Keep Track of Your Professional Development Activities with aPTitude
Although best known for developing and administering the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE or “licensing exam”) and the PEAT practice exam, the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT) also offers aPTitude, a free, online system for you to store your professional development activities.
You can use aPTitude to record and upload your completion certificate for:
- Conferences (such as APTA’s Combined Sections Meeting);
- APTA chapter courses and events;
- Professional meetings;
- Residencies and fellowships; and
- Other activities you complete.
Watch this brief tutorial to see how easy it is to create your account and use aPTitude! You’ll need your FSBPT ID to create your free aPTitude account as a student.
Curious about the continuing competence requirements in the state where you plan to practice or work once licensed? All that information is easily found in aPTitude. Once you are licensed, we invite you to explore other FSBPT tools and services to support your ongoing competence.
Empathy and Emotions in the Workplace: July #XchangeSA Chat
During the July APTA Student Assembly #XchangeSA chat we talked about empathy and emotions in the workplace with physical therapist and mental health expert Daphne Scott, PT, DSc, MS. Watch the full discussion here or listen to the podcast version.
Join us for the August #XchangeSA chat Sunday, August 20 on the topic of mentorship and meaningful professional relationships with Jesse Elis, PT, DPT, FAAOMPT. Follow the conversation and ask your questions using the #XchangeSA hashtag or by emailing Cruz Romero, PT, DPT, APTASA Director of Communications.
Learn more about APTA Student Assembly #XchangeSA chats.
For Me, Getting Involved in our Professional Association Just Made Sense
Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes
I will never forget the moment that I was hooked. George Coggeshall, my professor in physical therapy school, asked us what we wanted for ourselves, personally, professionally, anything in the next 1, 5, 10 years. Then he asked, "How much would you pay to have these things?" Collectively we generated a number.
Next, he went through and circled every goal we had set that APTA had a role in helping us to succeed and how much less expensive APTA membership was compared to the price we were willing to pay for these goals.
I'd love to say that moment convinced all my classmates to be APTA members for life, but others dropped off. That's because value is individualized. It does not work to force the list of benefits on others and push them to join. The same goes for involvement and engagement.
People have to believe that APTA provides a benefit that meets their needs. In chapter leadership roles, that is hard to do. We often don't have access to the wants of the nonmember or even the unengaged member.
So how do we encourage our fellow PT and PTA colleagues to be members? To be engaged members? To advocate for our profession? To transform society?
One word. Connection.
Over and over, I find personal connection to be one of our most powerful assets. What's even more reassuring is that we as physical therapists and physical therapist assistants are great at this skill.
As PTs and PTAs, we connect with our patients every day. When we, as leaders of our profession connect with colleagues and our communities, we let them in on the excitement that is APTA.
This alters the idea that APTA is this arbitrary thing that we send our dues dollars to. Instead, making these connections and continuing to building on existing engagement opportunities and touch points make APTA a real living thing, a group of more than 100,000 people working to transform society.
Feel inspired yet?
At first, as a new professional I dragged my feet to get involved. It felt intimidating, and what did I know? I was a new graduate trying to find my way as a clinician and a professional.
The APTA volunteer interest pool seemed like a place where my submission would go to lay in wait because surely I did not have the experience or skills that they would be seeking.
It was not until I saw a call from the Acute Care Section for early career members to get involved that I decided to volunteer. I jumped at the opportunity, and to this day, I have the honor of serving on its Finance Committee.
I'll admit those first conference calls were terrifying. Do I have the skills or knowledge to benefit this committee? How will I carry my weight? How will I prove that early career members have value in leadership roles?
So I defaulted to what we as PTs do on a daily basis with our patients: I asked a lot of questions, I sought out knowledge, and I worked hard to serve the role well.
I was thrilled to be involved, but it was missing something.
It took some time, but I eventually figured out what that something was: the personal connection.
Like all of us in this profession, we're people persons. We aim to help and connect with our colleagues, patients, and communities. So I took it upon myself to get to know the other members within the section. Through calls and in-person meetings at state and national conferences, I started to see that I wanted more.
I wanted to be more regularly involved and to build stronger relationships. The only problem was, I didn't know where to begin.
