From Practicing Clinician to APTA Employee: an Interview with Anne Reicherter

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Blogger: Katie Baratta

My name is Katie Baratta and I just graduated from the Regis University School of Physical Therapy. I had the opportunity to spend two weeks at the APTA doing a student internship. I was able to talk to many different members of the APTA, attend the Federal Advocacy Forum, and learn more about what the APTA has been doing to move our profession forward. I’ve written a series of essays about my experiences here at the Association.

Interview with Anne Reicherter PT, DPT, PhD, OCS, CHES

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What do you do at the APTA?

Anne was hired by the APTA last spring (2015) and works as a Senior Practice Specialist. In this position, she oversees the PTnow website, which provides practicing therapists with tools for evidence-based practice and includes access to current research and other clinical resources. A good portion of her workweek is dedicated to improving the services offered by PTnow* and working to facilitate access and utilization by APTA members.

Practice Specialists at the APTA are all licensed PTs and also work as consultants on whichever issues are current hot topics regarding our scope of practice. For example, dry needling is currently being discussed and spinal manipulation has been a historically important issue.  As one of the few PTs on staff at the APTA, Anne and her colleagues in the Practice Department review products created by the APTA marketing team or other departments prior to publication to ensure that they are accurate from a clinical and research perspective. She says she will sometimes look at a photo and say that “a PT wouldn’t perform that intervention,” or  that they “wouldn’t stand that far from the patient.” Another current project of Anne’s is a collaboration with APTA researchers on an article for the Journal of Health Policy and Administration about obesity. One of her other areas of focus is the importance of work-life balance within the profession.

How did you come to work at the APTA?

Anne graduated with a BS in Physical Therapy at University of Pittsburgh and then worked in a mixed inpatient and outpatient setting at a hospital. She describes that this was fairly common at the time, and that–with few exceptions–PTs were given a lot of autonomy from their referring providers, and that there was not yet a fee-for-service model at the HMO for which she worked. After ten years in that setting, she wanted to progress her career and knowledge, so she attended night school to obtain her Masters of Health Education. In subsequent years she held a variety of jobs in the educational setting (working for Howard University in DC and the University of Maryland, Baltimore) as well as in other clinical settings, including orthopedics and home health. During this time, she obtained her PhD in Educational Psychology, as well as her transitional DPT. She has also performed some educational consulting for various DPT programs.

The position at the APTA for a PT Practice Specialist opened up at the same time that Anne was searching for something more. She wanted a job that fit with her interests and values: the ability to participate in  writing and publishing, advancing the profession through APTA initiatives, and expanding her own knowledge made the job an excellent fit. She says that these meaningful components–including continuing education–were built into her practice as a new clinician (for example, if there was a “lunch and learn” on a given day, the clinicians would leave a bit early that day), as well as into her work as faculty. Today, however, there is an increased emphasis on productivity and fee-for-service; thus, there is limited time and resources allocated to the pursuit of continuing education that distinguish us as professionals. Anne described the difference between professionals and technicians: professionals design a plan of care and add value to the system with professional discernment, and technicians simply deliver a procedure. To maintain the high expectations set of PTs as professionals, most PTs today must spend time beyond their paid workweek to pursue continuing education, APTA involvement, and evidence-based practice.

Where do we plan to see change in the typical PT’s work-life balance?

Anne replied that one of the biggest initiatives currently is the push to change from a billing system with a procedural focus (for example, billing for “therapeutic exercises” x15 min or “therapeutic ultrasound” x15 min) to one based on value. Current reimbursement accounts merely for the delivery of a procedure or modality for a set unit of time, but it does not account for our clinical judgement as professionals. I’ll go more into this initiative in next week’s blog post.

Any advice for new clinicians starting out in their career?

Anne’s advice to new graduates is to consider whether a job or position allows for and encourages professional development: do they fund continuing education? Do they have on-site mentoring programs you can participate in? She also advises new graduates to not allow mentoring to be limited to colleagues within your particular clinical setting but to continue to seek out a supportive network of clinicians for support as you begin to navigate your professional career.

