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.
New Federal Student Loan Changes Over COVID-19
2 minute read
With lectures and labs being suspended and online learning becoming the norm, physical therapy students have had to adjust to a new normal. But there is some potentially good news when it comes to students who have federal student loans.
First, on March 20, the Department of Education announced that it would provide financial relief to current students and graduates with student loan debt during the national emergency. The office of Federal Student Aid announced the following changes:
- All federal student loan interest rates will automatically be set to 0% for at least 60 days.
- Borrowers who are delinquent on payments for more than 31 days will be automatically placed in administrative forbearance (or suspension of payments without penalty) for at least 60 days.
- All borrowers can request administrative forbearance by contacting their loan service provider.
These changes are restricted to federal loans and federal loan borrowers only. How long will this last? The Department of Education has stated that it will provide this relief for at least 60 days and will extend the relief, depending on the severity of the COVID-19 national emergency.
Building upon this, on Friday, March 27, the president signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or the CARES Act, that provide additional support for students and educational programs. Under the CARES Act, federal student loan borrowers will be able to defer payments, and employers can offer repayment benefits tax free. Payments on federal student loans can be deferred through September 30, with no accrual of interest during that period. Additionally, the stimulus allows employers to contribute up to $5,250 annually toward an employee's student loans without the benefit of being taxed as employee income. The employer provision applies to any employer payments made between now and January 1, 2021.
The U.S. Department of Education's Student Federal Aid office has posted additional information as well as frequently asked questions on Coronavirus and forbearance for students, borrowers, and parents at: https://studentaid.gov/announcements-events/coronavirus.
Addressing student debt burden and loan repayment challenges remains a top priority for APTA. APTA has advocated to Congress to have physical therapists participate in student loan forgiveness programs such as the National Health Service Corps, and APTA's Financial Solutions Center offers valuable tools and information to help members make the best financial decisions possible.
David Scala, Senior Congressional Affairs Specialist, APTA
How Climbing Has Shaped My Perspective as a Physical Therapy Student
"The summit is what drives us, but the climb itself is what matters" – Conrad Anker
In this time more than ever life feels like an uphill climb. Due to the COVID-19 virus, these past couple of weeks have been filled with transitions and unknowns. It feels like we've been climbing and climbing and just can't see the top.
In recent weeks we transitioned to online classes, and many of our daily life activities have been put on pause. Without a doubt, this has been challenging, perhaps one of my hardest climbs, and has made me hold onto the various lessons I learned through climbing.
Growing up as a competitive rock climber, either competing in the competition circuit or being away in the mountains on real rock, climbing has shaped me into the person I am today. And in tough times like these it is important more than ever to hold onto these lessons, the lessons that taught me how to be resilient and strong, and the lessons that remind me, that yes, we will get through this — together.
We will get to the top of this climb, and hopefully I can share with you some of the lessons that I learned through climbing.
Lesson 1: Be flexible to change your plan.
Before stepping onto the wall I take a minute and look at the route. I place my hands in the air, trying to read the route and figuring out how to best approach it.
Climbing is a puzzle, it involves endless problem solving.
When I was a youth competitor, we had to try and complete different climbs within a short, designated amount of time. We had never seen the climb before, and the goal was to get to the top of the climb on your first try. However, many times what you thought would work on the climb ended up going a different way. You sat back, looked at the climb again, and had to make a quick decision on whether to attempt the climb again the same way, or to come up with a brand new approach to get to the top. Or if your time was running out, you had to make the decision to call it and save that energy for the next climb, or to keep trying. Climbing made me think quickly on my feet under pressure, reflect on what went well or did not go well, and made me learn that it is essential to be flexible to change your plan if needed, in order to meet your goal.
