Mandatory National Association Membership?
I met a friend for coffee this week, and we started talking about the Combined Sections Meeting in Chicago and our plans to participate in some of the APTA and WPTA events this spring. Eventually the conversation shifted to the APTA in general and the pros and cons of being a member. My friend pointed out that for chiropractors and medical doctors, membership to their respective professional associations is a requirement of their license. Some companies (in any profession) require their employees to be members of their professional association so the corporation can market itself as having 100-percent involvement in those areas. I didn't know that.
When I was in physical therapy school, it was "strongly encouraged" to be an APTA member, and we were required to have a copy of the APTA's Guide to Physical Therapy Practice book. The Guide was integrated into many projects and assignments throughout the three years in school. The APTA website was extremely helpful in finding research articles or news related to physical therapy and was a good resource throughout the years in school. The year after I graduated, my alma mater made APTA membership a requirement of the physical therapy program. I'm not sure if it is still a requirement.
There's a difference between mandating students and mandating professionals to be members of their professional association. Students are finishing school with a nice DPT degree and a student loan debt higher than many American mortgages. Adding additional costs for APTA membership (although discounted) only adds to the mounting debt crisis and at some point educators need to decide if those requirements are justified. Professionals, on the other hand, have an income and are better able to provide the out-of-pocket costs to become a member.
If APTA memberships were required of all professional physical therapists, membership would increase from around 30 percent (currently) to 100 percent. That means the funding for lobbyists who fight for our rights as practitioners and research funds would be substantially more than what they are accustomed to working with. Can you imagine how much the physical therapy profession could achieve with that amount of resources? As cliché as it sounds, if everyone would contribute, we could accomplish more together.
So, is it fair to ask everyone to be a member? Currently the APTA adjusts its services, including its website, to draw more professionals to join. The organization is constantly measuring the needs of the professionals and working to support all physical therapists. If everyone were a member, would APTA have the same drive? If increasing membership is a motivating factor for the APTA, how would its work change if membership was maxed out?
What do you think? Regardless of your views of the APTA, how would any business change if its sales were at the maximal levels? Would the quality of the company remain at its highest standard?