Why The Fuss Between Professions?

October 2, 2011

Why do professions feel the need to step on another’s toes? In the healthcare field, politics continue to become more and more involved and I have to ask if the patients are truly benefiting from this? I wish it would end, but I don’t see changes happening anytime soon! The bickering will continue and the patients are the ones who suffer.

The athletic trainers’ desire to work in rehabilitation settings and be reimbursed through insurance is a long battle that will likely continue for some time. The APTA, among others, is probably the most vocal group against it because “they’re not therapists!” and “they don’t have the educational background!” being their two big arguments. As much as that has been proven untrue, they continue to stick with that fight.

That’s one issue at hand. Another is the Physical Therapy world who believes they are the only ones trained in movement science. That is not the case. Athletic Trainers also have extensive background there. But PTs think they belong on an athletic sideline and be able to do an athletic trainer’s job. Now they are pushing further and saying that they should be allowed to clear a student-athlete after a concussion. What educational background do they have in concussion recognition and management? I’ll bet it doesn’t compare to that of an athletic trainer. But they don’t care.

Let me remind you that I work in a PT clinic as an athletic trainer. At the local level, these things are not an issue in our clinic. We work quite well together because we recognize each other’s roles in providing healthcare for our patients. In the current environment, many of our athletes are seen as patients in the PT clinic. The athletic trainer is included as a part of the rehabilitation team alongside the PT, PTA, and physician. We do have the knowledge to assist with therapeutic exercise, modalities, and advancing to functional exercise and functional progression. Much of the functional activity is actually delegated to the athletic trainers because that is what we excel at AND a weakness of the physical therapists.

In addition, the PTs I have worked with have zero interest in getting involved with concussion management. That is the athletic trainers’ job and it’s one of our specialties. For example, yesterday alone I completed three concussion evaluations in two hours. It’s what we excel at because we have that education.

This is not a problem strictly between physical therapists and athletic trainers. Physician assistants, physicians, and nurse practitioners have the same issues. Chiropractors are involved in some of these issues. Nurses are involved as well. In my opinion, this is hurting healthcare rather than helping it.

For me, I think it is important to work as a sports medicine team. My school’s sports medicine team includes several physicians (up to parents), physical therapists, physical therapist assistants, athletic trainers, strength and conditioning coaches, and the school nurse. As the athletic trainer at the school, I hold responsibility for much of the athletic injuries, but I utilize all of the other healthcare professionals to provide the BEST care for my student-athletes.

All healthcare professions need to improve inter-professional relationships. We need to start putting the patient first!


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