This lesson seems way too suitable right now. As physical therapy students, we have been forced to be flexible during this unprecedented time and to learn in different ways than we ever expected. We have to learn to go with the flow, trust the process, and take one day at a time. Furthermore, as future PTs and PTAs we need to realize that what we envision for a patient's treatment session may go as planned, or it may go the complete opposite. We have to think quickly on our feet, reflect on what went well or did not go well in order for our patients to reach their goals. Our profession is all about being flexible to change your plan, and knowing that it is totally okay to make a new plan. Patients come first, and what worked for them one day may not work for them another day. Climbing was essential in teaching me the importance of being flexible.
Lesson 2: There is no right or wrong way to do the climb.
In terms of outdoor climbing, there were more options for me to be creative with how I approached different climbs. With endless hold options and kid-sized fingers at the time, I often picked grabbing the tiniest of holds over jumping to the next hold.
Climbing made me realize that there are a thousand different ways to approach something, and that there isn't necessarily a right or wrong way in completing the route. One method may have worked for one person to get to the top, but someone with a different body height, size, etc., may have found a different approach that worked better for them. Yet the important message was that as long as you completed your goal and got to the top of the climb, it did not matter how you got there.
As a student, this lesson made me realize that all PTs and PTAs are different, and what works well for one PT or PTA may not work as well for another. For example, when we learn techniques in musculoskeletal class, I have learned that I may have to change my hands or body position to be a certain way in order to perform the skill. I have also learned that every physical therapy student has a different story — we all come from different backgrounds, all have different specialty interests, and all have different career paths in mind. Yet there is no right or wrong way to go about being a PT or PTA.
In my opinion, it is all about timing and what works best for you at the right time, while thinking what may work best for you in the future. Climbing showed me that although we all have the same goal in mind, there is no right or wrong way to get there. It is all about what works best for you.
Lesson 3: Be okay with failure.
This is a big one, and one of the most important lessons I have learned. What many people don't realize is that climbing is 99% failure and 1% success.
We try, try, and try again to complete a route, yet we may fall countless times until that one try when everything aligns, and we find ourselves at the top. As a kid, this was hard for me to learn and to realize. The more that I fell the weaker I felt. Farther away from success. Not good enough. Not strong enough.
Oh, how much I have learned since that little climber in me. I have learned that it is not that we fall, but it is the journey. It is about not giving up when things get tough, and to not sell yourself short either. Climbing taught me to not be afraid to try harder routes, as long as it inspired me.
As a student, I learned that it is so much better to push myself out of my comfort zone than to get a perfect grade on an exam or an assignment. I really learned that this year. It is not about the grade, but it is about learning from the experience and how that can help you grow in the future. Be okay with vulnerability. Be okay with failure if it means that you will grow into a better student or clinician. Now, I'm not saying that it is okay to not study or that failure in school is okay, but I am saying that it is human nature to have some fumbles along the way, as long as we grow in the process.
Another thing that I learned is that no one will ever be perfect, we can always be better. Sometimes, in order to strive for greatness we have to encounter failure along the way. I don't think that I would have truly realized that without climbing.
Lesson 4: Trust is a gift.
As a climber, you learn that trust is a privilege, and the word "trust" does not hold meaning lightly. Climbing taught me that you have to earn trust in yourself and in others.
In certain disciplines of climbing, your life is literally in the hands of who is belaying you. One of the most beautiful parts of climbing is the relationships that you make with others and this tight-knit community. That said, with trust comes communication, as it is essential to be able to communicate well when you climb with a partner.
Just as in our profession, your future patients will need to earn your trust. For some patients who are eager and have had great previous experiences with physical therapy, it may be easier to gain your trust. However, other patients may be scared or apprehensive that they aren't going to get better. No matter who the patient is and no matter what the circumstance is, they put their trust in your hands, just like a belayer in climbing. Trust is a gift and it takes time to earn it. Don't forget that.
Lesson 5: No matter what, keep climbing.
Last, but certainly not least, no matter what keep climbing.
Now this lesson is not talking about how everyone should climb. This lesson is talking about the importance of always striving for that next goal, whatever that goal might be.