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*PTnow is a valuable resource for us, as new clinicians, to perform literature searches after graduation (as we’ll no longer have access to the school’s library search function) as well as to access clinical reviews, clinical practice guidelines, and clinical summaries prepared by respected experts within the field of physical therapy.

If you haven’t visited the website, you should definitely check it out: ptnow.org

 

Direct Access: Insight into Some of the Barriers and Current Initiatives

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Blogger: Katie Baratta

My name is Katie Baratta and I just graduated from the Regis University School of Physical Therapy. I had the opportunity to spend two weeks at the APTA doing a student internship. I was able to talk to many different members of the APTA, attend the Federal Advocacy Forum, and learn more about what the APTA has been doing to move our profession forward. I’ve written a series of essays about my experiences here at the Association.

I met with Wanda Evans PT, MHS, CKTP (Senior Payment Specialist) and Elise Latawiec MPH, PT (Senior Specialist, Practice Management) who provided me with their insider understanding on this topic as well as directed me toward further resources.

Direct access physical therapy care means that a patient does not require a referral from a physician or other provider prior to a PT evaluation and/or treatment. All graduating Physical Therapists are required to have a DPT–a clinical doctorate–and, thus, they receive extensive training in the ability to recognize “red flags” and refer patients to the appropriate provider when it becomes apparent that the patient may be at risk for something more severe than musculoskeletal involvement.  Studies demonstrate that direct access decreases the time following an injury to the start of the patient’s PT care, reduces the number of visits of therapy needed and results in lower overall costs. Thus, PTs are not only appropriate for this role, but they can end up saving time, money, and patient suffering (as well as costs for the healthcare system overall).

Legislation

There are currently various types of direct access in all 50 states. Each state has jurisdiction over its own Practice Act, which is why there is some discrepancy from one state to another (state-by-state comparison). There are 18 states with unrestricted direct access—this includes Colorado! Some states require specific certification for a PT to provide direct access care, and others allow only an initial evaluation plus a set number of follow-up visits before the PT must contact the patient’s primary care provider. States with limitations in their practice act for direct access are fighting every day for legislative changes to eliminate these barriers; the APTA is aware of this and is actively assisting in these state-level legislative efforts.

However, the legal foundation is only the first step to getting patients the direct access care that we know would be beneficial. Common barriers to direct access that PTs reported in an APTA survey last year include reimbursement concerns, limitations in marketing, fear of alienating referral sources, restrictions by the PT’s employer, and lack of knowledge of state direct access laws.

Reimbursement                                      

Historically, third-party payers (ie insurance companies) have required a referral from a physician or other designated professional. Aside from Medicare/Medicaid and other federal programs like the VA or Armed Services (which have their own regulations on Direct Access), insurance policies vary by carrier and on a state-to-state basis. As the state legislation changes, the payers have been slowly adapting, with some payers more progressive than others in regards to reimbursement for direct access services. The APTA has been engaging with payers directly to eliminate the referral requirement at events such as the Insurance Forum, in comment letters, during in-person meetings, and in their day-to-day contacts. The APTA communicates this message to large employers who create their own insurance policies for their employees, as well, and are thus able to help employers set the terms of the insurance contract for their employees independently.

How can individual APTA members get involved on the reimbursement front? Each state chapter has a Reimbursement Chair.  The Chair’s responsibilities include learning as much as possible about trends with different payers in that state (and taking note if a lot of PTs have been reaching out with similar issues or complaints regarding the same payer) and assisting those therapists within their own state. The APTA nationally works in conjunction with the state chapters on payment/insurance issues and helps to connect states together when confronted with similar challenges. Patients and their advocates can also petition their Insurance Commissioner if they are inappropriately denied care or access to medically necessary services. The Insurance Commissioner advocates for consumers; s/he does not represent the insurance carrier.

