The fact of the matter is that our profession of athletic training is made up of such a varied dynamic in terms of education. We have practicing certified Athletic Trainers who have their entry-level degree only, some who became certified under the internship model, others with advanced practice degrees in everything from kinesiology to theology. Is any of this bad? Not at all. I am a strong supporter of expanding yourself and narrowing our circle of ignorance… to really find out the things you don’t even know you don’t know.
I believe PP-ATPs have strong supporters and firm opponents. This is my side of the story.
In entry-level programs, students dabble in clinical assignments and study immense amount of information to become proficient medical professionals. Then what? For those who pursue jobs or non-athletic training programs, the continued learning is happening clinically – like on-the-job training. But, evolving through trial and error should not defined advanced practice education. It is likely that you will begin practicing just as the preceptors you had before and believe all that you have been told is true, despite information in textbooks being antiquated and lacking current evidence-based medicine. Entry-level programs teach you content and hopes to help you gain decision making skills that both help you to pass the certification exam, but also to provide proficient patient care; post-professional programs emphasize critical thinking to decide… to decide what kind of clinician you want to be and gives you the tools to analyze the evidence and how to apply it... PP-ATPs teaching you how to keep learning and evolving.
Educators and preceptors should refrain from telling students “you need to diversify” and “it doesn’t matter what your Masters is in”. It does matter! We are the profession. Why would you want to diversify if you are going to be working in Athletic Training? Would you tell a Social Worker to diversify and become and Occupational Therapist? As the profession begins to distinguish itself as a credible medical profession following current evidence-based medicine, we have a responsibility to read and apply research. This is can often be de-emphasized in a professional program because the focus is on learning how to be an athletic trainer. Post-professional courses are unlike anything from my professional preparation. The design of every class can be summed up into one word; CHALLENGE. Yes, the course material is difficult, but the real challenge comes when you examine the evidence for credibility and applying it to your daily practice in athletic training. We are expanding the body of knowledge and learning how to share it with the profession.
Often, PP-ATPs come with both the consumption and dissemination of research…. And with this students begin to say “I don’t like research” or “I don’t know if I have what it takes to do research”. If you have not done research before, KEEP AN OPEN MIND! Research is varied and you have to find your niche. Practicing clinicians who aren’t in academia can contribute to the literature too… through case studies and critically appraised topics. Researchers in athletic training will complete randomized controlled studies which results that can be applied to a larger population. Research comes in many forms such as measuring clinical outcomes, surveying the profession, completing educational assessments and conducting laboratory research. You have to find your interest! I am currently completing two research projects which are vastly different, while taking athletic training courses and working clinically as a division 1 men’s basketball athletic trainer. If I can do it… you can too! Do not doubt yourself.
The profession needs leaders who are skilled and equipped to continue building our infrastructure. But that means we need motivated and excited students to STAY in the profession and to help it evolve through enrolling in a PP-ATP. Find the program that aligns with your interests or lack of knowledge to close the gap!
I hope this post brings awareness to what PP-ATPs do… they are not a continuation of professional studies… they are an expansion of mind and skills as a future leader in Athletic Training. This is not to say that those out there with masters degrees in other areas are leaders or don’t have the potential to lead. But, today, in the current Athletic Training climate, we have to come together. We have to specialize in our own discipline.
So those of you considering graduate education… ask yourselves these questions?
-What’s my goal…? Am I looking solely for clinical experience, or do I want my educational degree to help me gain new, advanced, specialized Athletic Training skills too?
-What’s my niche, and what programs are available to help me improve those skills?
Interested in Indiana State's PP-ATP? Check it out below!
Link to CAATE Accredited Post-Professional Program search tool: http://caate.net/find-programs
Zachary Winkelmann, ATC, LAT