The APTA -- Why Bother?
(Editor's Note: Throughout the month of February, ADVANCE bloggers Michael Kelley and Lisa Mueller will post "Dueling Blogs," in which they argue opposing sides of the same issue. Topic #1 -- "Is APTA Membership Valuable?")
I was an APTA member for one year when I started working. I'll be honest, the only reason I joined was because my employer paid the APTA dues. As a new grad, however, even the state chapter dues seemed impossible to afford on my own, so I let my membership lapse and have never rejoined. As a young therapist, the cost of APTA and state chapter dues were just too much. Other therapists I've talked to (both young and older) have offered similar reasons for why they aren't members. As with any financial decision, the cost-benefit analysis does not seem to add up when it comes to the APTA.
I spent much of the past week looking around on the APTA website to learn more about what exactly they do and how exactly they do it. I have to be honest, they do seem to do quite a bit. There are various sections on their website for patient advocacy, political pursuits, reimbursement information etc. What complicates things is when I wanted to learn more about what the APTA specifically does within these various areas, I was met with a "Log-in" screen.
I've always been the kind of guy who likes to see proven results upfront before I offer an individual or organization my time or money. For instance, it baffles me why the APTA would not want me to know what their "Public Policy Priorities" are for this coming year. Wouldn't that be something you would want potential members to know? By being open about what your goals are, wouldn't that be a way of drawing in a larger membership? Not everything is blocked on their website, of course, but the vast majority of the information compiled is available via a quick Google search.
When I asked my coworkers about the APTA, one big topic that arose was the PT Journal. Now, obviously, there are no other peer-reviewed journals out there that offer only PT-related content (at least to my knowledge). But is this reason enough to join the APTA? An older coworker of mine pointed out that every journal article in the PT Journal is likely available independently online. Even if you have to purchase the article, it's still cheaper to pay for one article you need as opposed to hundreds of dollars for an annual membership.
We'll be getting to this next point in an upcoming "Dueling Blogs" post, but I wanted to mention here as well that when it comes to politics, I just don't see the APTA having the political muscle necessary to effect real change within our profession. The APTA has some political sway, no doubt, but comparing that to the political capital the insurance lobby has makes the APTA look pretty pathetic. I crunched the numbers; the APTA has in its membership approximately 20% of the national PT, PTA and physical therapy students (2012 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and CAPTE). I wonder how seriously members of congress on any level of government take the APTA when they represent such a small fraction of their total numbers.
I looked it up and for me to be an APTA member in the state of Illinois, it would cost me $485/year. Is it worth it to join not knowing what their political aspirations are? Is it worth it to join for a peer-reviewed journal that's available elsewhere? Is it worth it to join when the other players in the game so incredibly dwarf the APTA? For me, right now, the answer is no.
Now don't get me wrong... I believe in the power of people speaking up for what they believe in and fighting for those beliefs on whatever battlefield they can. I believe in the importance of evidence-based practice. And I believe in the furthering of our profession through both political and non-legislative avenues. It just doesn't seem like the APTA is doing enough to warrant me spending that much money right now. So for the time being at least, I will remain but a lowly "non-member."