Fear of alienating referral sources

Wanda and Elise described several studies in which direct access evidenced no negative impact on the physician-patient relationship. In fact, a key component of direct access is the necessity of PTs to refer patients to the appropriate provider when a patient’s symptoms and underlying pathologies are outside of our scope of practice. Given that PTs must make referrals back to other providers, it becomes a mutually beneficial relationship amongst different healthcare practitioners.

Education

A lot of concern stems from a a lack of education on the part of employers, insurers and potential patients. PTs need to demonstrate their clinical excellence to, essentially, prove that we are worthy of this responsibility, as well as to continue to educate all stakeholders on the importance and benefit of getting PT before medication/surgery. The first step for every PT is to become educated on what your state’s practice act specifically says about direct access and understand any limitations that may be in effect.  Educating patients, employers, and other healthcare practitioners is the next step. The APTA has developed many resources detailing the benefits and safety of direct access available online (more info).

Resistance to Change or Pushing for Progress?

There are some PTs who are more comfortable in the traditional referral arrangement than with unrestricted direct access. They may not want the additional responsibility, or they may simply prefer to do what they have always done.  That is okay!  Nobody is looking to force them to become direct access providers.

However, if you are one of the PTs who cares about the transition toward direct access and autonomy as a practitioner, make sure you’re an active member of the APTA! This is essential to better educate yourself, your patients, and other healthcare providers and to develop a strong voice with your state chapter and insurance agencies.

For more information on the current APTA involvement, as well as additional resources, check out its Direct Access page.

Federal Advocacy Forum: Regis DPT Student Katie Baratta Visits The Hill

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The APTA Federal Advocacy Forum is a national conference for APTA members across the country to convene in DC.   Its purpose? To educate members of Congress on the role of physical therapy in our communities, with the specific goal of gaining their support for the various legislative initiatives* that are currently being debated in Congress.

A part of my experience during my two-week APTA internship through the Regis University DPT program included the opportunity to attend the Forum. We started out listening to several guest speakers in preparation for our visits on Capitol Hill with the senators and representatives. Brad Fitch from the Congressional Management Foundation (CMF) presented some of the results of a survey about what types of factors impact their decision-making process.  Constituents are the citizens that a member of Congress represents, and that includes both providers and their patients. So, it is important for them to know what matters to us! Ideas for getting in touch with them are listed below.

Robert Blizzard, a partner at Public Opinion Strategies, discussed the current political climate–including different scenarios for the presidential race and the outcomes’ implications. We also had the chance to listen to Senator Richard Burr from North Carolina speak. He has been a friend to PT initiatives for a long time. One of the things that has been most refreshing to me to see is that members of Congress really do care about the same issues we care about. Members on one side of the political spectrum may believe in different ways of solving those issues from their colleagues on the other side, but despite that, there is a lot of bipartisan support for the issues we care about. There were also break-out sessions that went into greater depth on key issues facing the profession from a legislative prospective.

On the third day, we embarked with fellow APTA members from Colorado to meet with staff from the offices of our senators and representatives to discuss current legislation. We thanked the members of Congress for their support on legislation they had already co-signed, and we asked for their support on further issues. The Colorado APTA members met with the offices of Colorado’s two Senators: Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet, and also the representatives from different districts. Diana DeGette is the representative from my district, but our group also had the opportunity to meet with representatives from many other CO districts, as well.

I’ll admit it–I was nervous, at first, to speak up in those meetings. It turns out, though, that the staff members are friendly and interested in what we have to say–even as students. It was reassuring to go as a group so that we could chime in and support one other. I felt more and more confident the more I did it! My advice to any PT or student interested in meeting with their elected official would be to review the facts of what you are going to say (and write down information you might not remember easily) so that you don’t have to waste time and energy trying to recall or look up information. Each meeting lasted approximately 10-15 minutes, and it’s surprising how quickly that time goes. Relax, be yourself, and know that nobody is going to bite your head off.   🙂

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What can I, as a student or clinician, do to support advocacy at the government level?

