Today's blog post comes from WebPT Co-Founder Heidi Jannenga, PT, MPT, ATC/L.
Happy New Year! I’m sure by now you’ve made your list of resolutions―or if that's really not your thing, you’ve at least considered some professional and personal goals for 2013. What’s our goal? Here at WebPT we’re forever committed to helping you achieve greatness in practice. As such, we’re kicking off 2013 with an entire month of tips, tricks, and how-tos to help you achieve greatness in therapy practice—everything from how to hire top talent and choose the right CEUs to maximize your time at a conference and create a great blog. So whether you’re following us on social, checking out our blog, or joining us for our webinar, you’ll get to see a wealth of helpful info.
As you strive to be better in business and practice, let’s consider the PT profession as a whole. How can we truly achieve greatness together?
Recently, I read a post written by Selena Horner on Evidence in Motion about our industry’s lack of collaboration and intense focus on competition. I’ll admit, albeit reluctantly, that I agree with her thesis: physical therapists, on the whole, do not collaborate well. However, I refuse to give up hope. Selena (@SnippetPhysTher) ends her article with wondering how our industry would change if we devoted more time to collaboration. I’m here to say that we can no longer wonder. We must act because collaboration is exactly what our profession needs to earn us the respect, autonomy, and direct access we so desire. Of course, saying to act is easier than doing, so let’s examine the obstacles we must overcome.
Participate and Care
As it stands now, we’re silos of information, grouped together by memberships in state or local organizations that don’t necessarily communicate the best with one another. Furthermore, the national organizations are often fractured or participation is depressingly low. Take the APTA for example. The national group is broken up by state and only a small fraction of practicing PTs are actual members with an even smaller fraction being members who truly participate.
That being said, I’m not encouraging everyone to run out and throw down dues to be a part of an organized group. I’m simply illustrating that we don’t communicate across state lines, let alone county. And even when we “join together,” we’re not participating at levels that would truly institute change. This obstacle is a monumental one, but it starts with fundamentally changing how we perceive our profession. We must care―more than just about our patients and the work we do. We must care about our industry and each other. We have to care so much that we want to get involved, have open dialogue, and help each other achieve community-wide goals, like implementing successful evidence-based practices. And none of this means we have to give up trade secrets. Rather, sharing best practices will allow us to develop a more solidified voice and thus better educate the public, referring physicians, and even each other. After all, rising tides raise all boats.
I know; you’re busy. It’s the life of a PT, especially now as caseloads are increasing and reporting requirements are becoming more stringent and thus more time consuming. Between seeing patients and running your small business, there’s little time left over for anything else. But there needs to be. We’ve got to find more ways to better manage our time (that may even mean implementing an EMR) because collaborative meetups, networking gatherings, or just peer-to-peer conversations are crucial. Like I mentioned above, it doesn’t need to be a formal organization you join, but take time out of your week (whatever you can spare) and get to know your fellow PTs. Communities are about reciprocity, and it’s much easier to achieve your own goals (be it finding a specialty, increasing referrals, or completing new reporting requirements), when you have a network willing to help and vice versa. Engaging in conversation over social media can be an easy start: #solvept and #physicaltherapy on Twitter or Physical and Occupational Therapy Forum, APTA, and Therapydia groups on LinkedIn are some of my favorites.
There’s power in numbers―big power. And there’s more than 184,000 of us in the US alone. We can fight for the change we want to see in our profession. We can band together to negotiate for better insurance contracts, stand up against government reimbursement cuts, or demand direct access because it’s better for our patients. Say what you will about chiropractors but they’re a perfect example of a group who have found strength in numbers to achieve what they want for their profession―when the average person thinks of back pain, he or she thinks about chiropractors and no one else. Its a shame but the unfortunate truth. Perhaps we should take a few cues from their playbook. Take the time to attend you local or state PT chapter conferences or get togethers. Better yet, start a happy hour for PTs in your area―who’s going to pass up a free drink?
I’m sure there are other challenges on our road to collaboration, but the ones above stand out most to me. They’re also the ones I feel will have the biggest impact if we truly overcome the obstacle and commit to collaboration.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I like competition; it’s good. I am all for raising the bar and striving to surpass it, and often, competition is a great way for doing this. But when it comes to our profession, we have to stand united. We have to be proud of our choice of profession, be willing to share with others, and ultimately solidify rehab therapists as the musculoskeletal experts. These goals are bigger than us as individuals. They’re community goals, industry goals, professional goals; they’re about all of us. And we must achieve them because it’s only through our mutual success that we can really, truly achieve greatness.