Why your legislator needs to know you

September 24, 2012

Recently I had the opportunity to meet with my state senator. I had invited him to the sports safety presentation that I organized at my work, but he was unable to attend. When I dropped off the invitation packet I let them know that I would like to set up a meeting with him.

My meeting was set up and I was prepared to meet with him. This is not the first time that I have met with my elected officials, although it was the first time that I had met this senator. Most times when you schedule a meeting you are given a time to meet with their staff. The ability to get to know the staff is important because they have the ear of the legislator. When you get to meet with the legislator you actually have the ability to influence them directly.

Most people do not understand what we do as ATs. They believe that we are personal trainers or physical therapists. There is nothing wrong with either of these professions, but neither accurately defines what we do. Legislators are not different. They have not seen what we do and may have a misconception about it. They do not realize that we are on the front lines of athlete safety. They do not realize that we are qualified health care professionals deserving of third party reimbursement. They do not realize what our practice act should say, other than what other professions tell them that it should.

What are the issues facing you in your job setting? Do you have a new concussion law that helps in protecting athlete safety? Is your state looking to update their practice act? Or did your state just complete a revision on the practice act?

When was the last time that your legislator was visited by an AT? Possibly never. Now, when was the last time that another health care professional visited them? Most likely within the last year. What if your practice act came up and you were misrepresented? This is why we need to be active and we need to represent ourselves so that our legislator can represent us.

Here is the plan:

  • Set up a meeting and have an idea what you want to discuss (athlete safety, AT licensure, etc.)
  • Know what your state GA committee is working on. It is not a bad idea to have talking points from them.
  • Dress for success. Let the legislator know that you are serious about your job. Dress professionally.
  • Bring some literature to highlight points that you expect to make. FACTS about athletic trainers is always a good one to explain what ATs are/do.
  • Be on time and be courteous.
  • Thank them for meeting with you.
  • Explain to them why you are there and what you do (elevator speech about AT).
  • Thank them for all of their support on issues that effect AT (athlete safety, licensure, etc.). You may need to do some research.
  • Ask for their support on an issue if it is appropriate.
  • Let them know that you are available to be a resource for them in matters of athlete safety, health care, or other topics that may come up that you can be a resource.
  • Answer all of their questions. They may have more interest in things that are not on your mind. There may be discussions about a bill going on that he/she wants information. If you do not have the information with you then promise them that you will get it to them.
  • Leave your card and thank them for meeting with you.

This takes some work and it may not be easy for some. When I first went to DC to Capitol Hill Day I had a lot to learn. However, these people need to know what you do as much or more than the general public. These people are making policy. They are able to make things better or worse for you. But they don’t know what you need unless you tell them. Beginning this relationship is important. And it is a relationship. You are constituent and they are representative. They work for you. They might as well know how to work for you.

Be brave and set up a meeting with your state representative or state senator. You can even schedule a meeting with your US representative or senator in their local offices when they are there. Have you ever met with your elected officials? It is worth it if you haven’t. If you have, then you know that it is a powerful experience.

I would be remiss if I did not make you aware of the Capitol Hill Day in Washington DC on Februrary 24-25. This is an important time for you to be able to send our message to your elected officials in DC. Check out the link http://www.nata.org/capitol-hill-day and save the date.

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