Words are powerful. Language is everything. And if you are going to map out a vision statement, it better use the right words and the right language. Otherwise, the meaning and intent can change rapidly and may in fact be counter to your original goals.
Which brings me to Vision 2020 and the seemingly incessant debate over the importance of entry-level degree relative to the development of the profession and its brand - and all of the variants on that theme.
I am convinced more than ever that the professional brand is, without doubt, far more important than the degree that you have attained to be a part of that professional brand. But what became readily apparent to me today during one of these debates is that the mechanisms underlying it lie not in skill or experience or degree. The problem begins with Vision 2020 itself.
The vision has gone awry. We're all starting to feel the effects of 10 words that truly make a difference - in intent, and in action.
The original Vision 2020 vision sentence is as follows:
"By 2020, physical therapy will be provided by physical therapists who are doctors of physical therapy, recognized by consumers and other health care professionals as the practitioners of choice to whom consumers have direct access for the diagnosis of, interventions for, and prevention of impairments, activity limitations, participation restrictions, and environmental barriers related to movement, function, and health."
I understand the intent of the statement. But the road to hell, as they say, is paved with good intentions.
The statement, as written, is very divisive in the way that it is worded - whether it was intended that way or not. It draws a line in the sand perceptually - between those who are now attaining a DPT as the entry-level degree and those that attained a MSPT or BSPT in the past.
"... provided by physical therapists who are doctors of physical therapy".
When 2020 rolls around, there will still be plenty of BSPT and MSPT in clinical practice. I have no doubt they will still be clinical instructors and adjunct faculty. I, for one, hope to still be one of them. But the vision – circa 2020 - does not embrace those same people who have struggled to build the profession into what it is.
The vision sentence, as worded, has effectively created a caste system amongst physical therapists.
We must embrace our commonality. The DPT is still just an entry-level degree like the MSPT and BSPT before it. We all paid a lot of money for our education – some more than others. Everyone still has to pass the licensure exam, and nothing changes in terms of your ability to provide services and care to patients in the health care marketplace. Everyone still has to go through the process of earning respect as a clinician - again, regardless of degree and without entitlement.
The point of the discussion isn't that the DPT is good or bad, nor was the BSPT or MPT or PT certificate for that matter. The problem is this: if we don't have an "all for one, one for all" stance - ALL of us - we are in trouble as a profession. Big trouble.
With that in mind, lets' make a single edit to the original vision statement to thoroughly reflect a unified vision:
"By 2020, physical therapists will be recognized by consumers and other health care professionals as the practitioners of choice to whom consumers have direct access for the diagnosis of, interventions for, and prevention of impairments, activity limitations, participation restrictions, and environmental barriers related to movement, function, and health."
This would provide a vision around which ALL physical therapists could rally. It would reinforce the premise of "professional brand first" and would not be "degree-centric". Then, we could ALL act and speak in accordance with this vision. We are all in this together.
Isn't that the true goal of the profession as a whole?
I do know one thing - if physical therapists don't stand in solidarity, we will most certainly fail in solidarity. And failure is not an option.
Photo credits: ingridtaylar