The year I decided to attend a Massachusetts Chapter conference, that same professor I mentioned earlier was serving as the chapter president. During the lunch break he asked attendees interested in leadership or getting involved to stand up.
Even then, I didn't stand. It felt daunting and again I wondered if I would really add value.
Eventually though, I stopped wondering and took a leap, I leaned in. I submitted a consent to serve form stating that I would serve in any role I was eligible and that needed filling within Massachusetts Chapter leadership!
The nominating chair was pivotal in explaining the opportunities and expectations.
Stepping into my first leadership retreat was both exciting and intimidating. Sitting in a room of past state presidents and other various leaders was really cool and slightly terrifying!
Still, I had the same doubts. How could I add value in a room with such experience? Those doubts subsided after Mary Zupkus, chapter president, called me over to join her and a friend for breakfast. She shared a bit about her goals for the day, asked genuine questions to learn about me, and set the expectation that she wanted to hear from me during the discussions that day.
It was then that I realized that everyone in the room had a unique perspective and something to add to the diversity of the discussion. Not only that, new and fresh perspective and insight were welcome!
Fast-forward some years and now I am 6 months into a 3-year term as the Massachusetts Chapter president!
I'll admit, it has been a busy 6 months, and as busy as it is, it never seems enough can be done toward the initiatives we set.
A huge part of the success of our chapter is all the amazing volunteers to lead our districts, special interest groups, and committees. Speaking with other chapter and section presidents, every APTA component has space for more people to get involved.
By getting involved as a student, new graduate, or someone well into their career in ways big and small, it will only allow APTA to be stronger and affect the future of our profession and our patients as a whole. You might be surprised, but it's actually a lot of fun. You meet great people who share your passion for the profession and you get to engage in ways that really are helping our profession transform society.
Of course, there are stressful days too, with urgent meetings at the state house and the ever-changing future of health care. All of that is worth it when you love your profession.
So if you have been thinking of getting more involved DO IT NOW!
- Learn about what's happening in your state and practice area.
- Create a network of inspiring professionals.
- Build lifelong friendships.
- Advance the practice of physical therapy to provide better access and outcomes for patients.
If you are in a position of leadership:
- Extend a hand; pull someone in.
- Break down the barriers to connect with you and your fellow leaders.
- Ask questions!
- Learn about your members, colleagues, and patients.
Heather Jennings PT, DPT, Board-Certified Specialist in Neurologic Physical Therapy, Massachusetts Chapter President. You can find Heather on Twitter at: @HeathJenningsPT.
Too Many Tools in Your Toolbox Makes It Hard to Carry
Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes
No student comes out of physical therapy school having learned and applied the same orthopedic clinical philosophies. To make matters more complex, clinical rotations have an exuberant variety of practice standards and techniques.
So as a new graduate, desperately looking for your niche in your realm of practice, how do you know where to start?
Should you just conquer them all and become certified in Maitland, then McKenzie, then NAIOMPT, then Sahrmann, then IPA, then Mulligan? Become a jack-of-all-trades?
This was my struggle when first entering the clinical world.
My Duke University orthopedic education was very much based on the Fritz Treatment Based Classification (TBC) system. While the information was research-based and I could hold a solid clinical conversation, applying the right treatment techniques at the right time with a high level of skill didn't come quite as rapidly.
In fact, I was almost ready to leave orthopedics because I too often doubted the effect I was having on my patients. I couldn't see or feel the immediate benefits of my treatment.
In a moment of good fortune, I was hired by Advance Sports and Spine Therapy in Portland, Oregon, who offered 2 hours of paid mentorship each week, put me through the McKenzie Method (Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy-MDT) Part A-E classes, mentored me through my OCS, and have held me to an incredibly high practice standard since.
In the 3 years since graduating from physical therapy school, I can confidently say that I am an effective and efficient orthopedic clinician. I can get immediate patient buy-in and develop patient independence by showing them how they can drastically change their symptoms with only a few meaningful exercises. I know how to use specific manual techniques, only when needed, to improve the efficacy of an intervention. I can confidently communicate with patients, family, and physicians about the prognosis of a patient's condition after only several visits. And most important of all, I know I am doing the absolute best that I can for my patients.
