The following portrays part of my continuing conversation with the student:
Student: “So are you in Grad School studying Athletic Training?”
Me: “Yes, I am.”
Student: “Oh, so what are you doing next?”
Me: “I am going to continue working as an Athletic Trainer.”
Student: “No, after that. What is your REAL job going to be?”
I didn’t understand what she meant. To me Athletic Training IS as real job. However, it seemed to this student that Athletic Training is just a stepping stone, a means to a “better” profession. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to bash, PTs, PAs, OTs, or MDs. I completely respect each profession and value their insight and experience. However, when I am told that my profession isn’t real, I’m going to ask questions: Where is this information coming from? Are we educating our students that Athletic Training is a stepping stone? Perhaps not directly, but it is happening all the same.
By allowing students who do not want to become Athletic Trainers into a Professional AT Program, universities are wasting valuable time, money, and resources in educating students who are not even investing in their education. This allows students to think of Athletic Training as a means and not as a profession.
The Professional Education in Athletic Training: An Examination of the Professional Degree Level document, also infamously called the “White Paper” suggests that we may be able to address is issue with a Master’s level professional degree. The Finding (#4: Professional education at the graduate level enhances retention of students who are committed to pursuit of an athletic training career. Graduate-level education attracts students who are better prepared to assimilate the increasingly complex concepts that are foundational for athletic training practice) is based on data that suggest 25% of students in Bachelor’s degree programs do not intend to practice as Athletic Trainers. These students cite a lack of respect for the profession, the time commitment required of the job, and the use of Athletic Training as a conduit to other professions.
I think it is reasonable to consider that all these perceptions can be changed… So, I will pose some things to consider:
-Should we restrict students who do not want to pursue a career in Athletic Training from being admitted into Athletic Training programs?
-Shouldn’t respect for the profession come from within? And couldn’t we work to establish that by limiting this habit of stepping on Athletic Training to get somewhere else?
-Will transitioning professional education to the Master’s level solve this issue?
I don’t know the answers, but I do know that I don’t want our profession considered a ladder to somewhere else...if anything, Athletic Training is a bridge.
Nicolás Merritt, LAT, ATC