There is no feeling like it in the world.
For about eight days each fall during my undergraduate career, I had the privilege of experiencing this feeling and the rush of emotion that came along with it. It always started brewing as I took my first few steps inside the stadium, my first look at the nearly 110,000 fans bleeding maize and blue. Each time I entered, I realized there was no way to contain myself – when you are in a wild environment, when you are overflowing with energy, you cannot hold back – so I joined the rest of our fans erupting in our fight song; I joined them in the feeling that nothing could stop our team, nothing could hurt our community.
A chorus 114,804 cheering for Michigan as they take on Notre Dame in 2011
We see a similar sense of community emerging within physical therapy. While not bound by proximity or sport, we are linked by passion and profession. We have especially grown recently, as social media has helped us to learn, feel, and act together. We are beginning to use new technologies and tools in ways that demonstrate the growing strength of our community. It was evident when we acted together to send over 20,000 letters to congress in 72 hours; it happened when a tornado destroyed the home of one of our own students and a simple idea to support her raised over $4,000 in 24 hours; we feel it each year when more than 10,000 professionals take over a city for CSM; we see it as many individuals seek out new research and engage in informed discussion on popular blogs.
Yet, our growing sense of community does not touch everyone within the profession. Too often, we find ourselves fighting with each other rather than focusing on how we affect our patients and the greater healthcare team. We have a tendency to focus on productivity and numbers rather than outcomes and real life improvements. We know of people who view the profession simply as a job, who do not engage in activities to grow as clinicians and fail to acknowledge our impact on the quality of life of our patients. These scenarios not only hurt us as individual clinicians, but also take a toll on the collective abilities of our profession.
We need to fight these delusions and negativities by choosing to be an active member of the profession. Whether it’s something as small as sharing an article with your patient that demonstrates our value, or something as large as running for an elected position, your decision to be active will create a note of positivity for our profession. Our notes will build upon each other, all contributing to the growing chorus of individuals creating a supportive professional community, all proving that we have 110,000 fans rooting wildly for our team.
Imagine what it feels like to know that 110,000 are behind you every step of the way - that we are erupting in applause when your patient takes her first step after spinal cord injury, roaring powerfully behind you when you get your athlete back to running, joining you in a raucous celebration when the therapy cap is finally repealed. To cheer for these events, to be active and supportive, is to be part of something larger than yourself; it’s to be part of our professional community.
Our greater sense of community will yield better patient outcomes and grow PT credibility as a medical profession. Yet, for this positive environment and powerful community to come to fruition, we need everyone to be active. We need to educate our patients. We need to support our colleagues. We need to find a way to be involved.
Our patients depend on it. The viability of our profession demands it.
Josh D'Angelo served as APTA Student Assembly President in 2013 and is now active with APTA's DC Chapter and Private Practice Section. He graduated from George Washington University's Doctorate of Physical Therapy program in 2013, where he was the University's sole student to win the George Washington Award. Josh is also a former APTA Mary McMillan Scholarship awardee and is currently practicing in the outpatient orthopedic setting in Washington, D.C. He is passionate about using the unique skillset physical therapists offer to serve the greater DC community. Josh is an integral part of the PT Haven team via editing and content creativity.