When I completed a climbing route, whether I had worked on that route for years or for only a couple of hours, I would of course be happy and celebrate that victory. However, immediately the next day, I would always ask myself, "Okay, what's next?" As a climber, it is human nature to keep pushing and trying to do the next hardest climb, or pushing your limits mentally and physically. This is true whether on real rock or in competition. At first, it feels like an endless race, as if there is never really a finish line. For some this may sound anxiety-provoking. You reached your goal, so isn't that good enough? Although those points are valid, there is so much satisfaction in striving to make yourself better and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.
In school this lesson taught me to never settle and to always ask yourself, "What's next?" Yes, you got into physical therapy school, but how can you strive to be better? Perhaps that is applying to a residency, or as simple as reading a new journal article, or spending just a little more time to get better at a skill. Whatever the reason is — no matter big or small — keep climbing. Don't compare yourself with others, but compare yourself to you. What's next to make you better for yourself and for your future patients?
On another note, if things feel like they are getting tough, even one more step or one more move on a climb will get you closer to your goal. Sometimes it just takes baby steps. We are lifelong learners and will learn from each other.
No matter what … keep climbing.
Rachel Meyers, SPT, is a student at Duke University. You can contact Rachel at Rachel.firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter at @rmeyers95.
Podcast: Discovering Your Professional Interests
Listening Time — 24:40
Rick Segal, PT, PhD, FAPTA, is the Professor and Chair of the Department of Health Professions, College of Health Professions at the Medical University of South Carolina. Rick has spent decades in this profession and over the years he's acquired years of education, advanced degrees, professional experience, and volunteer service. Today, Rick hopes to advise future physical therapists and physical therapist assistants on the many career paths available within our profession.
In this episode, Rick guides listeners as to how they can discover their career interests, what to do once they narrow down their options, and further insight on how to advance within our field and move our profession forward.
Here's our conversation with Rick.
Learn more about ACAPT.
APTA Podcasts like this one are available on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and Spotify, or by visiting APTA.org/Podcasts.
To My Fellow Students
7 minute read
A little under three years ago, I was a first-year physical therapy student, and I held a human brain in my hands for the first time in gross anatomy lab. It was, by far, one of the coolest days I'd ever had. I didn't think any feeling would ever top that feeling — until I helped a college student return to her group exercise classes after a broken ankle, until I helped a retired woman learn how to walk through Target aisles after she had a brain tumor removed, and until I helped a little boy with developmental delays learn how to jump up to pop bubbles with his brothers. The only feeling that I thought that might top those feelings? The feeling that I was going to get walking across the stage to get my doctor of physical therapy degree — that is, until COVID-19 showed up and changed everyone's plans.
What a way to end our time in physical therapy school. Clinicals halted early. Abrupt or virtual goodbyes to clinical instructors, and goodbyes passed along on our behalf to patients. Graduations delayed, postponed, or cancelled altogether. No last class party, no last get-together with the professors. This one hurts more than the C we got on a neuroanatomy exam, or more than the experience of failing a practical. For those set to graduate in August or September, I'm sure the thought of potentially waiting even longer for your hard-earned degree feels nothing short of robbery. For those in programs like mine who are set to graduate this May, this is not what any of us imagined when we pictured our final clinical rotation, last semester, or graduation.
If I had to put my finger on how most of us are feeling right now, it'd be a combination of worried, lost, and defeated. We're worried about our friends and families, our grandparents, anyone we know who is considered high risk, and our friends in other disciplines who are deemed essential personnel who've been called in to work every day. We feel lost because we no longer have clinic time to fill up our days, and we've pretty much finished all our work. We feel defeated because we were pulled from clinical rotations prematurely, but mostly because this accomplishment that we've worked so hard for will no longer be celebrated as expected with our loved ones. If there's anything we need right now, it's encouragement and positivity.
