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Introducing the APTA Business Section

The Time for Change is Now

By Kristen Wilson, PT, DPT

Since its inception in 1955, our section has celebrated one cornerstone objective: to champion the physical therapist in business.

While the specific words have changed, our section’s mission still holds firm over 65 years later. From the very beginning, shared unique challenges made it clear that members of our section were different from others within the APTA. Whether those challenges were centered on insurance reimbursement, developing proper business acumen, reducing administrative burden, or providing a safe place for business owners and industry partners to celebrate and commiserate the joy and pain of physical therapy practice, we knew that in order to survive an ever-changing landscape, we had to stick together. And not because we had to, but because we needed each other. We recognized that our strength came from the common DNA we shared.

Our early founders recognized the unique qualities of the entrepreneurial physical therapist. Traits that, despite our many differences, still remain constant at our roots. Grit and leadership, adaptability and perseverance, altruism and savviness, all bound together with a willingness to work endlessly to achieve goals. These traits, shared among each member of our section, comprise our identity and focus us towards our goal of operating not only as musculoskeletal authorities, but business experts.

Somewhere in the mid-90s the tone began to change, and division lines were drawn as practitioner treatment models and business tactics evolved. Fingers were pointed, feelings were hurt, and as a result the section began to fragment. Proposals for name changes intended to unite us around what we shared in common were met with skepticism and defeated. Groups vied for their place atop the section pedestal, and in an effort to be heard, stopped listening and collaborating with others. As a result, membership suffered, and section unity was rattled. This practice still continues in our section and industry today, so much so that in the past ten years, physical therapy groups outside the section have gained traction, offering an opportunity to leave the politics and fragmentation aside, further bifurcating the already small group of physical therapy entrepreneurs and business leaders.

Enough is enough. It is time for each of us to change.

In an attempt to unite the fragmenting membership, the Board of Directors created a Name Change Task Force to undertake yet another attempt at a renaming the section. The task force polled current membership and paralleled the responses with a group of selected members and non-members representing different aspects of PPS membership:

  • Traditional PTs (Brick and Mortar)
  • Solopreneur/Hybrid PTs
  • Next generation PTs (students and early career)
  • Non-clinical PTs (consultants, clinical liaisons, healthcare partners, etc.)

Data was gathered and compared, name-options reviewed, and in August of 2020 the Board of Directors unanimously approved the proposed new section name APTA Business, A Section of the American Physical Therapy Association, which will come before membership for a vote in 2021. While gaining the support of the board was critical in moving the proposed name to the next phase of discussion, even more important is uniting the section members behind it.

The name APTA Business unites the section around a common theme of business. Business means many things to different people, allowing a liberal interpretation of the various ways the physical therapist in business can present. It welcomes members who previously felt alienated and broadens the reach to newcomers. In addition, the name clearly identifies to legislators and industry partners our role and intent. But above all, the name APTA Business celebrates our roots, and reminds us that we share a common DNA that is passionately centered around a powerful mission.

In Daring Greatly, Brene Brown shares that when faced with a challenge, we have the opportunity to hide behind a mask of vulnerability or choose to recognize our strengths and shine.1 As we approach a pivotal moment in our section’s history, we have the option to don a mask that overlooks our common traits, thus creating further division, or we can choose to stand shoulder to shoulder toward a common goal, our goal to champion the physical therapist in business. Choosing collaboration will strengthen our message in the community, increase our legislative power, and expand our professional reach. As we turn the corner on a new year, it is time to promote change. The APTA Business name allows us to remove our individual masks and instead, don an armor. So I invite you, join the army, and let’s stand and fight….together.

References:

1Brown B. Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. New York: Gotham Books; 2012.