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Toni Talks about PT Today

The Results of Getting Involved

Published February 22, 2011 1:16 PM by Toni Patt

It's been several months since I was elected as a board member to the Southeast District (SED) of the TPTA. Another meeting is coming up this week. I have nothing to report. That isn't particularly surprising since I only have two responsibilities; the spring and fall student socials. Next month will be different. Meanwhile I've had time to reflect on the job.

I volunteered to run because I disagreed with just about everything the SED supports. Instead of complaining, I decided I needed to be in a position where I could make a difference. I am a voting member of the board. I attend board meetings. I thought those opportunities would enable me to make changes. I was wrong. Not only have I been unsuccessful, I believe it's a wasted cause.

For one thing, I learned some things are out of anyone's control. Continuing education offerings are determined based on who volunteers. I discovered those responsible make an effort to entice new speakers and cover different topics. Unfortunately, most of those volunteers practice in an orthopedic setting. I doubt I would have much better luck if I tried.

I discovered board decisions, and therefore those that affect what the SED does, are driven by two individuals. There are two additional board members who universally agree with what those two say. Even though I have a vote and can voice my opinion I will always be outvoted. These are the individuals who twisted the rules every which way to provide massages at the marathon. Board meetings aren't so much mutual discussions as the "ones in power" telling everyone else how things will be.

SED meetings aren't much better. Last month became a political rally. The TPTA has planned a day for PTs, PTAs and students to converge on the capitol and promote the direct-access cause. During the course of the evening, members were registering to attend and announcing it to the meeting. Later, another portion was devoted to contesting a change in our rules of practice. Again, what should have been an informational announcement became a political event. I don't agree with the change but we didn't need to devote 20 of the allotted meeting minutes to those two topics.

I'll be the first to admit my priorities are different. I want to promote the practice of physical therapy and therapists. I'm more inclined to focus on their needs and what would improve the daily grind. My issues are salary, education and job security. I'm concerned about adequate support staffing as baby boomers age and grow heavier. I want to know just what is going to happen when DPTs outnumber everyone else. What does "being grandfathered in" really mean? These are fair questions and things that mean something to the average PT/PTA.

The APTA is partially to blame for this discrepancy. It seems to me a well-planned national initiative would be more effective instead of piecemeal as is happening now. Meanwhile, I want to know I'll have a job. I want to know my salary won't be cut. The graying and fattening of America is real. Eliminating positions has become a common cost-cutting measure. Who is going to help me lift those baby boomers when they start having strokes? More importantly, where are they going to go for care once they leave the acute hospital? It's becoming next to impossible to obtain funding for rehab.

My position has a two-year term. I'll finish it out. I'll sit back and watch as I do. A lot is happening in health care. I think the SED (and the APTA for that matter) would be better served watching those changes and making proactive plans. I'm learning there is more to becoming an activist and promoting change than meets the eye.

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