Change starts with an idea. Over the past three months, I have witnessed the natural evolution of the change process. What was once an idea is now a motion coming before the American Physical Therapy Association’s (APTA’s) House of Delegates with the potential to change physical therapy’s new professional experience.
In my last post, I wrote about the feeling of being part of something larger than yourself, the feeling of community. There’s nowhere I felt the strength of the physical therapy community more so than in the pride, enthusiasm, and passion within APTA’s Student Assembly. The Student Assembly represents the best of what community can bring – a highly active and involved cohort with momentum that propels a group to dream bigger and achieve greater. However, I have come to find that the sense of community that is so carefully crafted within the Student Assembly is lost upon graduation. With no clear next step for graduates, a lack of a feeder system, and a greater loss of structure, APTA sees a large drop off in engagement, activity, and member retention (71% student marketshare to 29% professional!!).
After integrating with the professional side of APTA, I couldn’t help but shake the feeling that we could do better to engage early career individuals, defined as those within the first five years after graduation. In late 2013, I joined the New Professionals Project Committee (NPPC) hoping that it would lead to more answers and the potential for action. The NPPC is, however, a committee within the Student Assembly. While we do not represent students, we had to use their funding, liaisons, and structure. It did not fit, nor allow the potential for change.
At CSM last February, I started floating the idea that we needed something different for early career individuals, something that would tap their potential, allow them to express their passion through professional activity, and give them a stronger sense of community. To my surprise, a number of experienced leaders encouraged us to make a motion at this year’s House of Delegates. Knowing that a House motion could guarantee action, identify the issue as a priority within APTA, and provide the necessary support to achieve our goal, we agreed that taking it through the House was the right direction.
Over the past few months, RC 15-14 has rapidly formed into a motion that the Student Assembly Board and New Professionals Project Committee believe is critical for the engagement of a new generation. The motion asks for a plan to “foster engagement, stimulate grassroots activity, and increase membership retention of early career individuals.” We have framed the motion in a broad context purposefully to allow consideration of many options. You can find the exact motion language and an extensive support statement on APTA’s RC 15-14 webpage.
The Early Career motion is about making APTA more relevant to a young generation of professionals; it’s about tapping into a critical mass of young leaders; it’s about breaking down barriers that lead to a dramatic drop in member retention. We see it can be done within the Student Assembly. It’s now time to make sure the transition into our members’ early career is just as strong.
What is your opinion on the Early Career Motion? How can we create change and ensure APTA represents a new generation of PTs/PTAs?
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.