Professional Education in Athletic Training Part 2

January 13, 2014

Professional education is something that is ever-evolving and if a profession does not keep up, it is likely to be left behind. With that in mind, a taskforce was tasked with providing information regarding a potential move from the bachelors level to a masters level degree program as the “entry level” into Athletic Training. This group has no authoritative standing, however its recommendations can be beneficial for the profession and the related organizations who do have that power.

You can read the document here: http://www.nata.org/sites/default/files/The_Professional_Degree_in_Athletic_Training.pdf

Let me come right out and say it. When I began this discussion and began reading this document, I was against making the move to an Entry-Level Masters (ELM). I can’t say that my opinion has changed, but I do have a better understanding of the idea to move to an ELM is coming from and some of it does make sense to me. Continued work is definitely needed and thankfully this is not a move that will be made overnight.

This blog I am going to highlight a few points that I found to be important in this document and will provide brief commentary to go along with those points. In future blog articles in the coming days and weeks, I plan to expand on some topics and also share my vision of where our profession needs to head. Definitely check out my first post if you haven’t seen it already!

Training professionals “isolated by discipline” is an obstacle to achieving the teamwork necessary for high quality health care.

–I agree with this statement. But I must say that I believe we may do this whole “multi-discipline” thing better than other professions. Do PTs ever step foot into an athletic training room during their clinical rotations? Do they enter the doctor’s office? Or are they isolated to the PT clinics? I can say that as an undergraduate student, I did rotations in the OR, ER, doctor’s office, PT clinic, and EMS. What other profession can say that? Again, developing that multi-disciplinary approach is important. But it can be achieved at the undergraduate level.

The nature and extent of IPE depends on the presence of health disciplines on campus…..Interprofessionaal education is essential to providing high quality healthcare, which can only be accomplished when health professionals act in cooperation for the delivery of patient care….Developing relationships with other health professionals at the start of the professional education process may enhance professional working relationships.

–I see nothing wrong with these statements. Agreed completely!

For example, students with a foundation in physics will better understand the biomechanics of movement, injury, rehabilitation, therapeutic agents, and recovery.

–These are all great examples of why the general education is crucial to our development.

Science courses represent a necessary component of pre-professional preparation for students in health professions.

–Yes, yes they do. But they must be meaningful science courses. Learning about the cat anatomy was not beneficial to me as I prepared to work with human beings.

Among the most frequent concerns voiced by practicing athletic training clinicians is that the current students are more knowledgeable than their predecessors, but are less prepared for autonomous clinical practice.

–I came out of a CAATE program as a graduate in 2010. My clinical skills were largely developed in outside internships. One was required and one was not. The clinical education within the program itself was limited by time constraints. We weren’t allowed to be there all the time. In fact, I got in trouble for “being there too much.” We need to improve our students’ ability to gain meaningful clinical education.

The number of professional programs in athletic training is large and the enrollments are small in comparison to other healthcare professions.

–Could this be due to limited clinical opportunities? I think there probably are too many programs so maybe those need to be limited and some of the weaker programs be eliminated. Regarding enrollments, I had a graduating class of 5 students. The classes around us did not have that many more. But if we doubled the size of our class, then our clinical experiences would have been weakened. There would have been students getting into each other’s way in the athletic training room.

Nevertheless, a difference in total annual income of approximately $5,000 exists between the two degree levels.

–But yet, and the authors indicated this, a masters is a masters. 80% of our profession holds a masters degree or higher. Is that expected to drop in coming years? I don’t think it will. In fact, I think that regardless of our degree level, Athletic Trainers will strive for greater education.

Experience is a higher priority than degree level in the clinical and high school settings.

–Then let’s mandate more clinical experience! Let’s mandate internships.

These are my thoughts and my thoughts alone. If you don’t like them, great. If you agree with them, great. But the most important thing to me is this: HAVE AN OPINION. And educate yourself. This is YOUR profession. Make your voice heard; I have.

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2 Responses to “Professional Education in Athletic Training Part 2”

  1. Rachel Says:

    “Experience is a higher priority than degree level in the clinical and high school settings.

    –Then let’s mandate more clinical experience! Let’s mandate internships.”

    Again, I think it was a mistake for our profession to move away from the internship route. This is a hands-on profession, and reading/writing about how to evaluate and/or treat may be a start, but I assure you, I didn’t fully understand how to evaluate a knee injury until I had been evaluating them over a period of time, even though I could tell you everything about a knee evaluation.

    I’m old school internship route AT, and had over 2,000 hours clinical experience by the time I sat for the NATA-BOC exam, even though only 1,500 hours were required. Not only did that help me to understand the time commitment of this profession, but it also gave me a solid foundation and understanding of evaluating and treating.

  2. Chris Proctor, ATC Says:

    Well said. I was lucky to have gone to a great ATEP that encouraged a combination of book-knowledge and clinical skill. We were never discouraged from spending more time in a clinical learning environment – ATR, field, rotating with various other medical professionals. From speaking with other athletic trainers from various other schools, I realize that I was really in a great ATEP, and what we learned/accomplished was above and beyond the standard.
    That being said, I am absolutely a proponent for required internships beyond the baccalaureate degree. The autonomy experienced within the first year of practice as an athletic trainer is way beyond anything experienced in undergrad. With a required internship and/or residency, I think there should be the possibility of specialization, similar to other healthcare professions.
    There’s my $.02


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