APTA will have an opportunity to further enrich involvement from both physical therapist assistants (PTAs) and early-career physical therapists (PTs) and PTAs, now that the APTA House of Delegates (House) has approved efforts to increase the value of membership for both groups.
In separate motions approved at the 2014 session of the House June 9-11 in Charlotte, North Carolina, delegates voted to create plans for increasing the value of APTA membership for the PTA and to "explore new and innovative ways to increase membership recruitment and retention of early-career individuals," defined as PTs and PTAs practicing within their first 5 years after graduation.
The motion approved by the House (RC 11-14) only calls for a general plan to increase the value of APTA membership for the PTA, and "leaves to the wisdom of the [APTA Board of Directors] the discussion of how Board or any other representation by PTAs might be implemented so it would be feasible and effective," according to the motion's support statement. The statement described an opportunity for association growth, pointing out that of an estimated 67,400 PTAs in the US, just over 5,600 were members of APTA. This number could increase, motion sponsors asserted, if PTAs were afforded opportunities for greater decision-making involvement in the association.
"It seems reasonable that such input through elected representation on the Board of Directors should be considered and could be implemented," the statement noted, adding that PTAs are already included in the leadership of some chapters. The plan is to be presented in December 2014 for consideration at the 2015 House of Delegates.
To some extent, the issue of PTA involvement has been taken up by the Board of Directors already. At its April meeting, Board voted to draft bylaw amendment proposals for the 2015 House that would allow components to provide PTA members a full vote at the component level, make PTAs eligible to serve as chapter delegates at the discretion of each component, and make PTAs eligible to run for nonofficer positions on the Board. The Board also agreed to explore the possibility of creating a "section-like" component for PTAs in 2015 (see related PT in Motion News story).
The association will also be developing a plan to reach out to early-career PTs and PTAs in ways that, like the PTA proposal, would make association membership more valuable to this group. A status report is due to the 2016 House of Delegates (RC 15-14).
"Early-career individuals … are at a highly vulnerable and impressionable point in their careers," according to the motion's support statement. "Early-career PTs and PTAs are arguably in the most influential 5 years of their careers, as their practice habits, clinical values, and ethics are being formed on a daily basis." A stronger presence in the association could not only provide early career PTs and PTAs with an important element of professional identity, but keep the association relevant across a wide range of experience levels.
Like the PTA proposal, the motion approved by the House leaves the association latitude to develop a variety of approaches. Motion sponsors pointed out that the proposal was not calling for the creation of a new component or governance structure, or supporting the idea that separate classifications or positions be created within the association or its chapters. Instead, the support statement characterized the effort as one that would "funnel interested individuals into existing opportunities," and "better tap into the potential of early career individuals" in ways that would "develop our future leaders and build the strength and voice of our professions for decades to come."
In other House decisions around membership issues, delegates approved a relatively minor change to APTA bylaws that will allow members of the Student Assembly to remain in the Assembly from graduation to the next House of Delegates (RC 20-14). Prior to the bylaws change, Student Assembly members who graduated before an upcoming House were disqualified from participating; the change allows these recent graduates to serve out one more House term.
APTA members can view videos of all open sessions of the 2014 House of Delegates online. Final language for all actions taken by the House will be available by September after the minutes have been approved.
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