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Raising the Bar in Rehab

We Are Our Biggest Challenge

Published February 27, 2014 3:47 PM by Lisa Mueller

(Editor's Note: Throughout the month of February, ADVANCE bloggers Lisa Mueller and Michael Kelley will post "Dueling Blogs," in which they argue opposing sides of the same issue. Topic #4 -- "What Is the Biggest Challenge to the PT Profession?")

When Michael and I discussed writing four weeks of "Dueling Blogs" in mid-January, we wanted the last blog debate to be an important one, and decided to contrast our opinions of the biggest challenge to physical therapy practice. We had no way of knowing then that the APTA was writing a similar story for the February issue of PT in Motion, with an article titled "Addressing the ‘Biggest Threat' to Physical Therapy."

Obviously, this is an important current issue in our profession. I couldn't agree more with the article's author, Eric Ries, who quoted a therapist saying, "The biggest threat to physical therapy, I really do think sometimes, is physical therapists."

We are by far the biggest obstacles to our own practice. I've had the privilege of meeting lots of therapists over the past few years through CE courses, APTA conferences and social media outlets like LinkedIn, and I'm always surprised by the low standards we accept.

Therapists who half-jokingly mention taking naps at work while volumes are low. Experienced therapists who honestly confess they don't understand the difference between timed and untimed codes. Therapists who believe ignorance is an acceptable excuse for billing and documentation errors. Therapists who work hard to give "unskilled" work to other professions, which directly reduces the scope of our work. If we don't take our profession seriously, no one else will.

So, how do we bridge the gap? How do we inspire all physical therapists to engage in their careers and be accountable to drive forward? I think this is where the APTA could flex some muscle (musculoskeletal pun intended). But, as I write this I'm wondering how I plan to be less of an obstacle to the future of physical therapy practice. What can I do? It isn't just the APTA that needs to step up -- I need to as well. I need to be more informed about the current events of my profession and help celebrate the small wins with my colleagues. I need to do a better job of educating my patients on the role of physical therapy.

What do you think? What is the biggest obstacle to physical therapy? Is it regulations? Third-party payers? Inadequate access to information? Employers? The APTA? I encourage you to get involved in the conversation by leaving comments below. It is only in truly understanding the problem that we'll be able to find a long-term solution to make the physical therapy profession even better.

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