APTA Core Values in Action
It Is Easier Than You Think!
By Claire M Mysliwy, SPT
University of Illinois at Chicago, DPT, Class of 2014
As students, we talk at length about the core values that guide our profession: accountability, altruism, compassion, excellence, integrity, professional duty, and social responsibility. But how exactly can I put these values into action? I am only a student, only one individual. Can I really make a difference? It definitely seems overwhelming at times. However, students, as well as practicing professionals, can find ways to get involved, stay involved, and make a difference in our profession on an individual basis with the APTA.
I had the honor of attending the APTA’s Federal Advocacy Forum (FAF) this past April in Washington, D.C. This was my second trip to D.C., in which myself and hundreds of APTA members from across the nation met to learn how to effectively communicate with our representatives, received updates on APTA’s legislative positions, and concluded the conference by taking our message to Capitol Hill and speaking with members of Congress on these issues. (For more information on the issues visit www.apta.org/federalforum.)
Upon initial arrival at the FAF, I was intimidated. I knew very little about legislation, politics, and Medicare, which is always changing. How could I speak eloquently to the major decision makers of our country? Would they even care what I had to say?
This conference provided great resources and tools to communicate effectively with policy makers. Strategies were discussed on the importance of effective storytelling and how to build relationships with your representatives on an ongoing basis. The expert speakers had experience working with Representatives and Senators and understand how members of Congress think and how to best influence them. I learned that Congress votes on more than 4,000 pieces of legislation and that members have more than 20 meetings a day with different groups—all advocating for different issues. To be heard, we need our voice to be both loud and memorable. The issues themselves were explained in detail, and resources were provided on specific talking points. It was surprisingly easy to understand, and I felt confident in explaining the importance of these bills by the end of the conference.
In addition to effective presentations, attending the conference gave me a sense of community within the physical therapy profession. I attended the social events and networked with APTA members from Kentucky, Arizona, Pennsylvania, and other states who discussed the effects of these bills on their practices and patients. Everyone was passionate about our profession—we all want to make a difference. It was so inspiring to be surrounded by physical therapists from all over the country with the same values.
Our day on the Hill was exhilarating. We met with our two Illinois Senators’ health care representatives as one large group and then broke up to meet with our respective Congressional Representatives. I found that once I started talking about these issues, my passion for physical therapy, as well as my patients, resonated in what I was saying and really surprised and inspired the leaders with which we were speaking. Even a severe case of laryngitis could not stop me. I found speaking honestly about the effects of these bills on their constituents powerful. I also realized that it is our duty to provide quality and more cost-effective health care to the citizens of our nation. Upon returning to Chicago, I spread the word on what I had learned, educating other physical therapy students on the importance of advocacy and how easy it is to become an advocate. I asked my classmates to send an email to the legislators with whom I had met to thank them for considering the bill. Five minutes of time flooded the legislators’ inboxes and added strength to my voice.
Getting involved at multiple levels is also easy and effective. The APTA has a smartphone app called “PTAction.” This free app gives you easy access to quick talking points on the bills APTA supports, access to email your legislators with a template that you can personalize to fit your specific needs, and the ability to upload your efforts on social media outlets.
So what can you do? Educate yourself with APTA’s easy-to-read resources and understand the issues. Contact your local legislators’ district offices by email or phone and ask for a meeting. Tell them how important their support is, thank them if they are currently supporting our bills, offer them a tour of your facility, and tell them your patients’ stories. Everyone is short on time these days, but if everyone used the resources available and spent 15 minutes a week dedicated to advocacy efforts, Congress would notice.
Whether we like it or not, Congress is making decisions that directly impact physical therapists, as well as our patients. Be accountable and socially responsible. It truly is our professional duty to advocate for what we are most passionate about—our patients.
Claire Mysliwy, SPT, is a graduating student at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.