To Join or Not To Join

Posted on September 9th, 2012 by Denise | No Comments

To Join or Not to Join


Denise Koonce OTR

In this presidential election year and having both the Republican and Democratic Conventions completed I thought it would be a great opportunity to reflect on our political role as therapists and the importance of our combined voices.  My purpose in this text is not to agree or disagree with either party agenda.  My focus is the role we play as therapists towards the greater good of our profession and the people to whom we serve.   I have been a member of both my state and national professional organization since I was a student or about 20 years.  I view membership to be important and a responsibility of mine as a professional.   When I taught I encouraged my students to join and tried to impress upon them the importance of their voice through these same organizations.  In the position of supervisor and director, I always encouraged staff to be active members of their professional organizations.   

Unfortunately, when I would speak to individuals, many times I would be met with comments such as “I can not afford it, it’s too expensive”, or “I do not use anything they have to offer, or I do not see the benefit for me.”  It was always disappointing to hear these comments and not see more people join because I knew their involvement would make a difference.  I became involved early on and in retrospect, being involved helped me to understand why it was so vital for professionals to become members and give both of their time and money. 

I remember the first time I attended Capital Hill Day in Austin.  There were 40-50 occupational therapists, from all over Texas, who committed their time that day.  Missing work, to advance and explain the needs of our profession and the ones we serve to our congress men and women.  I was excited, nervous, and anxious all at the same time.  We were in the capital building and on a mission!  Presenting our concerns to key legislators and educating them on Occupational Therapy, who we served, and how their upcoming decisions were going to affect both.  Wow!  That’s empowering.  That day was the single most “grassroots” political advocacy activity I had ever participated in.  I left the capital that day, proud, educated, and in inspired.  It demystified the political machine in a very personal way.  It was a lesson to me that so much can be accomplished when people join together and act. 

You may not have the time to travel to Austin or Washington D.C. but that is why we have our state and national organizations.  You can have an immense impact by simply being a member of either organization.  Even if you do not believe they have something to offer you individually, they are still fighting for you and the individuals we serve in the political arena.  Those areas include insurance reimbursement and regulation, research dollars, our patients’ rights, discipline encroachment, and healthcare access, to name a few.

Our professional organizations have accomplished much but the work continues.  There is power in numbers.  Take a moment in the next few days, visit your professional website, look under advocacy, governmental issues, etc. and see what is being done on our behalf.  Consider joining and/or accomplishing your first grassroots action.  It will definitely be worth it! If you are already involved in the political therapy realm please share with us any upcoming issues or events that need a combined voice in regards to therapy and those we treat.

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