I'm Not Alone
I just finished my first conference call as a member of the Advocacy Committee of the Neurological Section. It was very refreshing. The other members of the committee were voicing the same frustrations and experiences I do. We may not have accomplished everything we wanted to, but did unanimously agree there's more to physical therapy than outpatient orthopedics.
We recognized there seems to be an imbalance in focus within the APTA and thus with the course of action it pursues. Just look at the people in power. Most of them have an orthopedic or sports medicine background. Naturally that's where they will focus. An argument could be made that lack of difference of opinion has created tunnel vision. One of our objectives is to increase awareness of neurological PT within the organization.
I'm drawn to the education aspect. There's a general lack of insight into what physical therapists do. First we have to educate the public, and maybe a few others, on what we do. Then we have to demonstrate what's unique about neurological therapy.
Of thing that aggravates me is the referral of neurological patients to outpatient orthopedic clinics. I can see how it happens. The doctor has a relationship with the clinic. Or maybe the clinic is the most conveniently located for the patient. Maybe the clinic is the only one on the insurance plan. Whatever the reason, the patient ends up being treated by someone who isn't familiar with what needs to be done.
When I was getting my DPT, one of my classmates (an orthopedic therapist) talked about treating a patient with continuous chloric movements. He didn't have a clue but continued to see the patient for the full 12 visits. That patient would have been better served being treated by someone with a neuro background.
Another goal of the committee is to work within the community to recognize the significance of the NCS. The APTA continues to push for specialization but does little to support those who become credentialed. In my experience, neither employers nor consumers put much value in the credential. Sure a higher salary would be nice. But so would simple recognition of the achievement.
Educating the public on what PTs do will help everyone across the board. In the process, we must create an awareness of the different varieties of practice. Physicians have been specializing for years. Consumers seem to recognize the differences. It would be nice if the same were true of physical therapy.