Given the current state of this global pandemic it feels strange to even type this out, but congratulations are in order to all of us. We essentially have just finished seven years of higher education. We made it through all of the long days in lecture, the late nights agonizing over origins and insertions and capsular patterns, through countless labs, through drafting and sharing study guides, reading articles, presenting projects and research, and practicing and critiquing manual skills. We said hello to patients who changed our lives forever, and we also had to say goodbye as our rotations went by faster than we imagined they would. We formed friendships that will last a lifetime with our classmates, our professors, and our clinical instructors. Even though that feels overshadowed, we did it. Take a pause and hold onto that.
We're understandably devastated that a lot of us won't get the opportunity to walk across that stage and receive our diploma in front of our friends and families when we expected to. A lot of us are worried about the NPTE too. We've done everything in our control at this point to take the exam as early as possible so that we can start working right away, but that might be later than anticipated. Find something, anything, that motivates you to keep studying — we'll take the exam when we can, and when we do we'll pass it. Take a pause and hold onto that.
The field of physical therapy is more diverse now in terms of both setting and practitioner than ever before. There are so many opportunities for us out in the world — seriously, I get at least 30 LinkedIn and Indeed notifications to my email every day. There is so much more information we have to learn so that we can translate it for our patients. Each of us has the knowledge and skills to find our place in the profession. Is it scary that we'll likely be starting the job hunt in a recession? Absolutely. I don't mean to downplay that at all, we all have loans to pay off. But we'll get there. We'll get hired. And then, FINALLY, not too long from now, we'll be full-fledged physical therapists. Take a pause and hold onto that.
To the classes of 2021 and 2022: I know you're probably frustrated that your rotations and education have been affected by this too. Know that your choice to join this profession will be worth it. Don't take this time in school for granted; get the most out of it that you possibly can. Go to every review, class party, information session, APTA meeting, or conference that you can once social distancing isn't necessary anymore. School will be finished before you know it, but your profession needs you.
To the class of 2020: It may not be what we thought it would be, but it's here. Allow yourself to feel the disappointment, but also use this unforeseen free time to your advantage. Take a breath, and take a study break (be honest, you need one at this point). Do a home workout, call a friend, take a walk outside — take care of yourself, and especially now, please stay safe! Be proud of what you have accomplished and keep thinking positively, even though it's hard. Know that you deserve this moment of pause, no matter how you choose to use it. We'll get there together.
Last, but not least, to my own graduating class, Virginia Commonwealth University DPT 2020: You all have challenged me, inspired me, and helped me become the person and therapist that I am today. From our days of being stuck in Sanger's elevators, to our white coat ceremony, to our endless days and late nights spent in West Hospital basement, to all the fun we had both in and out of the classroom, to now, it's been quite a journey, and it wouldn't have been the same without any of you (and especially themed Fridays). The last three years have been unforgettable, and I cannot wait to see what we do.
Samantha "Sam" Puller is a student at Virginia Commonwealth University. She is passionate about pediatrics and physical therapy education. You can connect with her via email at email@example.com.
Letter to Students Regarding COVID-19
To Our Fellow Students:
We have journeyed through many classes, exams, and clinical internships in pursuit of becoming a PT or PTA. Now we are presented with our biggest challenge yet.
COVID-19 is affecting the health of people around the world and close to home. As our nation has taken steps to reduce the spread of the outbreak, it has introduced a new level of uncertainty and anxiety to our career paths: virtual classrooms, cancelled clinical rotations, and postponed graduation ceremonies, just to name a few.
In times like this, it's more important than ever to remember why we chose the profession of physical therapy, and to look for any opportunity to be a positive force in the health of society.
So what do we do now as we await answers about our futures? First, we take care of ourselves at home. Call friends to stay connected. Get physical activity (while practicing social distancing). And if you find yourself with any extra time, maybe read that book you've been putting off.
To keep up with what's going on, APTA and the American Council of Academic Physical Therapy have provided resources regarding the impact of COVID-19 on our profession and physical therapy education. Additionally, the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education has issued updates to provide guidance with the present uncertainties in both didactic and clinical portions of our education. As this situation continues to evolve, check these links often to receive the most up-to-date information, and remain in close contact with your program for specific guidance on expectations and requirements.