I personally was trained in MDT, and it has worked wonders for me. In addition, I also use ASTYM, FMS, my OCS, and kettlebell training to supplement this education. But the importance of this post is not about what philosophy you adhere to, the lesson is that as a new graduate therapist, you should seek out only high-quality, evidence-based continuing education.
Regardless of what specific classification system you chose, find something that resonates with you, and stick with it.
Too many tools in your tool box makes it hard to carry.
With the extensive unwarranted practice variation that exists in today's orthopedic world, it is easy to flounder about trying to aggregate all the information. You owe it to your patients to be a passionate, efficient, and effective physical therapist. Being a new graduate is not an excuse to hold yourself to any less standard.
At National Student Conclave 2017, I will be presenting on how my colleagues' and my experience with MDT fits into the overall Treatment Based Classification system.
We will discuss the evidence and utilization of heavily studied principles such as directional preference, centralization, and repeated movements. My hope is that you walk away with immediate applicable, safe, and effective skills to use the second you step into a clinic.
Visit APTA's NSC website to learn more about Keaton's session and the other NSC 2017 programming.
Keaton Ray, PT, DPT, ATC, board-certified orthopaedic clinical specialist, certified mechanical diagnosis and therapy, and certified strength and conditioning specialist. Keaton is an active member of the Oregon Chapter and a former member of APTA Student Assembly Board of Directors. You can find Keaton on twitter at: @KeatonRay1.
Why I Value My APTA Membership
Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes
Ask 100 students why they are APTA members and we can almost guarantee you’ll get 100 different answers. Whether it’s a seat at the table when it comes to advocacy efforts, consumer awareness, conferences and networking opportunities, or even things like brand discounts, we can all find value in our membership somehow.
Nine students who are part of the APTA Student AssemblyMembership Project Committee all have their own reasons why they find APTA membership valuable. Read on to find out what their membership means to them.
I value my APTA membership because it has given me the resources to invest in myself as a professional. A large part of my growth during my time in physical therapy school was due to the mentors I had and the experiences I made connecting with fellow students and professionals at local, state, and national meetings and conferences. APTA membership wasn't mandatory in my program, but the faculty really encouraged us to become members as students, so we could learn how to effectively use our memberships.
-Matt Downey, PT, DPT, California State University Long Beach, Class of 2017
My APTA membership is valuable because it provides resources and opportunities for me to develop and provide the best care possible for my patients. I feel my patients are better off because of my involvement in APTA. The 2 greatest values for me are a local mentorship and professional advocacy. A physical therapy community that mentors students and clinicians has been invaluable in my growth as a student physical therapist. APTA is committed to advocating for our patients and profession. In addition, APTA and its members advocate for legislation to increase patient access and to increase opportunities for us to serve our patients. This has been instrumental in helping and mentoring me in becoming an advocate for my patients, not just in the clinic, but also in our government!
-Jordan Birdsong, Texas Woman’s University, Class of 2018
I value my membership because it is a way for me to connect to a community that has made the physical therapy profession what it is today. Every conference I have attended has left me feeling more confident as a student, in the classroom, and in the clinic.
-Michael Chiauzzi, UMass Lowell, Class of 2019
I value my membership because it keeps me ahead of the curve. APTA provides many resources, such as the Pulse, PT in Motion, and Physical Therapy Journal, that prepare me for the future and advance my knowledge as a student and future clinician. It assists me in making connections by providing the APTA Hub and conferences. It provides opportunities for me to develop leadership skills through involvement opportunities, such as project committees, Core Ambassadors, and the Board of Directors. I feel better connected to the profession and better prepared to provide for the needs of my future patients because of my APTA membership.
-Heaven Perkins, Tennessee State University, Class of 2019
My APTA membership is essential for 3 reasons: the opportunities, the community, and collective action. As a student, my APTA membership has contributed significantly to my professional development. I have earned invaluable leadership experience, increased knowledge about our profession, and meaningful peer and professional relationships by taking advantage of the leadership positions, conferences, and local events that APTA and my state chapter offer. Beyond my individual gains, I have discovered how APTA serves our profession to improve physical therapy in ways that can only be accomplished by working together; to this end, I am committed to contribute by being a member throughout my career.
