"Physical therapy is not a subspecialty of the medical profession and physical therapists are not medical doctors; we are a separate profession that provides a unique service that physicians are unable and untrained to provide."

Letter to the AMA from the APTA, Dec 2009

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Are Physical Therapists Too Passive?

I heard the finest characterization of the political physical therapist from Juliana Koob, Legislative Advocate for the New Mexico chapter of the American Physical Therapy Association at the State Payment and Policy Forum in Austin, Texas today. Ms. Koob said:
"Physical therapists have the best work-life balance of all of my clients. They love their work but they generally love their private lives, too."
That's why grassroots action by state-level physical therapists often seems like all the work gets done by the same small group of people.

My conversation with Ms. Koob took place within the context of CEO Paul Hardin's discussion of the Texas Physical Therapy Association's (TPTA) attempt to secure physical therapy direct access legislation in 2011.

The Texas attempt enjoyed a broad support from leaders in the Texas private practice setting, a sophisticated social media campaign and grassroots activity from all over Texas and, perhaps, the United States.

The initiative for the Texas Direct Access legislation and much of the heavy lifting to ensure it's passage (it missed by only one vote!) was probably done, in my opinion, by three people:
  • Cynthia Fisher, PT, DPT, MS, PCS President of the TPTA 
  • Paul Hardin, CEO of the TPTA and 
  • Eric Wilson, PT Legislative Chair of the TPTA

I don't want to take away recognition of the effort of the 500 physical therapist who showed up on Legislative Day in Austin, Texas or of the genuine grassroots support as evidenced by the 2,906 people who signed the petition supporting direct access to physical therapists.

I also don't discount the people who donated over $60,000 to the Texas Political Action Committee in support of Direct Access.

Physical therapists have great jobs with huge potential to impact peoples' lives. When we support and initiate political action to improve our impact we have to spend our private time - the situation that Ms. Koob observed.

But, that private time can be spent in fulfilling advocacy activities that add balance to your life by improving your patients' access to physical therapy.

According to Ms. Koob, politics doesn't have to be negative or contentious. Done correctly, politics may be just about talking one-on-one with your friends and neighbors.

Physical therapists are not passive. But, we may need to shed our idea that seeking influence in politics doesn't square with our image of a happy work-life balance.

For more updates from the APTA State Payment and Policy Forum in Austin, Texas follow the Twitter feed at @APTAadvocacy.

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Tim Richardson, PT owns a private practice at Medical Arts Rehabilitation, Inc in Palmetto, Florida. The clinic website is at MedicalArtsRehab.com.

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Tim has implemented a computerized Clinical Decision Support (CDS) system in his clinic since 2006 that serves as a Reminder, Alerting, Prompting and Predicting CDS using evidence-based tests and measures.

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Consistent with the American Physical Therapy Association Vision Statement for Physical Therapy 2020, the American Physical Therapy Association supports exclusive physical therapist ownership and operation of physical therapy services.