The future of health care is going to be directly related to activity, lifestyle, movement, exercise, and ultimately, function. And who better to lead the fray?
There is just one problem with my premise. Physical therapists need to choose to believe it - and to have the guts to take ownership of it while acting in accordance with it.
The bottom line is this: there is not a profession in health or health care that is trained to evaluate movement, exercise, and function like a physical therapist. Chiropractors, physicians, exercise physiologists, massage therapists - none of these clinicians are taught nor utilize exercise across the health continuum like physical therapists do. Plain and simple. No ego involved here, just the curricular and clinical facts.
We do it better than anyone else - or, worst case scenario, we have the professional capacity to be that leader in health care. And if we changed a few things perceptually and educationally, we could do it even better.
Physical therapists should be the health care professionals deciding who sits down at the health care reform table. Why? Because our solutions - exercise- and function-based - should drive the discussion. Physical therapists are the ones that hold the keys to the car - if only we could remember where we put them.
However, there is a problem other than just "taking ownership". The profession as a whole continues to dilute itself.
We have tried so hard to be all things to all people. "We are qualified to do this and that", we proclaim. We have tried to assimilate all sorts of treatment interventions that are loosely related to the core aspects of our clinical practice. If we do movement, exercise, and function well – really well, expertly so – then, frankly, we have little need for ultrasound and dry needling and visceral manipulation and the like.
With this trend comes the addition of more and more elements being added to entry level education. But do we perform any one of them well? We have an educational approach that promotes "more tools in the toolbox". This extends to post-professional education, which becomes more a factor of marketing and promotion instead of "does this truly make you better at the core of your practice"?
Physical therapists could easily forget about all the adjunct treatments we profess to offer and get down to one key element, the core of our clinical practice and our value-added benefit. Want to transform society? Let's take ownership of our role in movement, exercise, and function. We'll remember where the keys are, and we can get on with driving the discussion as only we know how.
Photo credits: Caitlin Regan