-Bronte Miller, Stony Brook University, Class of 2019
I value my APTA membership because without dedicated students and clinicians who advocate for physical therapy and our patients, our profession would not have a voice! Attending local and national APTA events, conclaves, and meetings has increased my ability to be a leader at school and in the community. There's no better way to light your fire than to attend a conference and be surrounded by so many incredibly brilliant, motivating, and inspiring individuals (these people are your #PTFam)! Being an APTA member has helped me grow in so many ways on a personal level, as a student, and as a soon to be professional.
-Ana Guzman, State College of Florida PTA Program, Class of 2017
I value my membership as a first-year student because it opens up a variety of opportunities to get involved and to be more active in our profession. Between local meetings and leadership opportunities, I have been able to network with fellow students and licensed PTs to gain friends and mentors and continue to pursue more knowledge. I look forward to attending conferences, advocacy events, and continuing my involvement at several levels!
-Lindsay Jones, Temple University, Class of 2019
I value my APTA membership because of the variety of opportunities and resources that are available to different types of students and clinicians. My membership has helped me grow and adapt to different phases of my career as a DPT academic student, clinical student, and soon-to-be new graduate. Whether it is access to new research, networking opportunities at conferences, financial education upon graduation, or federal advocacy involvement, APTA has supported me through the different phases of my education. It is important to me to be part of a professional organization that encourages my growth as a clinician, so I can better care for my patients. There truly is valuefound in different ways and through different resourcesin an APTA membership for everyone.
-Sarah Bentley, Mayo Clinic DPT Program, Class of 2018
I just recently heard a great point brought up by Emma Stokes, president of the World Confederation for Physical Therapy. She said: "Where would you be without APTA?" The room grew very quiet, and this question will resonate with me for the rest of my career. We as physical therapists/physical therapist assistants, would be obsolete without the American Physical Therapy Association. First, I value my membership because it enables me to pursue the career of my dreams. Secondly, I value my membership for APTA's continuous efforts to advocate for our profession and our future patients. Lastly, my APTA membership has provided me with opportunities to network with other like-minded students and professionals around the nation at conferences to be #BetterTogether.
-Lindsey McAlonan, Sacred Heart University, Class of 2018
Now it’s your turn to tell us what your APTA membership means to you in the comments section below.
Be sure to check out APTA’s website to view the full list of benefits offered to members. Not a member? Join today! #APTAmember #BetterTogether
10 Tips to Stay on Fire
Estimated Reading Time: 9 minutes
Don't let burnout extinguish your drive to succeed.
Too many people wear "workaholism" like a badge of honor. Our society accepts busyness as a constant state of life, esteems lack of sleep as a sign of success, and likens relaxation to laziness. In our work-centered culture, we're constantly pressured to keep working harder, making it better, or doing it faster. But we forget that burning through our fuel faster than we can replenish it can only last so long. At this unbalanced pace, our strong fire for success in the clinic, classroom, or business may ultimately burn out.
Burnout is a massive problem, especially in health care. A recent survey of over 1,300 physical therapists in the US found that 29 percent experience high emotional exhaustion and 13 percent are experiencing burnout.1 In medicine, the figures are much higher: Over 50 percent of U.S. physicians are experiencing burnout.2,3 This has been shown to be linked with more patient safety errors, less engagement in the workplace, and lower levels of empathy toward patients.4,5,6 Interestingly, a 2014 Annals of Family Medicine article even called for a fourth aim—improving the work life of health care providers—if we are to achieve successful implementation of the Triple Aim (care, health, and cost).7 So although social media makes it appear as though everyone out there "has it all together," this couldn't be further from the truth.
Much of what our workhorse culture considers "lazy" or "unproductive" are the very things we need to keep our fires from burning out. Even if we want to take a break, get more sleep, or catch up with friends, we may avoid making these positive changes in our lives out of pressure or fear that we won't be working hard enough. In his book The Path of Least Resistance, Robert Fritz writes about the two parts of the creative cycle: Stretch (engaging in dedicated work) and Consolidation (taking a step back and assimilating the results of that work). When the cycle is balanced, we burn bright with passion, creativity, and positive momentum. The problem is that our fast-paced society keeps too many of us in the stretch phase. If you are stretching and not consolidating, you are headed straight for burnout.
