Volunteering At The House
Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes
Throughout my time inside and outside of the classroom I've quickly learned that being an advocate is not a choice. We are advocates by choosing a healing profession with the best interest of our patients in our hearts and minds.
It would be wrong to assume that each person we meet knows what physical therapy is and what we have to offer after didactic training and intense clinical training. It would be wrong to assume that all providers have a thorough and in-depth understanding of our role as health providers within a team model. It would be wrong to assume that the progress we have made as a profession will continue to be there without fighting for it. To me, advocacy is showing up for our patients and colleagues. Advocacy is serving as a voice for and advancing the profession of physical therapy for the greatest good to the greatest number.
But how do I show-up for something I know next-to-nothing about?
I used to struggle with this as a student. Feeling like I don't belong just because I haven't been before. If anything, I hope that by reading this you'll realize that it's not just you. All of us feel out of place sometimes, but you don't have to.
Let me tell you why.
So, there's this event that happens once annually, always proceeding APTA NEXT, it's called the APTA House of Delegates (HOD).
Let me stop here to give you a little more background.
The HOD is the governing body within the APTA comprised of its delegates.
Each state is allowed a certain number of delegates, based on population size, who will serve as the voice for their respective state via vote and speaking in favor or against a "motion." Each chapter (or state) is comprised of their delegates and one chief delegate.
Collectively, all delegates from all states make up the HOD.
The HOD is where the decision-making magic happens within the APTA and our profession. While there's a specific number of delegates, current APTA members are encouraged to contact their state delegates to provide opinions, insight, and comments on decisions being made by the HOD.
The HOD presents and passes "motions." Defined by APTA, a motion is "An act intended to amend APTA bylaws, direct a course of action, articulate an association attitude on the physical therapy needs of the public or the needs of members, or describe a goal the association wishes to achieve." APTA members are also encouraged to follow along with motion discussion throughout the year which can be found here.
Together, the delegates craft motions which are then reviewed by the Reference Committee, who then makes edits and suggestions prior to the motion being considered and voted on in the official HOD during session. That was a mouthful (eyeful?).
And if you're still following along, hang in there! The good stuff is coming, I promise.
Becoming an usher
In the Spring of 2018 I applied and was chosen to be an APTA House of Delegates Usher. Truthfully, I had no idea what I had just put my name down for, other than wanting more exposure.
An usher serves as a volunteer for one HOD session. Throughout my experience I was tasked with making sure electronic voting devices were in working order (no experience required) and serving as a liaison between delegates of different states -- I literally ran to get messages from one side of the room to the other.
Most importantly, however, I made connections.
Connections with students from all across the country and connections with delegates from states I've never even step foot in. How? Simply because I said "yes" to an opportunity that sounded interesting.
Have you ever wanted to be a fly on the wall in an interview, learning about everyone's "why?"
What if I told you that these interviews were for those running for APTA National Office? As in THE Sharon Dunn?
Now this may seem intimidating at a first glance, but this experience taught me that sometimes the people who have the biggest titles are the most down-to-earth. They don't care about the title but instead they care about the impact they can have on the lives of others through this platform.
I thought I would feel out of place as "just a student" wearing my white button-up and khaki slacks volunteering throughout these interviews. However, as I continue to realize each and every day, we will never be "just students." In fact, I was greeted with genuine hellos and warm smiles by each candidate while serving as a door monitor throughout the event.
By volunteering, I was able to listen to the aspirations and goals of each member running for elected office. Where their passions lie, what they fight for, and who they represent. Most importantly, I was able to see first-hand the unwavering energy for the future of our profession.
Quite arguably the best part of this experience was realizing the differing viewpoints within our profession, yet the same unified purpose with the best interest of our patients at the center. I also want to emphasize that you can make a difference as a student. The "just a student" mentality does not exist within the walls of the HOD.
Because of this experience
If I can leave you with one message it would be to take the time and say yes to serving as an HOD usher. I took that leap, and because I did I was able to connect with a Delegate who approached me simply because I was an usher. That same person happened to be faculty at an Orthopedic Residency program I'm considering applying to next year. We bonded over advocacy of all things and that led to an invite to come shadow this past summer.
So in 2019 I encourage you to show-up when you feel the least qualified, say "yes", and take every advantage to connect with other incredible students and professionals. And remember you are never "just a student," you are the future of our profession.
To serve as an HOD usher or to find other ways to get involved and volunteer, visit the APTA Student Involvement guide, where you'll find opportunities listed by time commitment and topic of interest.
Katie Scaff, SPT, is a student at Duke University. You can connect with Katie on Twitter at @kescaff.