Two main resolutions are possible if an entry-level masters system is adopted. 1) Increased respect from health care providers, insurance companies, and patients. 2) More prepared and qualified Athletic Trainers.
A professional degree at the masters level has the potential to develop stronger curriculum with more time to focus on core classes. Instead of cutting classes or attempting to combine two classes into one, programs can adapt to an integrated model to help students better blend all the domains of the profession.
In some of the arguments for/against a professional degree at the masters level, individuals have cited that 70% of Athletic Trainers get a Masters degree, yet there are currently only 16 accredited Post-Professional ATEP programs… so let’s ask ourselves… what are they studying? Clinical experience only? If individuals are earning Master degrees in fields not directly focused on Athletic Training, clinicians are not further enhancing AT knowledge, critical thinking, or evidence-based medicine.
I understand the argument that there is no current evidence stating that this new system will work; however, I believe it is a step forward. We are already falling behind other healthcare professions. Our goal is not to simply change our requirements from Bachelors to a Masters; we are working to reform the entire educational system! Furthermore, I believe most individuals with still strive to further their education, particularly as more opportunities for clinically-based, Doctorate of Athletic Training (DAT) programs emerge (stay tuned for that discussion tomorrow).
In many of the arguments against the development of professional degrees at the masters level, individuals cite the need for more clinical experience and development as students are “working” as graduate assistants. In my opinion this is a double-edged sword of sorts. Is the real issue, a loss of workforce, or is it that students develop and enhance skills while pursuing a masters degree… couldn’t one argue this means we aren’t adequately preparing our students at the baccalaureate level and therefore we NEED the advanced clinical practice? Couldn’t one argue that this is because our baccalaureate level students have competing demands and different goals… which could be solved by more focused experiences in a more controlled environment at the masters level?
Michael Neal, LAT, ATC