Like spring, fall often marks a time for new beginnings. An opportunity to reflect, refresh, and start anew. Many of us have recently had children return to public or private K-12 education, or we have sent them off to college. Some of us are returning to DPT or PTA programs, and some of us are back to the classroom as professors. Some of us are serving as clinical instructors and passing our knowledge and experience on to the next generation. However, some of us are caught in what may seem like a never-ending “Groundhog Day” treating those with acute COVID infection or the sequela of COVID. As we move toward October and Physical Therapy Month, the WVPTA wants to recognize and support West Virginia rehabilitation professionals (e.g., Physical Therapists, Physical Therapist Assistants, Occupational Therapists, Occupational Therapist Assistants, and Speech-Language Pathologists) who have been working tirelessly on the front lines for the last 18 months. We want you to know that we SEE YOU, and we recognize the physical and mental toll that the pandemic is taking on you professionally and personally. We also know that when journalists and society recognize healthcare providers, it is often the physicians and the nurses who are lauded. Please know that the WVPTA Board of Directors recognizes your significant contribution to the citizens of West Virginia. You are truly amazing, and you are impacting our state!
When we are faced with an ongoing and seemingly insurmountable challenge, it is inevitable that some health care providers will become depressed, anxious, and experience mental health challenges. As health care providers, we sometimes need to step away, sometimes we need professional help, and sometimes we just feel compelled to speak out. As healthcare providers, we recognize that small actions can often lead to huge health changes. Change can occur at the individual level and at the societal level. As evidence-based health care providers, we recognize the importance of vaccination, personal protective equipment, handwashing, and common-sense social distancing. For those on the front lines, it is devastating to watch people suffer and die, especially when the situation seems somewhat preventable.
As healthcare providers, we should speak out. We should advocate. We should help to educate family members, friends, employers, policymakers, and our community. We should participate in primary prevention, and we should help to influence public policy decisions.
As the President of the West Virginia Physical Therapy Association, I encourage physical therapists to advocate for health, but my plea is that our members do so in a manner that is respectful, professional, and consistent with the APTA Code of Ethics. Principle #1 of the APTA Code of Ethics states, “Physical therapists shall respect the inherent dignity and rights of all individuals.” Principle 1B states, “Physical therapists shall recognize their personal biases and shall not discriminate against others in physical therapist practice, consultation, education, research, and administration.” Principle #8 states, “Physical therapists shall participate in efforts to meet the health needs of people locally, nationally, and or globally.”
Based on the APTA Code of Ethics, we should all work to improve the human experience, and we should work to meet the health care needs of our community, but we cannot do this by marginalizing individuals based on their personal health decisions. We should not treat people with disdain because of their personal health care decisions. We must seek to meet people where they are at and to inspire and encourage change. There are tools available to us, like motivational interviewing and positive messaging, that have been shown to be effective in changing health behavior. As physical therapists, we regularly treat individuals without judgment or bias who make less than perfect healthcare choices (e.g., nutrition, weight management, exercise, substance abuse, or participation in dangerous recreational activities). As physical therapists, we walk into work, and we give our all to those who need our services, regardless of how or why they ended up on our caseload. As the Code of Ethics states, we respect the inherent dignity and rights of all individuals. We care for them, we listen to them; we love them, and we help them to overcome their current situation so that they can return to activity and to participation. Take care of yourself as we take care of others.