Monday, February 28, 2011

Becoming Component Secretary as a New Professional

Since my first Physical Therapy interview at New York University, being an active member in the American Physical Therapy Association has been an interest of mine.  During the interview is when I first meet Dr. Marilyn Moffat. I was fortunate to have her as a source of knowledge and guidance during my graduate school experience and my continued develop as a new professional. As a student, I regularly attended district and Chapter meetings increasing my interest in the governance process. While I was a student, I was selected to be a student Delegate at New York’s Delegate Assembly which is a smaller version of the APTA House of Delegates (HOD).  This allowed me to attain firsthand experience on how our Chapter makes decisions on important issues.

Our New York Chapter has made it easier for students to get involved at the district and Chapter levels. We recently started a new pilot program called the “Student Interns,” which allows one student from each PT school to attend a Chapter BOD meeting where they are paired with a district director to help mentor them.

My active involvement as a student served to increase my involvement as a New Professional (NP). After graduation, I was asked by my district to attend their Executive committee board meetings, where I got to see more of the deliberating processes. After a year, a vacancy in the position of Vice Chair at the Greater New York District of the NYPTA became available and I was elected to position of Vice Chair of our district. During the same time I submitted my name to our Leadership Committee where I got named to that committee. That same year I also was elected as a NY delegate to the HOD where I got to meet a lot of our influential Chapter delegates and gained more valuable experience.

Last summer our NY Chapter Secretary got elected as Vice President which left a vacancy at that position. Shortly after, I got a call from the NY Chapter President and he was acquiring about my interest in serving on the Executive Committee. With excitement I spoke to a few members of my District to get their insight about me serving as our Secretary. One member whom I valued their opinion informed me I was too young and did not have enough experience to do a good job at the Secretary position. They explained the normal progression was to serve as a district delegate or as a Committee Chair first to get a better understanding of the Board and its structure then persuade an Executive Committee (EC) position. 

After a few lengthy discussions with the President and stating my concerns he ensured me I would do a great job and I was only filling the position for one year. With some hesitation and nervousness I accepted the position not fully understanding what it would entail considering I have never been to a BOD meeting let along serving on the Executive Committee. One of the reasons the president wanted me to become part of the EC was what I could bring to Chapter. Our current President wanted our Chapter to take a new direction and one way to reach this was to get younger members with a fresh perspective. One thing as a NP I can bring to the Chapter is a younger thought and new approach to help bring positive change to our Chapter. Our EC is open to everyone’s’ opinions which allows for discussion because at the end of the day we all want what is best for the Chapter.

Fortunately for me I knew that past Secretary and she continues to mentor me along with the other EC members. This past year has been a little nerve racking yet continues to thrill me as time progress and I gain enough confidence and knowledge. So much so I am running for reelection for the position of Secretary this upcoming April.

Looking back on this past year, I have been very fortunate to have accomplished so much professionally already and hope I can continue to mentor other NPs. I think being involved with a big Chapter like NY offers many advantages because of our size as well as the many opportunities for leadership and involvement. My advice to other NPs would be try to get involved at much as they can commit to; first starting at the district level, then at the Chapter level, and finally at the National level. I was fortunately to bypass the normal progression and go straight to the EC. I am only thankful for the opportunities I have been given so far. As NPs we are the future of the profession and it’s up to us to make the difference.

   Jeremy Crow, DPT, SCS, NYPTA Secretary, NY Delegate to APTA House of Delegates

Sunday, February 20, 2011

4,000 to 1

A little over a week ago I had the chance to speak to a group of PT and PTA students in New Orleans. The Student Assembly leaders held a caucus to give their members a better understanding of involvement, governance, and engagement within APTA. During my talk I brought up the fact that there are about 4,000 Americans for every APTA member. I wanted to make the point that our profession's mission, enhancing societal health and function, requires their generation to be impassioned, involved, and willing to acquire new skill sets.

I single out the up and coming generation for a number of specific reasons. Needless to say, no PT or PTA, regardless of talent as a clinician, is prepared to directly influence thousands of consumers. And yet, that is our goal, an excellent and appropriate goal given our skills and ambition in the emerging health paradigm!

So strategically, how can physical therapy move to meet this challenge head on? Looking back to the ratio, we certainly can't expect the number of Americans to decline (nor would we want it to). However, influencing the right side of the ratio, APTA membership, presents an opportunity to shift things in the profession's favor. Clearly, I'm a big proponent for APTA involvement but it's not out of blind zeal. Upon leaving the bubble of academia, it is essential that PTs and PTAs maintain some line of communication with the professional world. Otherwise, as we do not sit for re-licensure, it's easy to become removed from all but the most local issues. If today's students don't feel a visceral connection between our mission and staying involved, complacency, disinterest, apathy, and a shrinking vision are on the horizon. But with a proper foundation and greater investment in leadership development pathways, this risk can be minimized.

Getting back to our societal goals, soon-to-be clinicians and those with several more decades to practice can and should cultivate some special talents. Community outreach must become a focus! Many of us are comfortable with social media and technology. This is a great place to jump off. How can we hook up groups of clinicians with teams of people seeking improved health? (This speaks to Carpe Sanitas and the "Team Wellness" concept that I should probably devote a whole blog to at some point.) And by extension, how do we pick out the smallest, most effective group of clinicians to assist a given team demographic? Who else will be in the group? Exercise Physiologists? ATCs? Dietitians? Nurses? Chiropractors?

PTs can create a program but for it be consumer-centered we must continue to earn our seat at the table. That will mean disrupting our standard practices, collaborating in new ways, and trying new things. If we don't disrupt ourselves, someone else surely will. (For a great read on this theme try The Innovator's Prescription.) What are your ideas for shaking up the status quo or for getting the benefits of PT to a big audience? I would love to hear them.