As a citizen in this country it is your right–and, arguably, your responsibility–to petition your lawmakers directly to share the personal impact that different legislation would have on you as a current (or future) provider on your patients’ day-to-day life. Start by downloading the APTA advocacy app which will let you know who your elected officials are and which legislative issues are currently relevant to your district/state. In terms of getting in touch with lawmakers, Brad Fitch shared with us some of the ways that we can connect with Congress on issues pertinent to the PT field:

  • write emails
  • make phone calls
  • attend town hall meetings
  • make an appointment to visit their local office in person with other PTs or on your own
  • follow your legislator on social media and respond to what they post

The more people to reach out, the more impact we can have.

If you are interested in getting more involved in the political and legislative process or have additional questions, feel free to reach out to me at kbaratta@regis.edu! 

*Key issues currently include:

  • Therapy Cap: Medicare Access to Rehabilitation Services Act (currently max out at $1940 for speech and PT combined) HR 775 / S 539  more info
  • PT Workforce Bill: Physical Therapist Workforce and Patient Access (includes PTs in loan forgiveness program for healthcare providers in underserved areas) HR 2342 / S 1426 more info
  • Locum Tenens: Prevent Interruptions in Physical Therapy Act (for Medicare providers to get short-term coverage for their patients when they must take a temporary leave of absence) HR 556/S 313  more info
  • Safe Play: Supporting Athletes, Families, and Educators to Protect the Lives of Athletic Youth Act / SAFE PLAY Act (include PTs in the discussion for developing standardized concussion management guidelines) HR 4829 / S 436 more info
  • Rehabilitation Research: Enhancing the Stature and Visibility of Medical Rehabilitation Research at the NICH Act (streamlines rehabilitation research, improves coordination between different organizations) HR1631 / S 800
  • PTs Travelling with Sports Teams: Sports Medicine Licensure Clarity Act (include PTs along with ATs and physicians in the existing legislation extending the state license of sports medicine providers who travel with a sports team across state lines to treat a traveling team) HR 921 / S 689
  • Self-Referral: Promoting Integrity in Medicare Act (proposes removing PT as an exception to the Stark Law, ie prevents Physicians from referring Medicare patients to entities in which they have a financial interest – eg a physician-owned PT service) HR 2914
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Blogger: Katie Baratta

My name is Katie Baratta and I just graduated from Regis University School of Physical Therapy. I had the opportunity to spend two weeks at the APTA doing a student internship. I was able to talk to many different members of the APTA, attend the Federal Advocacy Forum, and learn more about what the APTA has been doing to move our profession forward. Check in next Tuesday for more!

APTA Tuesday: Interview with a Lobbyist

Learn more about the APTA and lobbying! Katie interviewed Michael Hurlbut, a lobbyist for the APTA.

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Michael Hurlbut, Senior Congressional Affairs Specialist

Michael’s Background

Michael Hurlbut worked for several years on Capital Hill before he came to us at the American Physical Therapy Association in 2009 as a full-time Congressional Affairs Specialist. He previously worked as a staff assistant/systems administrator for Representative Jerrold Nadler (New York’s 10th district which comprises NYC); he then worked for Representative Robert Ernest  Andrews (for New Jersey’s 1st district, including Camden, NJ) and as a legislative assistant and for Representative Louise Slaughter (New York’s 25th district). Michael has a background in sports medicine and was interested in healthcare and policy. So, when the job opened at the APTA, he felt it was a good fit for his interests and strengths.

Michael was kind enough to explain to me some of the logistics of what goes on in Washington and what it looks like on the ground. I appreciated this perspective; as a PT, this whole world is pretty foreign to me!

Some Definitions

Each congressman or congresswoman has a chief of staff and multiple staff members who listen to issues presented by either individual constituents or lobbyists that represent groups of citizens.  For example, the APTA would count as a group of constituents with similar interests. The staff team then updates their member of Congress on important issues and perspectives.

What does a lobbyist do?