This is a stressful time. Many of us feel unsure, uneasy, and unsettled with changed timelines and deviations from our original goals and plans.
Remember that you are not alone. Of APTA's more than 100,000 members, over 27,000 of us are students — the APTA Student Assembly — and we are in this together. We must continue to build each other up, encourage one another, and provide support where needed.
APTA's mission statement, "Building a community that advances the profession of physical therapy to improve the health of society," calls us to unite, now more than ever.
So remember that even in this time of physical distancing, we are better together. Reach out to each other on social media. Find ways to support your peers as we continue our journey to join the physical therapy profession.
Your program is your best source to answer specific questions about what this disruption means for your education, but if you have other questions or simply want a virtual hug, please reach out to us.
In your service,
The APTA Student Assembly Board of Directors
Inspired to Advocate for Our Profession
12 minute read
As students we feel that advocating for our profession and our patients is important. So much so, that as members of the APTA Student Assembly's Advocacy Project Committee, we feel that it is very important for students to find their place in advocating for our profession. We hope that our experiences will be helpful for anyone looking for a place to start.
During my second year of physical therapy school, my program had students attend Minnesota's PT Day on the Hill at the state Capitol with other students and practitioners. I was excited, but unsure of what to expect.
Remarks were given by chapter leaders and others to kick off the day. One message I remember resonating with me was from our lobbyist. He said that for everything we can do as physical therapists and physical therapist assistants we can follow a string back to this building, the Capitol, where congress people are making decisions about our profession and for our patients. Therefore, we need to make sure that we are educating our legislators on what we learn, what we do, and how we impact society, because none of them are physical therapists themselves.
When I met with both my representative and senator, I spoke up in my group to share more about our profession because I realized that it was true — we know what we do, and a lot of times our congress people do not.
It was an energizing experience to be able to speak up for our work and our patients! After leaving that day, I knew that I wanted to go to APTA's Federal Advocacy Forum in Washington, D.C., and do the same thing in our nation's capital.
Advocacy is done in all sorts of ways: talking to your legislators in person, sending them a message from your computer or phone, or educating your patients and the public on the role of physical therapy. However you do it, advocacy is an important part in our profession, as it guides the work that we do on a daily basis.
— Elizabeth Hermodson-Olsen, SPT (firstname.lastname@example.org), St. Catherine University
My advocacy experience started during my second year of school attending the National Advocacy Dinner in Arizona.
As part of the Arizona SSIG, it was my job to promote NAD to students and the opportunities to become involved in advocacy. Luckily for me, our NAD was held at A.T. Still University, where I attend physical therapy school.
At my first NAD, I learned about state and national opportunities students could participate in to learn about advocacy. APTA's Federal Advocacy Forum was discussed, along with priority legislation and other advocacy efforts.
As I attended more APTA events and became involved with the APTA Student Assembly, I became aware of other ways that students can increase their actions toward advocating in our profession: reaching out to legislators in passing bills, using the APTA Action app during the Flash Action Strategy, and promotion of these efforts on social media.
APTA works diligently in taking action to provide PTs and PTAs the ability to serve their patients. This cannot be done alone, which is why education about advocacy is essential to all clinicians and students. This has increased my knowledge and passion for advocacy, as it is important to understand that advocacy can lead our profession.
— Juliette Dassinger, SPT (email@example.com), A.T. Still University
My interest in advocacy began during my observation hours as a physical therapy school applicant. Physical therapists frequently expressed concerns about various issues regarding regulatory affairs, reimbursement, administrative burden, and other issues. At that point, I knew it was important for me to build the knowledge and skills necessary to contribute to solving some of these issues in support of the physical therapy profession and the patients who benefit from physical therapist services.
When the Virginia Chapter offered a scholarship opportunity to attend APTA's Federal Advocacy Forum, I could not wait to start my advocacy journey. I attended the forum in Washington, D.C., in 2018 and I was immediately blown away by the display of dedication to advocacy. Throughout the conference, I attended educational sessions on regulatory affairs, student involvement in advocacy, and met with legislative staff, alongside experienced physical therapy advocates.
