Perceptions as an Athletic Training Student come from what experiences we have. As a student I may have done all of the things listed below, but I was not expected to work independently. The following things are what I wish I knew as I transitioned into professional practice.
#1 - Who knew there would be so much paperwork?
As an undergraduate student you are fully immersed in the in the clinical realm doing evaluations and treatments where you learned documentation is important. Although we learned documentation, I never really knew how much documentation was actually required. It is not until you are practicing independently and on your own when you realize that time spent on documentation is about the same as the time spent with patients.
#2 - Who knew you have a limited time for treatments and rehabilitation?
As a student you are often given time to work with a certain athlete during a rehabilitation or treatment period. Working with one athlete at a time is not realistic as an Athletic Trainer at a high school when you only have a short period of time before practice begins. Time management and multitasking are skill required for a successful Athletic Trainer to be able to see many athletes in a short period of time.
#3 - Who knew school administration could be helpful?
School administration is key to your success as an Athletic Trainer. As an undergraduate student this experience of creating relationships is not utilized, thus as a professional these relationships must be created. Administrators can help with advocacy, creating and enforcing policies and procedures, and connecting you with additional resources.
#4 - Who knew you would get to know your athletes?
Your athletes look up to you in ways that you may not expect. As an Athletic Trainer you are a role model for healthy behavior in a more social setting than a teacher or administrator. Patients trust you to discuss personal issues which may be unrelated to participation in athletics. It is important to relate to your athletes, but also to maintain a professional relationship.
#5 - Who knew you are always advocating for your position and profession?
Athletic Training is a field that not everyone understands. Thus, every interaction that you have with an athlete, parent, coach, or doctor reflects back on your profession. It is your duty as a professional to advocate for your profession and to educate others about your scope of practice and skills.
I urge all Athletic Trainers to reflect on their transition to professional practice and share with undergraduate students your experience so that they can be fully prepared in their transition to professional practice. Join the conversation! Share what you have learned so that others can share your success.
-Jerrod Harrison ATC, LAT