Being in a small rural high school for my graduate assistantship, I am the first Athletic Trainer many freshman or their parents have ever dealt with. For some, the concept of having a health care provider at their practices and games is an unusual idea. I need to make sure I always am advocating for the profession in everything I do, including how I talk, how I dress, and how I communicate with them. A lot of this is putting in the extra work to show that I truly am there for the health and well-being of the student athletes and that I care about their future whether it be health related, academic related, or sport related.
Demonstrating “going the extra mile” is a challenged I faced earlier this year after a student-athlete concussion. At first a parent was angry that I was withholding her son for having concussion symptoms, but after explaining the risks of continuing to play and how it could affect his grades in the classroom and his performance on the football field, the mother was extremely grateful and thanked me for looking out for her son. A great quote that comes to mind when I reflect on that incident and think about health care professionals in general is “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” by Theodore Roosevelt.
Additionally, the burden placed on a young professional to be an advocate to other health care professionals is difficult. There are physicians and other health care professionals in my county who have never heard of Athletic Trainers. A few weeks ago I was talking to a nurse practitioner over the phone who was confused as to what my position was. She had called to clarify what concussion return to play protocol we were using for the physician she worked with. When I explained in detail which one we use and why, she seemed confused. Not because of the content I had said but because she said she thought I was just a coach. After our conversation on concussions, I explained to her what my role is as an Athletic Trainer at the high school. She seemed surprised yet pleased that the high schools in the area had someone there looking out for the students, and seemed to greatly respect my input about the return to play protocol. This was exciting, but at the same time was the first time it hit me that with every phone call or interaction with another health care discipline, I could be helping them formulate an opinion of our entire profession, good or bad. That’s a scary thought for a graduate assistant who has a lot of other things on their plate to worry about.
I will do my best to represent Athletic Trainers because I chose this profession because I love what we do. It is everyone in the profession’s responsibility to show others how great of a profession we truly are.