It’s Time For Change
Change is the theme of my final District Director report. These are certainly unprecedented, trying times for all of us. COVID-19 has created unpredictable change in our lives. Every athletic trainer has been impacted, and it is important we use our AT community for support, assistance, and guidance to help navigate the professional and personal challenges we are facing. Unfortunately, a couple of key events where members of MAATA traditionally gather to exchange ideas and support each other have been lost due to the pandemic. The cancellation of our MAATA meeting in Omaha and the recent cancellation of the NATA Clinical Symposia and Annual Meeting in Atlanta has affected our normal means for AT collaboration and “recharging” of our batteries for professional development and advancement. Many have commented on how difficult it must have been for leadership to cancel these events. As health care providers, these decisions were not difficult. It was in the best interest of our members and our society. It was the right thing to do. Credit goes to the various leadership groups who navigated these cancellations with minimal financial impacts to the associations and protecting the members’ valuable money.
Change is painful, but can be more manageable if embraced. It is tough for many AT’s right now, but we will all adapt and explore new ways or new angles to make us better for the future. While painful, the pandemic is also creating opportunity of change for AT’s to show their value in the world of health care, and will open up doors for everyone as we get through this. We must keep moving forward.
Next month brings another change. In June, I will complete my five years on the NATA Board of Directors and Rob Marshall will take over as your District Director and representative on the NATABOD. I am forever indebted to all of you for allowing me the opportunity to represent the members of our seven states on the BOD. It has been five years of great privilege to work with all facets of the profession. It has been an honor to observe the incredible knowledge, expertise and leadership that our members possess. Often, I have heard outgoing Directors say “I wish everyone could experience the exposure to all that is going on in the profession that I have been afforded” and it is 100% true. There are amazing changes occurring throughout our professional association, which is setting the stage for unprecedented advancement of our profession.
In the last five years, there have been seismic changes in our profession. Examples include: transition to Master’s degree in education, reconfiguring select district represented committees to national councils with direct ties to external decision makers, creation of leadership development curriculum, over 3 million dollars in state association governmental grants, federal legislation led by our profession to protect our practice liability, the creation of the ATs Care program, high school AT position development initiatives, and most recently the approval to create an 11th district of the NATA to increase member involvement and representation. The good news: This is just the start. I am excited to see what future changes will occur to continue to push our profession forward. Change in our profession is, and always has been, driven by the members, not the members’ elected leadership. I ask each of you to do what you can to get involved and drive more change. There is always some “little” act, connection, or chance encounter that many times tips the scales for a major change to our profession. Do not be afraid to be the tipping point that makes change. More people being involved increases those chances and so do our chances for success.
I was taught early on that a person who has gained experiences owes it to those who follow to tell them what they have learned. After 30+ years of being a participant and observer in our profession, I pass along three important things I have learned that do not change:
- Individual member involvement leads to the greatest changes in the profession. Individual members of our various committees and councils at state, district, and national levels generate the ideas and concepts that drive the most significant changes in our profession’s history. They get involved in their areas of interest and expertise, share ideas with others of similar interest, and develop concepts and initiatives that lead to improvement. Historically, our profession’s greatest advances have occurred when receptive leadership was presented with initiatives generated by individual members from our various specialty groups and leadership acted on it.
- Visibility, awareness, involvement, and the ability to influence individual state practice acts and regulation has more impact on our profession than any other area. Individual members have a far greater influence on this than does the association leadership. The AT’s ability to practice in all areas of professional education are legally protected (or limited) through state practice acts. Every health related profession has influence in state government. ATs must also have influence if we want to protect and advance our profession. Grass roots efforts in legislation are most necessary and impactful. We have no chance unless our members become influencers by being constantly active and vocal advocates for our profession with their state governmental officials.
- We must define areas we are considered the “go to” experts in health care and then proudly, loudly promote it. We are closer, but we are not there yet. To do that, we must identify and occupy areas where our skills and qualities are unique and necessary. This is where, and when, we will be recognized as the “experts” in the field. We cannot be afraid to step out of the shadows and into the light to make others aware of our unique and necessary skills. Stepping into the light is scary and risky for many. Risk is involved in stepping out of the shadows and becoming visible, but great professionalism reduces risk, and the rewards are much higher. It is a challenge ATs have faced for over 75 years, and will be our biggest challenge moving forward. Our continued evolution in professional education and practice, defining our niche, and effectively making others aware of it will help us achieve those goals.
It has been by greatest professional honor to represent all of you on the NATA Board of Directors. More importantly, the opportunity to work alongside many of you and other athletic trainers who have greatly influenced our profession has been a privilege. I look forward to continuing to work with many of you to reach our goals in the future. If I can be of assistance to any of you, please let me know.
Mark Coberley MS LAT ATC CSCS PES CES
NATA District 5 Director