Capitol Hill now has 14,000 additional reasons to increase access to physical therapists (PTs) in rural and underserved areas—and to provide student debt relief to some PTs along the way—as the result of one of the most successful APTA "flash action" events to date. And the profession's students can claim much of the credit.
This year's Flash Action Strategy (FAS) event, held September 18 and 19, focused on advocacy around the Physical Therapist Workforce and Patient Access Act (HR 2802/S 970), a proposal that would include PTs in the National Health Services Corps (NHSC) and its loan repayment program. Participants in NHSC can receive repayment for up to $50,000 in outstanding student loans when they agree to work for at least 2 years in a designated Health Professional Shortage Area. This increased access to physical therapy instead of opioids for pain management could help reduce consumption of the drugs in some areas of the country hardest-hit by the opioid crisis.
In the midst of already-packed semesters, students from multiple PT and physical therapist assistant (PTA) programs took time to participate in the nationwide effort, primarily using social media to concentrate their efforts during a 48-hour window of intense messaging. The students were joined by PTs, PTAs, and other stakeholders to generate a total of 14,148 communications advocating for passage of the legislation—the most ever delivered during an APTA FAS since its beginnings in 2013.
"FAS is an opportunity for our voices to be amplified because of our unity, but it's also a reminder that each voice matters," said Kate Zenkder, SPT, member of APTA Student Assembly Board of Directors. "We hope the FAS is really just the beginning of a conversation with our representatives that should take place all year round about how we can all work to transform society. We can be a part of real change and transformation, but we need to join that conversation."
PT and PTA students will bring their energy and excitement to the upcoming APTA National Student Conclave, set for October 31 to November 2 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Kate's right: advocacy for the profession never stops. Find out how to add your voice to the conversation around the NHSC legislation and a host of other important legislative and regulatory issues by visiting APTA's "Take Action" webpage.