Back to work

August 15, 2012

By this point most ATs are back to work. Practices have begun, we have begun to handle the daily needs of our athlete-patients. They come to you for help when they need it. It has been well documented how many of the complaints and comments are head scratching at times. It keeps us wondering what might be going through their head.

You have a tremendous amount of influence in their life though. You have the ability to educate them and to provide them with the healing touch so that they can continue to be physcially active. The odds are they are not going to go professional. Most high school athletes never play in college. What healthcare professional do they turn to when they are injured? In some cases their parents take them to the doctor first, but in many of those cases the athletic trainer is involved.

Athletic trainers have the ability to see these patients early. How early? We see the injury actually happen. No other healthcare professional is there within seconds. Sure, an EMT can get there in minutes, but we are there first. Even better, how many healthcare professionals actually are actively preventing injury and illness daily. Who protects student-athletes from heat illness? Lightning? Head injury? ACL injury? How unique is it that we actually provide prevention?

These athletes are our future. Some might follow in your footsteps. Some might become the next generation coaches. A few might be an athletic director or administrator. There may even be one that runs for political office. I think of the relationship between Senator Tomlinson in Pennsylvania and the support that we have received because of his relationship with athlletic trainers. Senator Tomlinson was once an athlete, but is not an influential person in the state. He is the chair of the Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee.

At Capitol Hill Day in DC there has been a staff member who had been in the athletic training program at a college. This staff member does not advocate for our profession. In fact he has been known to oppose those that lobby for support of our action in DC. This is one person with tremendous influence over our profession federally. What will it take to gain his support?

I suggest that we make it a point to demonstrate professionalism in what we do daily. Explain to athletes, parents, administrators, and media what you do. Gain their appreciation by what you do for your athlete-patients. This means something different to everyone. Perhaps you work on publicizing yourself. Perhaps you begin celebrating National Athletic Training Month in March. Or you could take the time to go to a school board meeting. What about promoting the fact that you are a licensed healthcare professional with unique skills?

The lives that you touch everyday have a significant impact on the NATA’s governmental affairs efforts, present and future. Be professional and passionate. See yourself as part of a collection of athletic trainers rather than an athletic trainer on an island. Your island has influence in the big picture because you are affecting lives positively. You can be the reason that your state achieves licensure or you can be the resource for legislative efforts in the future through your work today. Your leadership in your work setting can have a profound impact on our profession.

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