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How to become an advocate for the athletic training profession

This is an excerpt from Management Strategies in Athletic Training 5th Edition by Jeff Konin & Richard Ray.

One of the best ways that athletic trainers can serve the profession is to become an advocate. Serving in an advocacy role allows athletic trainers to let the public and legislators know why ATs are important members of the health care team. This can ensure that athletic trainers are allowed to use all their skills to provide high-quality health care to the patients they treat (National Athletic Trainers' Association n.d.-a). ATs can speak on behalf of youth athletes and other individuals who sustain injuries during sports, other activities, or while at work. They can work to convince insurance companies to reimburse for the services that ATs provide so that more individuals can benefit from the AT's expertise. While other groups often support these efforts, such as parents and other health care organizations, athletic trainers need to do the significant work in this area. This may seem like a daunting task, especially when considering the busy schedules of athletic trainers, but these goals can be accomplished if all ATs work together (McKibbin and McKune 2015).

Advocacy can start with small steps that do not have to take up a large amount of time. One of the simplest things that every AT can and should do is contact his state legislators. Most states have an easy link on the state legislature page titled something like "Find my legislators." For some, there may be a separate link to find your state representative and your state senator. Typically, you just need to enter your home address and the website will show you who your legislators are and will provide you with their website's address and contact information. You should write a letter to each of your legislators to introduce yourself. This can be a simple e-mail or letter where you identify yourself as an athletic trainer, explain where you work and what you do (or if you're a student, explain where you are enrolled), invite her to observe you on the job if possible, and thank her for the work that she does to represent you and your interests (See figure 11.4 for a sample letter). Always begin the letter by stating that you are one of her constituents, meaning that you are a voting member of her district. The legislator will likely reply with a thank you letter and may or may not accept your invitation to visit your school or workplace. Keep in mind that not all states allow legislators to accept game tickets, so she may have to observe you during practice or in a clinic setting to maintain compliance with state laws. If the legislator does accept your invitation, be sure to follow up with a thank-you letter after the visit. The legislator would likely also appreciate a picture of you with her and a public thank-you on your social media page or her social media page or both. If she is not able to accept your invitation, you could instead ask for a time to meet with her in her office, just to get acquainted (Herzog, Sedory, and McKibbin 2016).

If you would like to get more involved with legislative activities in your state, you can volunteer to serve on your state athletic training association's governmental affairs or legislative committee. These committees often organize events to raise funds to support legislative efforts and meet regularly with the association's lobbyist to develop effective strategies. They may also testify before legislative committees when needed and meet with individual legislators to discuss issues. If the state holds a Capitol Hill Day, this committee would organize that event. Even if you're not on this committee, the group might need volunteers to assist with Capitol Hill Day by talking with individuals at the capitol, passing out brochures, and so on. The group may also be looking for individuals in each district who are willing to write letters or meet with legislators to seek support for various issues and bills (McKibbin and McKune 2015).

Athletic trainers may also have opportunities to get involved in the same ways with federal legislation. NATA has developed a webpage dedicated to advocacy that provides information about bills that it is supporting, with details and talking points for each. You can contact your national legislators in the same way that you contact your state legislators. Begin with an introductory letter or e-mail, invite them to visit you where you work, and thank them for their service. You can attend their town hall meetings and meet with them in person when they're in town. You can also sign up for NATA Capitol Hill Day, held almost every year, and visit them in their offices in Washington, D.C. (figure 11.5).

Figure 11.5 NATA members at Capitol Hill Day in Washington, D.C.
NATA members at Capitol Hill Day in Washington, D.C.
Photo courtesy of Renee Fernandes

Athletic trainers can also advocate for the profession through their interactions with their patients, parents, clients, and members of the public. To prevent misconceptions, it is important that the members of the public understand the athletic trainer's vital role as a member of the health care team. This means that ATs need to dress, speak, and conduct themselves professionally at all times. Athletic trainers should look and behave like other health care providers. Athletic training clinics should look like other health care clinics. Athletic trainers serve a vital role in injury prevention and treatment and can offer this expertise through seminars and guest presentations to community groups, youth sports leagues, parent - teacher organizations (such as the PTA), and to other groups of health care professionals. The more that the public understands who athletic trainers are and what they do, the easier it is to accomplish their larger legislative goals.

Learn more about Management Strategies in Athletic Training, Fifth Edition.

More Excerpts From Management Strategies in Athletic Training 5th Edition