The APTA currently employs three lobbyists, each of whom focuses on different issues within the field of physical therapy. Michael’s areas of specialty include post-acute care, self-referral, workers comp, and Veterans Affairs/armed services. He monitors everything relating to those issues–including bills that are being proposed, progress on relevant ongoing legislative actions, and upcoming meetings which will be held on issues pertaining to his areas of specialty (for example, the congressional committee on Veterans Affairs). In his day-to-day work, he performs research to better understand the issues, he finds data surrounding each of them, he attends hearings and talks to constituents, and he matches up each issue with the correct APTA staff member.

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Once he has all of his information, he prepares the APTA’s position on the topic. This could include creating a few talking points to be included in a conversation, or it could include a formal “Statement for the Record:” this is considered the formal stance of the APTA and must be approved by the APTA’s Executive Vice President for Public Affairs. He will set up meetings with members of the committee or other members of Congress to discuss the relevant issues.

Change in Legislation and Policy

Legislation can start in these committees and proceed out into the House or the Senate for a general vote if approved; legislation can also be proposed by the House or Senate Majority leader. Legislation with broad/bipartisan support in a committee may have a higher chance of being approved by Congress in general, but sometimes this is not the case.

Whether the bill starts in a committee or is proposed by the Majority Leader, Michael emphasizes that it is important to identify members of Congress who will be sympathetic to the issues that the APTA cares about. He notes that getting any bill through Congress is a slow process and it may take several congressional cycles to see any change. It is important to provide data, a convincing argument, and show a “grassroots” initiative–which, for us as PTs, would include individual practitioners and patients contacting our representatives and senators.  Change is typically incremental; as PTs, we can relate to that!  We are accustomed to slow, additive changes with a lot of our patients: even as patients make limited progress (or even have setbacks), we have to keep the bigger picture in mind and continue to work towards change.

Michael also points out that it is essential to recognize when it may be better to work directly with an agency (such as CMS for some of the Medicare/Medicaid issues).

How can we support legislative changes impacting our profession and our patients?

In addition to direct involvement with lawmakers (check in next week to read more about that!), we can support changes in legislation through continued APTA support with both membership dues and with donations to the PT-PAC (Physical Therapy Political Action Committee).katiepic3

PT-PAC pays for one of the Congressional Affairs Specialists (Michael or one of the other lobbyists) to attend the fundraising events for the re-election of members of Congress who have supported our initiatives in the past. Attending events is one of the most important ways to forge stronger contacts with members of Congress and their staff,  and it also increases interaction with other lobbyists who may support similar issues. APTA does not allocate PAC funds to individual candidates in hopes that they will support relevant issues. APTA member dues pay Michael’s and the other Congressional Affairs Specialists’ salaries, but the dues are not used for the PAC. So, when you pay your dues online to APTA, there’s a separate line item that asks you if you would like to donate to the PT-PAC.

The PT-PAC is among the top 10 political action committees of national health care organizations. If every APTA member donated $20, it would be the #1 healthcare PAC–that’s even bigger than the orthopedic surgeons’ organization!

If you are interested in further information or would like to donate to PT-PAC, click here.

Blogger: Katie Baratta

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My name is Katie Baratta, and I just graduated from Regis University’s School of Physical Therapy. I had the opportunity to spend two weeks at the APTA doing a student internship. I was able to talk to many different members of the APTA, attend the Federal Advocacy Forum, and learn so much about what the APTA has been doing to move our profession forward. I’ve written a series of posts about my experiences here at the Association.

Check in next Tuesday to learn more!

APTA Tuesday: Meet Katie Baratta

Meet Katie Baratta, new Regis DPT graduate! Katie participated in an American Physical Therapy Association internship in Washington, D.C. during her final year at Regis.  Check in every Tuesday this summer to hear about her experience and to learn more about the legislation and politics behind all things physical therapy.

Name: Katherine “Katie” Baratta

Undergrad: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Hometown: Boston/Belmont, MA

Fun Fact: I worked for 5 years as a transportation engineering consultant and am the second of six kids!

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Where did you do your last two clinicals?

CE III at St Joseph’s hospital in Denver, acute care, ICU, cardiac care, and CF floors.

CE IV at Denver VA primarily outpatient ortho with emphasis on manual therapy

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How did you get interested in advocacy and how has Regis furthered your interests?

