Dear District 5 Members,
“If You’re Not at the Table, You’re Probably on the Menu”
One of the great things about being involved on the NATA Board of Directors is attending committee meetings in various areas of the profession. This summer, a committee leader made the statement “If you’re not at the table, you’re probably on the menu”, and holds true in many areas of our lives. Our profession is young in comparison to our peer health care providers and we continue to strive for acceptance and professional recognition for our skill sets and value in the health care arena. For years athletic trainers (ATs) have said “if only we could get our foot in the door” or “if we just had a seat at the table” with important decision makers, we could make our case for the value of our profession and advance at a more rapid pace. Getting “a seat at the table” holds true for all of us, from our place of employment to the highest levels of state and federal government. Without a direct voice or input to decision makers, it is hard to leverage influence on issues that affect us or initiate change.
Thanks to the hard work of the many volunteers and the NATA staff, this is changing at the national level. This past year the NATA obtained a “seat at the table” with high powered organizations and decision makers. The NATA was represented at the White House regarding emergency preparedness, and we were part of an organizing group to bring leaders of all 50 states together to discuss student sports health and safety issues with the second annual Collaborative Solutions for Safety in Sport. Thanks to our legislative team, we have gained access to leadership of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to present our case for reimbursement. We have also been actively involved in introducing and supporting federal legislation with other allied health groups on several fronts that protects our right to practice, and promote athlete safety and well-being. Our members in the NFL have made great strides to gain direct access and recognition to the Commissioner, and have helped establish programs to protect athletes, provide funding for pilot programs to put ATs in high schools, and promote the profession on a nationally recognized scale. ATs have been recognized and included in addressing issues of athlete safety and well-being. ATs are leading the way in many health related issues at the highest levels of the NCAA, major college sports conferences, and national high school federations. Our presence is getting more prominent with every passing month. Working to “get a seat at the table” coincides with an area of the new NATA strategic plan….ADVOCACY.
Advocacy, the first portion of the new strategic plan, involves the membership in effort to help elevate the profession by enhancing its image; influencing public opinion and policy; and demonstrating the value of services and economic impact of ATs in the health care arena. Advocacy at the national level helps garner public recognition, but advocacy is most effective if it starts at the local level. Many of our national efforts have been successful because someone took the initiative to advocate for the profession through personal relationships, which eventually grabbed the attention of decision makers. There are countless success stories of this, and they continue today through persistent efforts of volunteers determined to make a difference. The same push for advocacy at the national level must also occur at the local and state levels if we want to protect and advance our profession for effective short- and long-term change. We must constantly strive to get our “seat at the table” within local community groups, school boards, sports organizations, and government to fight for appropriate health and safety of athletes, and for professional advancement and protection. We must advocate with our state legislators and decision makers about the value and importance of the profession, and we must do it proactively. We must constantly seek a “seat at the table” with legislators who are influenced by various political factors, because “without a seat”, we might be “on the menu” like a few states are facing with the danger of having licensure changed and/or eliminated.
So you may ask…..how do I advocate for the profession? Don’t be afraid to promote your work. Most ATs take for granted that people are completely aware of their qualifications and services provided. In reality, very few people recognize it until it is pointed out to them (including those we work with daily). We must do a better job of promoting an awareness of, and educating others about the quality and depth of services we provide to our patients….all the time. With an increased focus on sports health and well-being, there has never been a better time to publicly promote what we do. March is National Athletic Training Month where we focus on promoting the profession, but it is not enough. Promoting what we do should be a year-round advocacy effort. Take advantage of the resources that our D5 Communications Team can provide. You can contact our Communications and Public Relations Chair, Jay Hoffman, with stories, news, or to ask about how you can advocate at various levels.
You can also assist in advocacy by volunteering in various aspects of the NATA at the state, district, or national level. Being involved in any of the various committees will include advocacy of athletic training in some part of the profession. You can advocate for the profession by staying aware of current state and federal legislation affecting the profession, and meeting with your local or federal legislator when they are back in your district. Personal contact with legislators is one of the most effective ways for athletic training to “get a seat at the table”. It is very little time commitment, and is one of the best ways to advocate for the profession. Trust that our peer health professions are doing the same to protect their interests.
The NATA is making significant changes in their communication to the membership. The new website format will allow members to stay abreast of the most current issues facing them in their particular work setting, and providing information to advocate for the profession. For more information on advocacy and other areas of the new strategic plan click here. Please take the time to familiarize yourself with the issues and advocate for yourself and fellow ATs. Help us get to where we deserve to be….at the table.
Mark Coberley, MS, ATC, LAT, C