by Scot Spak
Athletic Trainer, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
In the past four years, home values have fallen as fast and as hard as Tiger Woods. Government officials are spending too much money (or is it too little?), and yet our economy hasn’t budged. Jobs seem as scarce as an L.A. Clipper’s post-season visit (Thank You Chris Paul). All of this should sound familiar, and if it does, should we as Sports Medicine professionals be concerned?
In a world where everyone is looking at increasing revenue or decreasing expenses, where do athletic trainers fit? In the traditional Sports Medicine setting, can we accomplish either without creating too much strain on an already overtaxed resource?
Can Sports Medicine Departments sustain the current economic environment without adapting or proving their worth, an environment where the all mighty dollar speaks very loudly? Athletic trainers traditionally bring in NO money for its employer, while draining their bottom line. It’s time to re-evaluate that model: demonstrate your value!
Investigate implementing a Medical Model of health care at your setting. Bring in the college’s student-health center or your University’s hospital and place the athletic trainer in a clinical health care structure versus an athletic structure. The potential benefits include:
- enhance your professional development as you interact and operate with other health care professionals.
- report to and get feedback from another health care professional instead of an athletic director
- enhance your work-life balance by demonstrating, documenting, and presenting your overall volume and load to individuals who understand what it takes to provide adequate health care
- increase your salary to more accurately reflect a health care providers income
Collect Injury Data anyway you can:
- producing reports with actual values will help you better demonstrate what you do on a daily basis, but objective data is more tangible and easier to understand than subjective statements
- we employ a swipe system where each patient swipes there ID for certain items they need: Injury Evaluation, Wound Care, Rehab, etc.
Let me tell you how powerful those numbers look when you present the data set to the administration, coaches, and health center. These figures allow you to more adequately defend your time. For example, you are given a new project to conduct, without new allocation of funding or human resources to support it. Explain to administration based off of your current volume (objective data) what you can’t get to because of the new request. Explain to a coach that “Sarah” will need to complete her rehab off-campus at a PT facility do to your new project. Could you get release time to finish the project? Could you get Per Diem money allocated to your department to complete this task? You won’t know unless you can support your rationale and then ask.
Find ways to bring money into your institution:
Focus on looking at alumni outreach/support for fundraising. College and University revenue is hugely impacted by alumni gifts. This form of generating money is so large for these entities that they employ substantial departments to bring in alumni donations. Tap former patients to contribute to the Athletic Department, Health Center, or the Sports Medicine Department. Generate a targeted outreach letter to past patients. Your predecessor could have positively influenced the life of a patient who turned out to be the CEO of a financial institution. Considering giving back already for several reasons the CEO needed a push from the alumni office, gets a targeted letter from you, and before you know it you receive $250,000 to create a new athletic training room named after your predecessor. Now that’s creating worth.
You could start as simple as creating a Sports Medicine Fund. Every former student-athlete would receive a letter from athletics asking for a contribution and your unit will be represented on the form. Image starting to receive annual contributions and building relationships with donors; your perception around the institution would positively change. You would be seen as more instrumental within your department and provide more power when needing or asking for things (think staff and money).
These are just a few options to explore. Justifying your position and making it a sustainable resource provides job security. Providing objective data to highlight underserved areas or increasing your institution’s revenue make you a valuable resource. Reporting to individuals who understand healthcare can produce increase job satisfaction and support for additional resources.
Consider these items and think outside of the box to create a better working environment for yourself and enhancing opportunities for the profession. Promote your value and worth as a professional.