I applied for the APTA internship for two reasons: one relating to learning to better serve patients I will serve as a Doctor of Physical Therapy, and the second pertaining to learning more about the role of Physical Therapy as a profession in the state in which I will practice.

In regards to my future patients, I foresee myself working a significant percentage of my caseload with patients who have considerable needs, vulnerabilities, and/or economic disadvantages—that is what motivates me to put 100% effort into what I’m doing. I know I’ll do everything within my power to provide the best care I possibly can for these patients. However, I also know that there are greater systemic forces at play which can limit any effort I make as an individual practitioner. In order to address these larger issues, I have a duty to advocate as a healthcare professional. Prior to the APTA internship, I didn’t possess a solid understanding of the ways the APTA, as an organization, interfaces with the government and how the political process can be a tool for large-scale change in the healthcare arena. This internship allowed me to observe and participate in this process. It gave me a more nuanced understanding of politics: I now both understand politics in terms of government and politics in terms of group and power dynamics and how these social factors relate to getting things accomplished. So now, as a new graduate, I can bring this understanding back to my individual patients as I push for large-scale changes in the realm of availability of care, funding, and specific physical therapy services.

The second reason I was interested in this internship had to do with the role of the APTA in Massachusetts. According to the APTA state rankings, my home state (and where I eventually see myself practicing) ranked last in APTA involvement in 2014. This is an area of opportunity for the profession. Massachusetts (and Boston) is a leader in many aspects of healthcare. I saw the APTA internship as preparation for increasing the presence of the APTA and the profession of physical therapy in Massachusetts.

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Where are you heading with your career?

My path thus far in life has been winding and full of surprises, and I am sure my future will be as well!

I tremendously enjoyed my work during CE IV at the VA. I found a group of people I connected well with—both the patient population and the rehab team, overall. It was my first true manual/outpatient rotation. By the end of it, I really felt I was starting to get the hang of how to integrate manual skills with tailored exercise prescription for a patient’s short- and long-term function.

I find the role of the nervous system in pain—particularly persistent pain—to be fascinating, and I think that it’s an area that we as DPTs can serve, push the envelope, and dig deeper into understanding.  I see the solution to be very intertwined with integrating exercise, mental and emotional health, and our toolbox of manual skills.

Beyond the practice setting, I envision myself tying in some of the skills I developed in my prior career. I have an extensive background in data analysis, grant writing, and drafting reports on alternatives analysis; essentially, I have experience in demonstrating the “value” of something to decision-makers (including those who provide funding).

One of PT’s biggest issues is lack of PR. Nobody understands or sees our value. Word of mouth is clearly some of the greatest PR, particularly when attracting new patients to an outpatient clinic. But, when there are larger factors at play beyond an individual patient’s choice—when it comes down to hospital policy or insurance policy—we need to speak in the language that those controlling funding allocation understand: numbers (particularly numbers with dollar signs in front of them!).

So, I see utilizing the skills I’ve developed in my past career into my current practice and will be able to demonstrate the value of physical therapy for both patient outcomes and overall costs. There’s a tremendous need for widespread change to healthcare and to PT access and I am excited to be a part of that change!

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Tune in next week to read Katie’s take on direct access barriers and initiatives to direct access.

Time and Life Management in a DPT program: Meet Amy Medlock

 

Name: Amy Medlock, Class of 2017

Hometown: Grand Rapids, MI

Undergrad: University of Notre Dame

Fun Fact: My right thumb is 1 cm shorter than the left

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Finals week.  What a great time to be writing this post on time & life management.  PT school is demanding and can often feel overwhelming, but it does not have to take over your entire life. In addition to the responsibilities of school I am married, have two kids (Emma & Lyla), and I have to commute over one hour each day.  I have a secret though: since the end of my 2nd semester, I have not studied after 5pm or on weekends and my GPA is doing as well as ever. Shhh…Don’t tell our faculty!

