Royal Commission into Physiotherapy?
While driving to work along lovely country roads each morning, I take the opportunity to catch up on what the rest of Australia has been doing. ABC radio national and ABC news are my favourites and it is hard not to shake the head each morning, after hearing the latest revelations from the banking royal commission. CommBank charging $120 million for no-services or charging services to dead people for 10 years ..... There seems to be a major disconnect between fund managers, financial service advisors and those other 'professionals' providing financial advice and their clients. What has happened to professional ethics in the financial profession? Looking in from outside, it seems they have completely forgotten that their professional duty is to advise their clients how to improve their financial position, worth and security. It seems they are more interested in generating their own wealth. More broadly, their professional associations seem to have lost their way in providing checks, balances and ethical guidelines, plus the regulator, ASIC seems to have gone into hibernation see here when it comes to chasing these big boys.
This caused me to reflect on our profession, physiotherapy. Are we still focused on improving our client's lot more so than our own? What about our professional body and regulators? How does our score card look?
At the Coalface - Physio Practitioners
As I said, I drive country roads at 110km/h for about 20 minutes each day on the way to work. This puts me in a rural and remote location, which is a bit different to most of my colleagues. Our challenges are not that we have another physio setting up shop on every corner, rather we struggle to attract high quality professionals wanting to live in an awesome environment. Quality of life here is so amazing, it beats me why – but if you are considering a sea change shoot me an email. Through organising and presenting professional development around Australia, I do get the opportunity to speak with hundreds of allied health professionals, which does give me an idea of what is exercising their minds. I have the impression that our profession is under every growing competition, that practitioners are highly energetic and keen to improve the services they offer their clients and that fundamentally they CARE about their client's well-being. A lot of new graduates say they are under prepared for entering private practice, but this transition is assisted by larger private practices offering new grad induction programs or our own Strive & Thrive in Private Practice online course. I also note a general drop off in manual therapy and palpation skills, which I believe is a shame, as this is a grass roots skill, like advanced MSK and functional anatomy, that physiotherapists have had since the commencement of our profession and which contributes directly into clinical reasoning and treatment.
As physios, we really only have one professional body, the APA. I had been a member for around 3 decades, worked on committees, contributed to professional development courses, white papers and biennial conferences, all for the development of our profession. Many others have also significant amounts of time and many fine members still do. That is the rub of it. The APA is not our profession, we are. The APA is a vehicle. I believe we need to have a strong and united profession to advance our cause in the wider domain i.e. public health policy. The APA is a great body for advocacy, policy formulation and other big-picture projects, but the heart of physiotherapy, the clinical expertise of physiotherapy, this lies outside the APA and in its membership. As a member-based organisation, there is a fine line between advocating for our profession and hijacking our profession for its own agenda, and in the area of professional development this is what has occurred.
Ask yourself this. Do you believe it is positive for an industry, if one organisation dominates over 90% of the PD?
When the general manager of APA PD James Fitzpatrick stated "In my role, I am responsible to the CEO to provide a revenue stream of $3.9M in 2015 from professional development. The expectations of the CEO for the professional development division is that we will grow revenue to $5M over the coming years" and at the same time, banning all advertising of non-APA events in publications to it's members. How is limiting access to PD diversity an improvement for our APA members or the profession? Did the executive gain membership permission before implementing such a radical change? Nope. It can only be seen as a money grab, much like what we are witnessing on a daily basis in the banking Royal Commission. A disconnect between the organisation and the members/clients that it should serve.
Whistle Blowing Stories
Over the past 12 months I have been involved in providing several formal assessments for AHPRA officers and while mine is a very limited experience, I have found them to be very professional. AHPRA's prime objective is to keep the public safe and to respond to any complaints made against individuals, not against organisations. In this way its mandate is different to ASIC, no one is monitoring the activities or behaviour of the APA, other than members.
We make the Bed we lie in
No royal commission into physio. At the end of the day it is up to members of a membership organisation to either agree with the actions of the executive or not. Either way, express your beliefs to your representatives and ask them to act. It would be just as easy for the APA executive to instruct the advertising team to accept advertising in APA publications again, as it was when they instructed them to stop in 2015. As a bonus for members, with the added revenue coming in from advertising, it would also reduce the cost of annual memberships, which seem to ever climb higher.
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