Presently, topics such as special populations, pharmacology, mental health, third-party reimbursements and professional growth are gaining wide exposure all over the country and yet we do not cover them adequately; most of these emerging expected skills and issues are touched briefly in class sessions, but not explored comprehensively. This is a barrier to the evolving healthcare policies that embrace interprofessional standards for healthcare disciplines. Practicing evidence based medicine, interprofessional education, and information technology are just some of these prime examples of expected core standards, not well done in all of our programs. These standards are important part of our current Athletic Training Education Competencies. This brings me into thinking that, what if we are not adequately preparing our undergraduates?
With my current master thesis in relation to transition-to-practice, I have discovered that the literature equates and references Emotional intelligence (EI) as an important factor in medicine and other healthcare disciplines. It is suggested that professional mental health is as important as effective practice. According to a study on EI, good EI includes the ability to understand and control emotions, to be empathetic, to be socially competent. In this study, 33.6% of first year medical students were poor in all six domains of EI. Besides EI, there is evidence that non-technical skills of young emerging adults from age 18-23 are underdeveloped. For example, a consortium reports conducted by four government organizations interviewed over 400 employers across the United States, and in their findings, employers rank professionalism (93.8%), teamwork (94.4%) and oral communication skills (95.5%) as the top three most important workforce skills for collegiate graduates, and yet around 43% believe that 4-year college graduates qualify as “satisfactory” in these three categories.
As an athletic trainer who graduated from a traditional 4-year undergraduate program, I understand how rewarding it was to go through school in 4 years. However, I do feel that there are certain aspects of non-technical skills I needed to brush upon once I was at my first job. I was blessed to be able to work as a Resident Assistant in my undergraduate study and would perceive myself as adequately prepared for the workforce. But I will admit that when I was working at a small div II institution in Colorado, I never thought I would be so challenged with mental health and social issues of athletes… all on top of managing my new administrative duties. My point is this: There are times when entry-level undergraduate athletic trainers will be put in situations that they have never been challenged before and consequently, it may affect the quality of care. I am not saying all baccalaureate prepared athletic trainers an inadequate, but I am saying that perhaps we are starting to expect much more from our profession and that a graduate level program may be a better route for preparing our students for the workforce.
Denny Wongosari, LAT, ATC