I attended the Federal Advocacy Forum (FAF) in Washington, D.C. this year and it was pretty amazing. It’s surreal to think that having a voice in those legislators’ rooms makes a world of a difference for our patients. We came in full force, armed to the teeth with the issues taught to us the day before by various speakers and APTA staff. I am generally not a fan of politics or the idea of lobbying, but FAF always changes my mind on the matter. Physical Therapy has a vital and large role to play in the world of healthcare, but our government won’t understand unless we explain it to them with our patient stories.
We were told many times during FAF that legislators like to hear personal stories because it’s easier to connect with than the drone of policy talk. They hear policy each and every day from hundreds of different lobbyist groups. Legislators want to hear something different and want to connect with their constituents. The general mindset of the public is that legislators don’t care and only listen to dollars. That is not the case for most of Congress because a lot of them really are very passionate about helping their constituents.
You have to attend FAF or lobby on Capitol Hill to know that a story from one of your patients or voicing your concern has a chance to be translated into a bill on the floor. I spoke about one of my chronic pain patients and how Physical Therapy has changed her life for the better. She had over 80 surgeries and was sent to my clinic as conservative care before her desired bilateral Total Hip Arthroplasties. On her first visit, she walked in with a quad cane and complained of pain in her hips that traveled down her legs. I remember talking to my Clinical Instructor and saying that I don’t know if there was anything that I could do for her because her MRIs, X-rays, and pain were so ingrained in her mind.
I decided to take a shot in the dark and focus on education, my language, pain science approach, and just get her moving. One of her goals was to be able to walk without excruciating pains, so I got her walking on a treadmill. She went from a Timed Up and Go score of 15.9 seconds on the second visit to 10.5 seconds on the fourth visit, and she had ditched her quad cane. She felt great and decided to not have surgery. The best moment was when she told me she wanted to keep moving and exercising on her own. She had realized that movement was the best medicine for her pain and not the opioids she was being prescribed.
It’s stories like these that move people to action. The medical system is flawed in a way that does not always offer our patients the best care. I believe that if our patients can get early access to Physical Therapy, then we could save the healthcare system tons of money. We can get patients better quicker than a surgery or opioid first option. It was this story that really resonates with our legislators to act on issues that support Physical Therapy. It’s stories like these that we all have in our arsenals to convince Congress to support our profession.
Here is a link to the interview that I did with Live Your Life’s owner and physical therapist, Dr. Eva Norman, about the value of advocacy.
Ky Pak graduated from Somerset Community College with an Applied Associate of Science in Physical Therapist Assistant.
Physical Therapy is a second career for him and decided to pursue healthcare because he wanted to help people. He is passionate about getting his patients back to a premorbid state. He enjoys spending time with his wife, traveling, trying new restaurants, and reading.