I was a type A, but that's before I started physical therapy school.
I'm an extroverted introvert, not so secret cat lady, and mediocre Twitter user.
Overall, I'm pretty average.
This year, I'm the chair of the Professional Advocacy Project Committee and was a member of the committee last year, as well.
Many of my mentors would tell you that in my first year of physical therapy school, I didn't seem particularly passionate, and they never pegged me to be a student involved in much of anything outside of the classroom.
But here I am, writing a blog post telling you how and why you should get involved. Specifically, the how and why you should get involved with professional advocacy.
Before you close this tab and move on to procrastinating your studying in some other way, stick with me for just a little longer.
I know many people shut down and disengage at just hearing the word "advocacy." Maybe you associate it with politics, and that is not why you're getting into physical therapy. Maybe it sounds boring, unappealing, or unimportant to you. Or maybe it's just so abstract to you that you really don't know what it means at all.
And to that I say hogwash. I'm here to tell you that advocacy can be easy, accessible, and convenient and is very important for our profession.
So what does advocacy actually mean and how can you take action? The good news is there are many ways to get involved, it doesn’t take much time, and students can make as much or as big of a difference as any other member.
Have you ever had someone complain about their injuries, aches, or pains to you? Did you tell them how physical therapy can help them? Well, if you didn't you should start. And if you did you're a professional advocate. Educating family members, friends, acquaintances, and strangers about what physical therapy is and how it can help them is an easy form of advocacy that we should all be doing every day.
Another way that you can advocate for our profession is by downloading the APTA action app. The app has a ton of easily accessible information, including how to find who your legislators are, what APTA's legislative priorities are (aka, the things that we want to change or make better through policy in our profession) and templates or scripts for emailing, calling, tweeting, or writing your legislators.
APTA makes it easy for you and sends out action alerts via email asking you to contact your legislators to pledge their support for a current issue. You're able to do this easily through the app, and it often will take you less than 5 minutes to help make a difference in our profession.
Do you know what the PT-PAC is? If you don't you should know that they help fight for our interests and deal with a large part of the politics side of advocacy, so we don't have to. Donating to the PT-PAC is another way that you can be an advocate. And before you ask me if I'm crazy, yes, I do know that we're all living on Ramen noodles and trying to figure out whether we can really afford to buy a second pair of scrubs for our next rotation. But think about a yearly $20 donation to become a PT-PAC Student Star as an investment in your future career, and the ability to practice the way you've learned and want to practice in the future.
Most of us are kinesthetic learners and learn by doing. One of the more fun and informative ways to get involved with advocacy is to attend your state legislative day or Federal Advocacy Forum to get hands-on experience in talking with our legislators about why the issues we're asking them to support are so important. Although advocating in this way may take a little more of your time and planning, it is one of the best experiences I've had as a student and a way to be of service to our patients and profession. The Federal Advocacy Forum is taking place on April 29-May 1 this year, and there is still time to apply for scholarships and register!
Finally, you can get involved with advocacy by planning and hosting a National Advocacy Dinner (NAD). These dinners are a fun, informal way to learn more about professional advocacy in a way that resonates with you, to get your classmates and faculty involved in advocacy, and demonstrate your leadership skills and abilities beyond the classroom.
Organizing a dinner does take a little planning, but the great thing about it is it can be whatever you want it to be!
It can be "dinner" as the name implies with a presentation, panel, or discussion to go along with it. Or you could plan something different like a happy hour, lunch and learn, or pot luck. You're only limited by the bounds of your creativity. It can be as informal or formal as you'd like to make it, and you can focus on the things that you're most passionate about sharing.
To find more information about hosting an NAD, get in touch with the Professional Advocacy Project Committee member who is the contact for your region. They will be happy to guide you with planning and executing your NAD vision, no matter how simple or elaborate. Gather a small committee of your classmates or students from nearby programs to help you plan, and involve your faculty, if they can help.
Advocacy doesn't have to be dull or intimidating.
When you advocate for our profession in whatever way is accessible to you, you're advocating for the patients who you see every day, and you're advocating for your future.
So I'm here to tell you, as the back row student who didn't know what advocacy was during my first year of physical therapy school, all it takes to get involved is passion. I challenge you to get involved in advocacy today and start planning an NAD in your region!
Feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions about NAD, advocacy, or involvement in general. Alternatively, see below for the project committee member assigned to your region for help getting started with your NAD.
Professional Advocacy Project committee members:
Aly Beck, SPT, serves as the APTA Professional Advocacy PC Chair and attends Texas Women’s University. You can connect with Aly on Twitter at: @AlyBeckPT.