When I first began PT school last fall, I was overwhelmed by the vast number of opportunities available for student involvement at the state and national levels. I had no idea which section of the APTA to join when I first became a member, which conferences I should attend, or which leadership opportunities to pursue. When I saw students at conferences who seemed so familiar with APTA and PTAG opportunities, I wondered how they had chosen to get involved in their respective activities.
Over time I gradually learned more about the options that would make me not just a student member of the APTA and PTAG, but an active student member. I knew that advocacy was the right path for me, and sought advice from peers, professors, and clinicians who were involved in these areas. Finding these resources was an integral part of the first half of my PT school experience.
If you’re a student who is interested in advocacy at any level, it is important to remember that there are so many ways to promote active membership in our professional organizations. While the number of resources may be overwhelming as a new student, there are different avenues of involvement for whatever your interests might be.
Join a project committee. Project committees are composed of small groups of students who work with the Student Assembly Board of Directors and committee chairs on goals that are part of the SABoD strategic plan. Committees include community service, global outreach, membership, professional advocacy, and others. Applications for these year-long positions open each fall on the APTA website.
Participate in #XChangeSA chats. Each month, the Student Assembly Board of Directors hosts a Twitter chat using the hashtag “#XChangeSA.” These chats are facilitated by board members, project committee directors, and current clinicians, and cover topics ranging from mentorship and APTA membership to national conferences and networking. Follow along and use the hashtag to communicate with other PT/PTA students across the country.
Use the APTA Action App. This app serves as a comprehensive advocacy resource for PT’s, PTA’s, and students. Download the app to donate to the PT-PAC, find your state and federal representatives/senators, and learn about current policy issues impacting physical therapy.
Join PTeam. By signing up for this program, you will receive action alerts via email when important legislation related to physical therapy is proposed or up for a vote on Capitol Hill.
Utilize the Legislative Action Center. By logging into the Legislative Action Center through the APTA website, you can support PT by sending a letter to your state and federal representatives/senators when an important vote is about to occur. The website also offers information on state and federal issues impacting physical therapy, in addition to resources for contacting your senators and representatives.
Get in the know:
Sign up for the HPA section. Join the Health Policy and Administration (HPA) section when you renew your APTA membership. Section membership provides countless networking opportunities and print access to the Physical Therapy Journal of Policy, Administration, and Leadership.
Read about the APTA’s policy priorities. To learn more about where physical therapy efforts on Capitol Hill are headed, you can read about the APTA’s 2017 policy priorities here. This document outlines the biggest issues impacting our profession and proposed policy solutions.
Above all, don’t be afraid to explore the policy resources that are available to you as a student, whether they come from published research, news sites, or professional organizations. Advocacy means something different to everyone—what does it mean to you?