A lot of people confuse burnout with stress. Although the two share similar characteristics, there are very distinct differences. For one thing, stress is unavoidable; burnout is not if care is taken to avoid it. Stress is a problem of too much at one time—too many physical or emotional pressures that demand too much of you. Everyone has times like this when pressures converge and mount. In the short term, this may emerge as that out-of-control feeling that arises from long weeks, large projects with no end in sight, or tight deadlines. However, once the situation changes (hopefully soon), the stress often lessens or disappears entirely and tasks seem more manageable. Burnout, on the other hand, is a problem of not enough—a feeling of emptiness, exhaustion, underappreciation, self-doubt, or lacking motivation. Problems seem insurmountable, positive change appears hopeless, and it's difficult to amass the energy to even care. Most importantly, there's often disconnect between what you're currently doing and what you truly want to be doing, which results in feeling deprived.
This is a 10-step guide to ensure burnout never extinguishes your drive to succeed as a clinician, student, or business owner. No matter where you are in your career, I hope you'll appreciate how tremendously hard you've worked to get there, that you're never alone in what you're feeling or experiencing, and that it takes a special kind of person to do what we do. Above all, I hope you'll appreciate that in such a selfless profession of caring for others, we cannot forget about ourselves. So read it, share it, and implement it. Let's do this.
Define Your Massively Transformative Purpose (MTP). This one's listed first for a reason. As described in the book Exponential Organizations, your MTP is the highly aspirational reason behind why you do what you do. It goes beyond merely earning a paycheck or making a living: It's what makes you jump (gently, mind your back) out of bed in the morning and keeps you going strong through tough times. Burnout is virtually impossible when you're working for a larger purpose. So think about what internally drives you and write it down. Define it. Reread and recite it often. This will turn into an influential exercise, so spend time thinking deeply about your MTP. For example, mine is "Building the next Apple/Nike/Google of Health Care."
Complete a Personality Assessment. Whether you're a clinician, student, or business owner, the next step in changing your mentality is understanding it and using it to your advantage. With a simple Google search, you will find many free resources. The standard Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment, for instance, can help you identify your emotional tendencies and how you typically respond to stress. Don't let your patients be the first ones who recognize you're burnt out. You must be able to recognize when you're not your strongest self. This critical step sets you up for those that follow.
Change Your Perceptions. This one may be the most challenging on the list, but it is critical to successfully implementing change in your life. You can't always choose what happens to you, but you can always choose how you feel about it. Practical tips for this one include: keeping a daily/weekly gratitude list, redirecting your daily focus toward enjoyable aspects of your work, or editing your vocabulary to your emotional advantage. Take out the negative and frame it as positive. For instance, try saying "Today, I get to do . . ." instead of "Today, I have to do . . ." when running through your daily tasks. These simple changes place a positive spin on mundane tasks and offer encouraging reminders that you are working toward your MTP. Personally, I try to never use the word "busy" in daily conversations. Starting small can make big changes in your mood.
Invest in Close Relationships. Time spent with loved ones refuels your fire and reminds you of what really matters. Whether it's with your partner, children, colleagues, family, or friends, consistent face-to-face social interaction with supportive people is arguably the strongest antidote to burnout. This may sound simple and obvious, but take a brief moment right now and assess how much time you've truly spent in the last week with those closest to you. When you had the time, did you maximize these opportunities or was that time spent thinking about the work you haven't completed? Don't be too hard on yourself, but realize that just when you think you're over your head in problems and responsibilities, a talk with a close friend may be exactly what you need to reset and solve the next problem. Additionally, forming strong friendships in the workplace may help fill your otherwise stressful workday with laughter and enriching conversation.
