We all wear many hats in life. For me, this includes wearing many hats in my professional life.
One of the things that first attracted me to the field of physical therapy was the variety of skills needed in the profession. Everyday, when working with my clients, I had to be a good listener, an investigator, a problem solver and a teacher. As a partner in our practice, I see the details, work with the numbers, work through problems logically and even deal with equipment when it needs fixing. It’s all in a day’s work in a small, independent practice like Foothills.
Outside the office, there’s one hat that I’ve been wearing for many years: the policy hat.
Early in my career, I was asked to help with research on legislative issues in physical therapy. This work started as online searches for examples of law from other states, or studies that supported the need for physical therapy education standards. I liked this work and found it interesting and thought provoking. Then one day, I was asked to testify at a legislative hearing. To say I was nervous was an understatement. I had to hold my hands firmly on the table to keep the legislators from seeing them shake. I did well and, as a result, was encouraged to continue this part of my work.
Several years later, I was asked to become a member of the advisory committee of physical therapy to the board of medicine here in New Hampshire. My application was accepted and I was appointed by the Governor. It took some time to really understand my new role. As a committee member, I was to represent the public, not the profession as a whole. “What is best for the public?” became my mantra. Patients’ needs had to come first.
As a member of this committee, I learned of a national organization of members of physical therapy boards and advisory committees, the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT). I began attending meetings, developing a better understanding of my role on the advisory committee, hearing how other states worked and learning better how a licensing board works to protect the public. My interest in the legislative aspect earned me a place on the FSBPT Ethics and Legislative Committee. It was what I learned as a participant of this committee that allowed me, in conjunction with ten others, to craft and have passed legislation in New Hampshire to create an independent Physical Therapy Board.
I went on to chair the Ethics and Legislation Committee, be elected to the FSBPT Board of Directors, and ultimately be elected as President of FSBPT Board of Directors.
I also continued my work locally in the legislative arena, working with many others to change the law to allow the public to directly access physical therapy services, and to choose which physical therapy provider they want to provide those services.
Wearing the policy hat gives me a broader view than I might otherwise have, and helps me to remember all that’s at stake and how far we’ve come.
My work with legislative issues and appreciation for putting first what is best for the public is reflected in my philosophy about client education—helping clients to know that their choices matter and that they are entitled to receive complete information about their condition from me or other providers. The choice of how and with whom to receive their health care is their choice alone, and I will help them with as much information as they need to help them make those decisions.
Wearing the policy hat gives me a broader view than I might otherwise have, and helps me to remember all that’s at stake and how far we’ve come. That broad view deepens my commitment to providing quality care and first-rate information for my patients and it all ends up being pieces of the same whole. In the end, it’s really just one big hat after all. In an ever-evolving regulatory environment, it might be possible to get lost in the details, but my work at Foothills never lets me forget that it really is all about the patients.
~ Maggie Donohue, PT