Monday, February 7, 2011

A generation with challenges, vision, and Debt

{This post also appears on the Evidence in Motion Blog. If you don't already know about these guys, check them out!}

We are inundated with speculation about what Health Care Reform (HCR) may bring.  Though the outcome remains uncertain, having practiced less than five years, the long term consequences of HCR will have a profound impact on my career.  Our profession will undoubtedly change as health care evolves.  In order to be prepared for what things may come, each new generation of PTs and PTAs must be more conscientious and more prepared to take action than the last.  As stated in EIM’s mission, we must elevate the profession if we want to meet new challenges.  This leads me to reflect on my own generation’s readiness to step up to the plate.  Are there unique qualities that work for or against our preparedness? 

It’s reasonable to say that I was part of the first big wave of DPT graduates.  When I started looking at PT programs in 2002, it was far enough after the Balanced Budget Act to be optimistic and close enough after the adoption of Vision 2020 to have big dreams.  Physical Therapy was and remains a hot career.  I do remember hearing that reimbursement was better before 1998 but I never experienced that reality.  I only knew that things were changing and, like many of my peers, I wanted to have a front row seat for the new paradigm. 

For me, that meant pursuing the only doctoral degree then available in my state.  I set my sights on Emory University and have never regretted the course that landed me there for three years.  What has given me pause, however, is the wide variability in financial burden I learned about amongst my peers.  Leon Johnson Jr., the excellent and frequent speaker on student finances for APTA, once mentioned that, given our starting salaries, PT students should avoid accumulating debt greater than $40,000.  This was not welcomed news.        

Flash forward, my peers and I live with student loan debt ranging from minimal to six-figures and payment for our services is hardly in a golden age.  More payment changes are on the horizon.  Surely this impacts our preparedness to be involved in professional endeavors.  Are we too busy focusing on repayment to see the importance of advocacy?  Is there apathy?  Or are we more prepared but less inclined to take action?  Each of these is likely in play within the ever growing new PT workforce. 

Debt may constrain us, but certain things work in our favor as well.  Most importantly, we came into a profession with vision.  The adoption of Vision 2020 was an incredibly important step in our evolution.  For my generation, it framed our academic pursuits and our relationships with consumers.  So even as average debt burden went up, professional aspirations did too.  Combined with our technological savvy, we seek to address professional challenges in new ways.  Move It, HoboHealth, NewProfessionalPT, and PTHaven are just a few examples of young PTs and PTAs using technology to bring together our peers.  The next step is to successfully integrate these networks and harness them for professional advocacy.

Our profession needs a place for new members to go to discuss experiences and opportunities.  Investing in these emerging social networks has the potential to significantly influence the next decade of PT and PTA graduates.  As Health Care Reform begins to roll out, this is the first great challenge for my generation.  How can we expand social networks like Move It while benefiting from established, progressive voices like EIM?  What ideas do EIM readers have to share with New Professionals and how can we best collaborate?



Professional Involvement is this month’s theme on Move It.  Please check us out on the blog and follow us via twitter.    


Professional Leadership, my friendly wake-up call from the APTA

I recently had the opportunity to attend a leadership development program run by the APTA staff at my Chapter office. At first I thought . . . ugh, I have better things to do on a Saturday morning . . . but it turned out to be one of those events that gave me a wake up call to improve something that wasn't even on my radar. It was a great reminder of the work it takes to be a leader, as well as the work it takes to be led. At the time of my last APTA leadership event, I defined myself as a "green/gold" leader and communicator, and I still thought of myself this way. Does anyone else define themselves as a color (or two)?

For people not familiar with the color code, a very rough description is as follows: (1) Orange: Action-oriented, fast-acting, and flexible; (2) Blue: Expressive, group-oriented, encouraging; (3) Green: Visionary, analytical, high expectations; (4) Gold: Thorough, organized, structured

As time has progressed, so has the leadership message from the APTA. The speaker had 2 messages that hit home that I thought would be good to share/discuss with this group of other young leaders.

First, the speaker presented the results of retrospective qualitative analysis of strong leaders. She described a book (forgive me because I can’t remember the name) that summarized the qualities shared by prominent, successful leaders. They boiled down to: (1) Challenge the Process; (2) Inspire a Shared Vision; (3) Enable Others to Act; (4) Model the Way; (5) Encourage the Heart.

We rated ourselves on these 5 characteristics, but didn’t just pick 1 or 2. This new rating method helped me to see my leadership communication style along a multidimensional spectrum, instead of an absolute. Maybe “encouraging the heart” is still not my strongest area (I think this would fall on the blue spectrum), but it is not absent from my leadership repertoire. Thinking about leadership in this more dynamic way helped me to think about how to progress my leadership skills and to think about what avenues of involvement fit my strengths.

The second new message was about how to utilize volunteers. This topic is important in recruitment of new active members, as well as making sure that current volunteers (including myself) don’t become burned out. The speaker pointed out that each of our volunteers will have different skills, leadership abilities, and interests. Sometimes we assign volunteer tasks to others (or ourselves) based on the one characteristic we know. For example, one could assume that a private practice manager/owner may be a great treasurer. However, maybe that volunteer would be happier with a position that allowed them to take a break from business-oriented tasks. Avoiding our own burn-out, and the burn out of our volunteers will lead to a much more productive professional community.

These 2 new messages gave me a better perspective on my own active involvement and how to grow. Does anyone else have any tidbits of wisdom from your own leadership experiences, a book you read, or different leadership development event?