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My family – Matt, Emma (7) and Lyla (4)

It is definitely not easy getting through a DPT program with extra responsibilities, but with the right discipline and support it is entirely possible. Since starting PT school there are a few tricks and tactics I have learned that may seem simple but have made it possible for me to keep my nights and weekends free for my family.

  1. Give yourself set hours – I arrive at school every day at 7am whether we start class at 8am or 1pm, and I leave everyday between 4:00p and 5:00p even if we get done with class earlier.
  2. Pay attention in class – This may seem obvious, but some people don’t do it.  If you look at people’s computers during lecture you’ll see people checking Facebook, playing Bubble Spinner or reading the news. To avoid becoming distracted by the ever present lure of Facebook or browsing the news, I sit in the front row to help keep my attention focused on taking notes. Class is valuable time that significantly reduces the amount of additional studying.
  3. Schedule everything – I start every week by scheduling out every day from when I am going to exercise, complete upcoming assignments, to when I can meet up with friends.  This keeps me accountable to my goals and keeps me from feeling like I have things hanging over my head or that I am forgetting something.
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A typical week in my life (minus my kids’ and husband’s events)

  1. Study when you study – Again, this might seem obvious, but it is really easy to get distracted by conversations, Facebook, Snapchat, etc. while studying. I have become very selective in the locations I will study and the people I will study with in order to maximize my study time.  I have also found people who are willing to drive down to the ‘burbs where I live on days when the demands of being a mom require that I stay closer to home (Thanks, Tane Owens!).
  2. Exercise & get outside – This helps me so much with feeling healthy, maintaining my energy and focusing while studying.  We are PTs, I don’t need to give all the reasons why this is a must! Being productive and efficient with my studies enables me to still live an active lifestyle.

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    Some of my activities outside of PT school

 

  1. Leave school at school – I understand that it is difficult for those that live with classmates but I avoid doing school work at home. I do my best to be present to my husband and kids whenever I am at home.  I am not saying that I am perfect at this, but I really do try.
  2. Stay involved – I have found ways to stay involved and active in both our academic program as well as our profession as a whole. Adding extra responsibilities and events further forces me to organize my time and priorities. I do not have time to procrastinate; therefore, I do not.
  3. Develop a support network – I feel so blessed to have a supportive and understanding husband who stays home with our kids when they are sick, makes dinner when I get stuck in traffic, and pushes me to be the best wife, mom and student that I can possibly be.  I also have amazing mom-friends who have my back when childcare falls through or when I need a glass of wine and movie night.

I have had to develop these strategies and practices out of necessity due to my responsibilities and commitments outside of PT school. But, we all have responsibilities and commitments outside of the classroom. I hope some of these pointers can help you to stay focused and stress-free(ish!) as you go through this vigorous program.

 

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Service and advocacy with my classmates and colleagues

 

Regis University hosts the Denver National Advocacy Dinner

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The second annual National Advocacy Dinner was hosted at Regis University this past Wednesday, April 13, 2016. These dinners are going to be held all over the country between April 13th and May 4th, and are a great way to learn the top legislative issues affecting the PT profession. Furthermore, it’s a great (and easy) way to find out more ways that YOU can make a difference in furthering the profession. In case you missed the event at Regis and were wondering what topics we covered, read on for the recap!

In terms of national legislature, the Federal update was presented by Regis’s own Ira Gorman:

  1. Medicare Access to Rehabilitation Services Act of 2015 (“Repeal of the Medicare Cap”)

This bill would eliminate the cap on therapy services for those patients with Medicare. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this idea, as PTs, we only get $1960/year for therapy services. But wait—that’s shared with Speech Language Pathology Therapists too! This would help patients with complex cases (ie. TBI, CVA, hip fractures/replacements, etc.) get more of the services they really need. Check this bill out: HR 775/ S 539

