The Annual APTA Questionnaire
Last weekend I finally got around to completing the annual questionnaire sent out to members by the APTA. It's probably about 50 questions, excluding demographics, about the practice of physical therapy. There were the expected "how would you rate the following" questions about the APTA, the APTA website and the like. Another section covered progress toward Vision 2020. I easily answered those questions with a click of my mouse.
Then came the one I had to think about. What would I like to see the APTA focus on? Given enough time and space I could have written a thesis. I only had a paragraph. I've complained about several things. I've found fault with the system. I've discussed the disappearing work ethic. Those are real problems, but not ones the APTA can address.
After thinking for a few minutes, I decided the answer was to back off on Vision 2020 and concentrate on getting all practicing PTs and PTAs ready for 2020 to happen. I don't think most therapists have a clear idea what 2020 is all about. I know many who are content to let it happen around them while they continue to practice as usual.
Evidence based practice (EBP) is a good thing. The APTA can push it as much as it wants. EBP won't happen until practicing therapists of all educational levels and training are familiar and comfortable with it. Doing a computer research search is something that must be taught. Separating good research from bad is another skill that is generally lacking.
The same is true of direct access. Direct access is a good thing. The truth is if it happened today, the profession of PT isn't ready for it. There are some excellent OP therapists out there who would be fine. There are some others who are close. From my experiences working outpatient, I would say the majority of OP therapists aren't anywhere near ready. I'm not talking skill level, although that could be a problem. I'm talking about the additional knowledge necessary to practice autonomously.
I could go down the list of Vision 2020. PTs are being promoted as musculoskeletal specialists and neuromuscular experts. We have unique knowledge and skills which enable us to make those claims. That's true. But everyone has different levels of those skills. I think it makes more sense to get everyone generally practicing the same way. We have to move away from doing something because that's the way it's always been done. We must go beyond doing the same thing every time because it's a comfortable treatment.
That is something the APTA can address. It's time for them to step up and help fix this discrepancy. The APTA can't keep using Vision 2020 as a buzz word. It's time to help PTs and PTAs move forward. Sponsoring courses, home study and onsite, would enable practicing therapists to learn the skills needed to move forward. If the APTA wants more members it should revisit the cost of membership. Maybe separate state and national membership so that one is possible without the other. Belonging to sections can get expensive. How about a discount for multiple memberships? Or, CEU credit for volunteering for a section or state chapter? These are some thoughts.
I could go on. The point is the level of difficulty involved for an average therapist to aspire toward 2020. For it to work everyone must not only buy into, but be ready for 2020. Yes, there is a level of individual responsibility and cost involved. At the same time the APTA is in a position to help those willing to help themselves.