Sometimes an opportunity presents itself, and you are not 100% sure you should take it, but you plunge forward anyway. The American Physical Therapy Association’s Federal Advocacy Forum was just that opportunity. In April of 2014, I was privileged enough to attend this giant advocacy event with three other classmates.
I was nervous as the event called for us to speak to our Congresspeople on issues that affected physical therapists, but the entire first day was spent prepping us for these meetings. I learned the best ways to engage staff whether through email or phone calls. I learned that most Congresspeople really do care about their constituents, but there are so many issues they have a hard time keeping up with them.
When we actually went to Capitol Hill, I was armed with passion and a knowledge of the bills we were looking for support on and why we were looking for support on them. We rarely actually saw the Congresspeople. We mainly saw support staff related to Health Policy. Every one we came across was pleasant and willing to listen, and we garnered support with nearly every person with which we spoke.
In the end, I realized how important advocacy is for our profession and patients. People of Congress are inundated with bills, causes, and problems, and it is impossible to be an expert on all of it. This is why WE need to be experts on it.
I created a network that weekend and have continued to remain in contact with most of those people through the IPTA. I know my future in PT will be a future of State and Federal Advocacy, and I cannot wait to push our profession further.