Prioritize Basic Needs. High-powered individuals often let sleep, exercise, and diet fall by the wayside in order to get more things done—a blatantly illogical habit. Although we all know this one to be common sense, it doesn't always translate into common practice. One day, I hope society looks back on today's tendency to avoid basic necessities for life in the same way we currently look back on the days when smoking was deemed healthy. If we were to recommend healthy lifestyles to our patients, why would we not value them ourselves? Once again, start with small changes—evaluate which needs you may have been pushing aside and set a small and achievable goal.
Take Relaxation Time Seriously. Relaxation does not equal laziness. Whether it's through meditation, yoga, sports, reading a book, listening to music, or taking a leisurely walk, plan for "refueling" time. In business, don't promote a workhorse culture without promoting a healthy lifestyle. In practice, don't underestimate the power of a few deep breaths between patients. If you're a student, don't start the next day of brain-filling lectures without ending that night with brain-clearing relaxation. Remember the old Zen adage, "You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes every day—unless you're too busy; then you should sit for an hour." Take time for yourself and your productivity will surely benefit.
Say No. When first starting out in any venture, I believe it's imperative to say yes to opportunities that help you grow and gain experience. However, at a certain point, you must actively protect the things you love to do by saying no to the things you don't. I've recently found the philosophy of Derek Sivers and Tim Ferriss to be extremely valuable: Unless a new opportunity is a "Hell yeah!" it's a "No." After all, optimal work-life balance is a never-ending, active pursuit, not an ultimate nirvana you eventually reach. If it's truly an opportunity and not a requirement, saying "No" may benefit your life far more than negatively affect it.
Perform a Workload Analysis. It's easy to drown in responsibilities, but a workload analysis can be your lifeline. The best kind of analysis runs all the tasks expected of you through a three-tiered filter of elimination, automation, and delegation. Is this task absolutely necessary or can it be eliminated? If it's necessary and oftentimes repetitive, can it be solved by an automated system put into place? If not, can somebody else do it? Only if a task survives all three steps in the analysis and is necessary for you to complete independently, does it earn the right to be on your to do list. Creating systems for automation and/or educating your staff on repetitive tasks may be time consuming initially but has the upside of paying off tenfold in free time later on.
Nourish Your Creative Side. The happiest people on earth are those who are constantly learning new things that intrigue them. What personal projects are you working on? What hobby do you have that is completely unrelated to your regular job? What are you known for outside of work? Sometimes a change of pace, plans, or circumstance can be exactly what you need to rekindle your creativity and relight your motivation.
Overcome Imposter Syndrome. Imposter syndrome is the persistent fear of being exposed as a fraud. Extremely common among high-achieving individuals, imposter syndrome can make you wrongfully complacent with being burnt out. You'll think, "I'm not really any good at this," "I'm not qualified enough," or "Who am I to be doing this?" I was plagued by these same thoughts before writing this article. However, the truth is that people aren't always 100 percent qualified to be doing what they are doing. How many times do you see "orthopedic expert" or "so-and-so modality guru" on social media? They're everywhere. While some of these individuals are good at what they do, these titles are largely self-proclaimed in attempts to reach a larger audience. Plain and simple: These are the individuals who have overcome imposter syndrome or are faking it. Don't let self-doubt stop you from pursuing your own dreams. Compete with yourself, not everyone around you, to increase your self-efficacy. If you're unsure how to break this barrier: Fake it until you make it.
Scott McAfee, PT, DPT, is a recent graduate from the University of Southern California, former board member of the APTA Student Assembly, and current orthopedic resident at Adventist Health in Los Angeles. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @McAfeePT.
This article was originally printed in the July 2017 issue of the Private Practice Section's Impact magazine.
Zambo Anderson E, Gould-Fogerite S, Pratt C, Perlman A. Identifying stress and burnout in physical therapists. Platform Presentation at World Confederation for Physical Therapy Congress; May 2015; Singapore.
Penson DF. Re: Changes in burnout and satisfaction with work-life balance in physicians and the general US working population between 2011 and 2014. J Urol. 2016;195(5):1568.
Embriaco N, Papazian L, Kentish-Barnes N, Pochard F, Azoulay E. Burnout syndrome among critical care healthcare workers. Curr Opin Crit Care. 2007;13(5):482-488.
Shanafelt TD, Balch CM, Bechamps G et al. Burnout and medical errors among American surgeons. Ann Surg. 2010;251(6):995-1000.
