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.    


1 comment:

  1. Ben----Good Post with good questions truly addressing a Profession and Professional thinking. I especially liked the following line...." 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."......I am a PT of 17 years who believes our future and legacy lie in the laps of these NPs..

    Thanks for this Blog