Following this experience, I sought additional opportunities to engage in advocacy, such as serving my class as a Virginia Physical Therapy Association representative, volunteering as an usher for the APTA House of Delegates, joining the Academy of Pediatric Physical Therapy Students and New Professionals Advocacy Committee, and finally, organizing a National Advocacy Dinner last spring.
All of these experiences were surrounded by support from mentors in the form of peers and future colleagues. I have noticed a great inclusiveness of the advocacy community on national, state, and local levels, and I look forward to supporting students as they find their role in advocacy.
As future physical therapists, we will all find ourselves in the role of advocate in some shape or form. Advocacy can mean speaking with legislators about our value as health care professionals, utilizing the APTA Action app to advocate for specific legislation, serving on a committee within your state organization, or educating the public about our training and scope of practice, among many others. I look forward to continuing to learn in this new role on the Advocacy Project Committee, as I support students in engaging in advocacy and hosting National Advocacy Dinners!
— Sarah Strong, SPT (firstname.lastname@example.org), Shenandoah University
My advocacy interests began at APTA's 2019 Federal Advocacy Forum in our nation's capital.
I had applied for a scholarship through my state's student special interests group (shout out MSSIG). When it came to FAF, I had no idea what to expect, I didn't know anybody there, and I took a chance. I am so glad that I did because it opened my eyes to how hard APTA works to fight for our profession and our patients.
I also got to meet some incredible people, including students, young and seasoned professionals, physical therapy leaders, and federal legislators. I even got to meet everyone's favorite physical therapist, APTA President Sharon Dunn. Some of these individuals were initially intimidating to engage with, but once you did you could see they were just as happy to talk to you as you were to them.
Following the forum, I continued my engagement in advocacy by attending my state's National Advocacy Dinner that was held during the Missouri Physical Therapy Association's spring conference. National Advocacy Dinners are awesome ways to engage with other students and clinicians to discuss current state-level issues (also there is free food!).
My involvement with APTA has only continued to grow through attending more state and national events, engaging with my classmates about advocacy issues, and becoming a slated candidate for the APTA Student Assembly's Board of Directors. And now I am here as a member of the Student Assembly's Advocacy Project Committee, and I am only continuing to learn more.
All of these experiences have had an impact on my professional growth and a greater understanding of the field of physical therapy outside of the clinic. I encourage everyone to become involved in the profession, whether that is through advocacy, community service, leadership, research, education, or a combination of these. Feel free to reach out to those around you who you know are involved. Just ask them because there is always room at the table for you.
— Alex Henderson, SPT (email@example.com), Washington University
As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, advocacy has always been a part of my life.
The Human Rights Campaign, the history of the Stonewall riots, and Columbus, Ohio's, annual pride marches have been instrumental in educating me about the importance of making your voice heard.
So when I decided to join the physical therapy profession and community, I was excited to learn that APTA had many opportunities to get involved.
My first experience with physical therapy advocacy came through the 2019 APTA National Student Conclave. I'm fortunate to be in a program that sponsors students to attend this conference every year. In addition to networking with students from all over the country, I met so many people who shared my passion for advocacy and encouraged me to get involved with initiatives that I didn't even realize existed.
Since that conference experience, I've been able to maintain those relationships with my peers through a variety of avenues. Twitter has been a game-changer for me in terms of staying connected with others in the profession and staying informed. If you haven't made a professional Twitter account (or curated what pops up in your feed) I highly recommend doing so. Every single day I find something that makes me proud and excited to continue my education and fuels my fire for professional advocacy.
Thanks to the connections I've made over the past year, I am organizing a local National Advocacy Dinner. We are planning a fun, casual happy hour with some movers-and-shakers in the profession, learning from each other, fostering connections, and developing deeper understandings of current issues affecting our profession.