Salyers MP, Flanagan ME, Firmin R, Rollins AL. Clinicians' perceptions of how burnout affects their work. Psychiatr Serv. 2015;66(2):204-207.
Thomas MR, Dyrbye LN, Huntington JL et al. How do distress and well-being relate to medical student empathy? A multicenter study. J Gen Intern Med. 2007;22(2):177-183.
Bodenheimer T, Sinsky C. From triple to quadruple aim: care of the patient requires care of the provider. Ann Fam Med. 2014;12(6):573-576.
I'm a New Professional, How Can I Get Involved?
Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes
Congratulations! You have graduated and passed your boards. You are now a licensed PT or PTA.
You just spent years working toward becoming a fabulous clinician to work with patients and make a difference in their lives. Aside from that, you had an incredible time simply being a student.
You attended conferences, you were involved in work groups, maybe served as a Core Ambassador or on the Student Assembly Board of Directors. You created lasting relationships with other people who are involved and built an idea of what you would like to do and become as a professional. Now, go do it!
This is me, this is what went through my head. I had the privilege to serve in state and national leadership as a student, and I thrived in that environment. I grew as an individual, gained incredible professional mentors, and knew that I needed to continue to be a part of APTA to be the best clinician and colleague that I could be.
When I moved to Florida to start my job, I left an incredible state with even more incredible people. I felt comfortable in my state chapter and felt that I would likely have the opportunity to serve as a new professional.
When I got to Pensacola, I was intimidated by how large the state of Florida is and because I didn't really know anyone, I attempted to start serving where I was also comfortable, which was on the national level. I applied to APTA task forces and went looking for ways to immediately become involved.
I was disappointed and discouraged when I either wasn't chosen for a position or couldn't find something where I felt that I could really contribute. It seemed that as a new professional, it was going to be much harder to find ways to contribute to my professional association aside from my membership. This concerned me because how then are we supposed to gain the necessary experience for leadership without a place to start?
Fast forward to September 2015 at the Florida Physical Therapy Association (FPTA) fall conference where I met up with Leiselle Pilgrim, a fellow new grad, and Jamie Dyson, PT, DPT, and Florida Chapter member, and they introduced me to the Early Professionals Special Interest Group (EPSIG) that had been developed in Florida.
Think of the EPSIG as the stepping stone between student leadership and, as Jamie will put it, "seasoned" leadership. It is the place for new professionals to go to immediately following graduation and feel like they have a purpose within the association.
At the time, the EPSIG had only been formed for about a year and was very small. To date, we have 80+ members, and Florida itself has seen membership growth of over 1,200 from May 2015-May 2017, demonstrating that when students transitioning to new professionals have an avenue to continue their growth, they are more likely to stay involved.
For me personally, the EPSIG provided a community of people who were in a similar place of "newness" in their careers, because although they had perhaps studied and lived in Florida, they did not know how or where to start with involvement as a #FreshPT.
The EPSIG lays us a path to move forward and gain experience for both clinical practice and further leadership, mentorship, and the best part is that you can really make it your own, doing as little or as much with it as you want. If you are content being a member, participating in challenges and journal clubs, that's great! If you want a more streamline trajectory toward your leaderships goals, then you have the opportunity to run for leadership positions within the EPSIG, connect with mentors, and develop yourself for future endeavors.
In my opinion, there should be an EPSIG in every state (shout out to Arizona for getting on board!) and I believe that we are moving in that direction.
The EPSIG model lends itself to increased connection and collaboration between students, new professionals, and seasoned professionals, while increasing membership and providing more ways for people to contribute to their profession outside of the clinic.
If we can form a professional home for new grads and early career professionals—a place where they can feel connected to their professional association at all levels, and a place where they can learn, develop, and grow—then I truly believe that we are going to see growth in the push to move physical therapy forward because we are simply #BetterTogether.
Interested in starting an EPSIG in your state? Contact Jillian or Jamie to learn more.
Jillian Carney, PTA, BA, Florida Chapter, PTA Director, FPTA Early Professionals SIG. You can find Jillian on Twitter at: @JCarneyPTA.