I was so honored to be included in the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA)’s Founders Day Centennial Celebration. Preparing for the interview got me thinking about the impact that APTA membership has had on my career (and my life!). I wanted to share those experiences with any future or current PTs who might be following our blog. Through APTA membership I have found mentors and lifelong friends who have been a support system for me through thick and thin. Getting involved and engaged in the association early was key to those relationships being there for me when I really needed them.
I first heard about the APTA, as many do, from one of my professors. They encouraged us to be members, so I joined. It was as simple as that. But it wasn’t until my second year of school that I realized what the APTA was all about. I heard about National Student Conclave (the annual APTA conference for students) from one of my classmates. We had a huge test the next week which made me hesitant to go. Plus, I was a student and totally broke! But, thankfully, I decided to hop into a car with my classmates and drive from Atlanta to Dallas for my first APTA conference.
The moment we arrived, I was inspired by such a huge group students and physical therapists who all loved our profession as much as I did. The excitement, energy, and passion was contagious. I stumbled upon the speeches being given by the candidates for APTA Student Assembly Board of Directors. Everyone was so passionate about physical therapy and I totally loved it. The next year, I stepped completely out of my comfort zone to run for office and was elected Student Assembly Director.
The year flew by and it was an incredible experience. A few of my favorite and most meaningful moments were touring the APTA headquarters, observing the House of Delegates in action, and advocating for our profession at the Federal Advocacy Forum in Washington DC. At some point during the year I heard there had not been a female president of the APTA Student Assembly Board of Directors in over 10 years. I knew I had to step up! The next year I was elected APTA Student Assembly President. It was such an incredible honor and I worked hard with my Board of Directors, focusing on improving our communication with members and creating more ways to get involved.
After graduation I went on to serve on the Task Forces for Governance Review and Membership Engagement/Leadership Development and as a delegate from the state of Georgia to the APTA House of Delegates. Upon moving to Massachusetts, I served as the APTA of Massachusetts Southern Metro District Chief Assembly Representative. When I decided to take the leap and open Girl Fit Physical Therapy, I had to shift my time and energy toward running a small business. However, I continue to be an engaged and dedicated member of the APTA.
APTA is packed full of resources on best practice, research, advocacy, and con ed, but for me the mentorship and friendship I found at APTA conferences is what has made the biggest impact on my career and life. APTA also taught me to be a leader and helped me gain a greater knowledge of what it takes to advocate for our profession.
The relationships I made through the APTA became a support system for me when I moved across the country, when I started a private practice, and when I was faced with unexpected challenges, like figuring out how to get a small business through this pandemic. When we pivoted our entire caseload to Telehealth, APTA had resources on Telehealth best practice, billing, and insurance coverage. When we transitioned back into the clinic, they were right there with resources on safety, compliance, and vaccine availability.
One of the most influential moments for me was touring the APTA headquarters in Alexandria, VA. I knew APTA was a group of dedicated physical therapists, but in that moment I realized that the APTA staff was full of people who weren’t necessarily physical therapists. They are experts in their own fields and have dedicated their careers and expertise toward helping us advance our profession. It made me realize that by being a member of the APTA there was always someone out there working to advocate for and advance our profession. This is one of the many reasons that I will always be an APTA member.
So, if you’re on the fence about being an APTA member or you are a member but aren’t sure if its worth it, I hope my experiences can show you a few ways that APTA membership can have a meaningful impact on your career. Just like anything, it is all about what you make of it. Here are a few ways to get started:
And when you do make sure to step out of your comfort zone. Talk to as many new people as you can. Sit with someone new at lunch. Chat with the person next to you in line for coffee. Attend the late night events – the PT PAC event is especially fun and a great networking opportunity. If you want to go big, APTA’s CSM is a great place to start. If you’d like to start more local, your state’s chapter likely has at least one annual conference and many local events.
On a similar note, step out and attend the social events in your area when it is safe to do so. Even if this isn’t normally your thing, PTs in general are friendly, easy to talk to, and love to nerd out about physical therapy. This is where mentors are found. This is where friends are found. And trust me, friends turn into mentors. And mentors can turn into friends.
This is incredibly important for our profession and is not as scary as it might seem. There are easy instructions for emailing your senators and representatives on the Take Action page of APTA’s website. But, in person advocacy isn’t scary either! An easy way to start is to participate in your state’s advocacy day at the capitol or attend Federal Advocacy Forum in Washington, DC. There will be experienced members and PT lobbyists there to guide you through the process. Its easy and even fun!
You don’t have to be an “involved” member to be an engaged one. Open your emails, follow your favorite chapter or section on social media, and browse around on APTAs website to explore all of the resources. Joining a section and a Special Interest Group within a Section can be a great way to hone in on resources specific to your interests. At Girl Fit, we love the Performing Arts Special Interest Group‘s monthly citation blast which covers topics like strength and plyometric training in dance, returning to dance following ACL reconstruction, effect of figure skating boot stiffness, pilates for injury prevention, femoroacetabular impingement in dancers, flexor hallucis longus (FHL) dysfunction in dancers, upper extremity injuries in gymnasts, and more.
Touring the APTA headquarters and observing the APTA House of Delegates from the gallery (which you can also do virtually) were two eye openings experiences for me. I never knew how much went into advancing and advocating for our profession and it made those membership dues feel more than worth it.
Hope to run into you at an APTA conference or event someday! Happy 100th Birthday, APTA!
Kate Hamilton, PT, DPT
Orthopedic Clinical Specialist
Follow us @girlfitrocks