Mixed Emotions

By Terry C. Brown, PT, DPT

It is the weekend after returning home from the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) NEXT conference and the House of Delegates (HOD); I have mixed emotions as to what occurred. I am a veteran of the HOD after spending 13 years as a Kentucky delegate and six years as the Private Practice Section alternate delegate. I realize this may seem paramount to a prison sentence to some of you, but I have always found it to be a fascinating process that can elicit some profound discussion, or it can be an exercise in futility. This year’s HOD was a bit of both.

Looking at it from my water bottle being half full, let’s start with the positive.

  • An excellent discussion regarding the physical therapist’s role in prevention, wellness, fitness, health promotion, and management of disease and disability will help place the profession in its rightful place at the forefront of this important movement.
  • A most substantive discussion was had on the feasibility of obtaining primary care practitioner status. The pros and cons of this status were discussed openly and debated with intelligence. Issues regarding ordering imaging and prescribing meds were argued in ways so that I found myself being swayed in both directions. In the end, the decision was made that we are indeed an integral part of the primary care team and the experts in movement disorders, and this is where our efforts should focus.
  • Good discussion also occurred on the use of health information technology and electronic medical records, which will help move APTA forward in this important area.

These types of rich debates are what make the HOD a necessary and effective body for our profession.

Now, for the other side, with my water bottle “half empty,” I bemoan the things that we as the governing body of this profession cannot seem to get over. Again, we spent an entire morning discussing the vote, or no vote, or half a vote on the physical therapist assistant (PTA): if the PTA should or should not be a chapter delegate and if the PTA should be able to be elected to the APTA board of directors. Let me preface this report by saying that I have nothing against PTAs and employ two highly qualified and stellar PTAs who enhance our practice. This is more about who sets the professional standards and directs the future rules and regulations of our profession. This act should always remain in the hands of the physical therapist. However, we as the HOD cannot say enough, or discuss enough, or rehash enough, as this subject has come back every year for the majority of my 19 HOD years.

Finally, the HOD voted to continue to not allow the section’s delegates a vote. While we have a voice in the HOD by the right to submit a Reference Committee (RC) and to speak in debates of all RC, we are not given a vote in either the House itself or in the election of APTA leaders. The HOD soundly defeated an RC submitted by the Health Policy and Administration (HPA) section—the catalyst supported by all sections.

So there you have it, my bird’s-eye view from the back of the room on the 2015 House of Delegates.


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