  1. Physical Therapist Workforce and Patient Access Act of 2015 (Loan Repayment)

THIS IS IMPORTANT FOR STUDENTS! In other words, this bill is all about student loan forgiveness. Currently, PTs are not a part of the National Health Service Core, and therefore cannot earn the loan forgiveness that many other health professionals can. With the passing of this bill, PTs would be granted access to the plan when they worked in rural and/or medically underserved areas. This could mean up to $30,000 in two years. As an extra benefit, it’s been shown that when health professionals work in these areas, they tend to lay down roots and stay. This helps to improve communities by keeping quality health care in the area. Check this bill out: HR 2342/ S 1426

  1. Prevent Interruptions in Physical Therapy Act (Locum Tenes)

This bill was explained as a “technical fix,” in which PTs will have an easier time working with Medicare when a staff goes on a leave of absence (ie. Maternity, travel, etc.). Currently, clinics cannot bring temp PTs in unless they are Medicare certified at the specific clinic. Overall, this is a logistical nightmare when you only need a temp for a week or two. Check this bull out: HR 556/ S 313

 Gorman emphasized these three, but also hit on three more important bills. The Safe Play Act would allow PTs medical decision-making abilities in return-to-sport for youth athletes; this bill also promotes safety in youth athletics (with provisions about concussions, heat stroke, and sudden cardiac arrests). Next, the Medicare Opt Out bill is a physician bill that PTs joined in order to work with patients who may have their own private insurance and do not always want to follow through with sole Medicare payment. The bill would allow providers to avoid billing to Medicare and, instead, just bill the patient’s private insurance. The NIH Bill would help fund more rehabilitation research and create a larger focus on rehabilitation topics. Finally, the Telehealth bill would be one step closer for PTs to have a compact license (i.e. One license would allow a PT to practice in any state). Currently PT’s have to have a license for any state their patients may reside in. For example, if your clinic was near state boarders—say, in Colorado but close to Wyoming—you would have to have a license for both Colorado and Wyoming to treat the residents of Wyoming coming to your clinic. The telehealth component plays in when treating patients in other states via an alternative form of communication. (Check out these bills: HR 829/ S436, HR 1650/ S 1849, HR 1631/ S 800, and HR 2948 respectively)

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The other top speaker at the dinner was Colorado State Senator, Irene Aguilar, MD. She presented on a state issue regarding the insurance plan Colorado Care (Amendment 69). This measure will be on the ballot in November 2016 and will improve health insurance coverage in the state by creating a single-payer system. Colorado Care would be resident owned, non-governmental healthcare for any Colorado resident. Individuals could still purchase their own private insurance similar to supplemental Medicare, but would still pay for Colorado Care. Premiums would be collected from residents and employers based on income, effectively reducing costs through the elimination of third party administrative costs. However, this means a 7% tax for employers, a 3% tax for employees, and a combine 10% tax for the self employed in order to cover the budget, which is estimated at $25 billion. (Read more at http://coloradocareyes.co/ and http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/12/19/458688605/coloradans-will-put-single-payer-health-care-to-a-vote.)

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 Now what? Well, as an incoming student, current student, new grad, or current practitioner, it is important to start spreading awareness. The easiest way to do this is check out the APTA take action center (http://www.apta.org/TakeAction/). As a member of APTA, you get access to support any of the current issues with easy, pre-made letters to send to your Congressmen. This is helpful because research shows that Representatives want to know you’re knowledgeable about the bills you’re asking them to support. Heads up, though—they want: to have a constituent reason for your stance on the bill, the specific legislation cited, the bill number, the impact of the bill, and your full name and address.

If you’re looking for a little more action, join PT-PAC (political action committee) or donate money in their name for a more focused contribution. There’s even an app for that! Search APTA Action.

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Upcoming Advocacy Events:

June 8-11, 2016                 NEXT Conference (Nashville, TN)

Oct 27-29, 2016                 National Student Conclave (Miami, FL)

Feb 15-18, 2017                 Combine Sections Meeting (San Antonio, TX)

Spring 2017                           Federal Advocacy Forum (Washington, DC)

 Important Links:

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Keep an eye out for our student spotlight on Cindi Rauert, Regis DPT Class of 2017, who spearheaded this event as the SPT Delegate on the Student Assembly Board of Directors.

Blogger: Sarah Campbell, Class of 2017