I feel lucky to have caught the advocacy "bug" early on in my school career and can't wait to see what the future holds, knowing that APTA continues to grow and support my journey. If you see me at this year's Federal Advocacy Forum or APTA House of Delegates, please feel free to come say hello. I would love to get to know you and hear your story!
— Chase Kuhn, SPT (firstname.lastname@example.org), The Ohio State University
"Just by being here today, it means that you are a leader in your profession." It was my second day at the 2019 APTA Federal Advocacy Forum, and as I sat in a vaulted ceiling lecture hall in Washington, D.C., those words resonated with me.
At this event, I was in the company of upperclassmen physical therapy students, established clinicians, professors, and researchers. It was difficult to consider myself a leader of a profession in which I was not even legally allowed to practice yet.
As the speaker continued, he emphasized that the best way to make a connection with a government official is by sharing a personal story. With that, I settled back into my chair and was reminded of what I could contribute.
For the first time in two decades physical therapy advocacy focus shifted away from repealing the Medicare Therapy Cap. The 2019 FAF had a central theme of improving access to physical therapist services as well as the impact that physical therapy has on the opioid crisis.
By receiving a grant to attend FAF from the Florida Physical Therapy Association, I was able to better connect with legislators by sharing the story of a loved one who struggled with prescription opioid addiction. This individual could have benefited from the therapeutic techniques utilized by physical therapy. But instead, their physician prescribed opioids in response to chronic pain and, thus, sent them down a road that is extremely difficult to turn back from.
The educational informational sessions I attended, legislative meetings I spoke at, and the passionate clinicians and students I met at this event lit a fire within me that has only since grown. I took my experiences at FAF to my own state's advocacy days and felt significantly more comfortable speaking with legislative officials as a student.
Joining the APTA Student Assembly Advocacy Project Committee seemed like the next natural progression. Becoming involved in advocacy as a student can seem like a daunting task — one of the missions of this project committee is to make it a little easier. I've had many students and clinicians guiding me through my advocacy journey, and I hope to do the same for any student who I come in contact with!
— Alyse Hausman, SPT (email@example.com), University of Florida
I had no idea what an impact becoming involved in professional advocacy was going to have on my life.
It was something that slowly became a part of who I am and what I hope to do with my future career.
When I first joined the APTA Student Assembly Advocacy Project Committee last year, it really became an amazing resource for me. I was a part of a group of students who were so passionate about advocacy and knew the best ways to get involved.
While that was happening, my professors were also engaging my classmates and me in discussions about ways that we can move our profession forward. The answer seemed pretty clear to me: advocacy.
I had become increasingly aware of the fact that people did not know the breadth of what a physical therapist does, nor the impact that physical therapy has on patients. I decided then that I was going to take every opportunity to share who we are and what we do.
From there, my passion continued to grow. I started organizing the National Advocacy Dinner for Rhode Island and engaging my classmates, professors, clinicians, and APTA Rhode Island leadership in discussions about the importance of advocacy. I also found myself inspired to attend APTA's Federal Advocacy Forum, taking in the energy of so many amazing advocates for our profession. That led me to be an usher at the 2019 APTA House of Delegates, where I was enthralled by the process that our professional organization goes through to adopt new motions that pushes physical therapy forward. I am so thankful that this process has led me to become the chair of the APTA Student Assembly Advocacy Project Committee this year, and that I get to be a part of another amazing group of students who put in so much work to advocate for our profession.
There is a place for everyone in advocacy and no effort is too small. Take every opportunity to teach the public on our education as PT and PTA students and our profession, so we can continue to help people and grow our field. Becoming involved in National Advocacy Dinners is really where it all started for me, and I feel that it is a huge opportunity for all students!
— Erin Sayles, SPT (firstname.lastname@example.org), University of Rhode Island
Want to get involved in professional advocacy? We'd be happy to talk to you about your interests and involvement opportunities. Send us an email at email@example.com or contact any of the Advocacy Project Committee members. If you have questions about other involvement opportunities please visit our Student Involvement Guide, sign-up for APTA Engage, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.