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20150603_175132000_iOSLast week, over 1100 physical therapy professionals descended on Washington, DC to rally critical support for multiple causes. The annual Capital Hill Day event was held in conjunction with the NEXT conference, a gathering of therapists, students, and exhibitors that featured hours of educational programming, social events, and industry exhibits. Advanced Medical was proud to be a part of this doubleheader event and thanks the many visitors who graced our booth. The NEXT conference was held at the Gaylord Hotel in National Harbor, Maryland. The resort-style facility sports a patriotic motif and boasts panoramic views of the Potomac River from its atrium style layout. The convention hall and meeting rooms were comfortably spacious, contributing to an elegant conference experience.

 

Setting up camp at booth #1005 was the Advanced Medical contingent led by University Program Manager Codey Thalacker. Joining Codey on the marquee were special guests Seth Rohde and Lindsay Parker. Seth and Lindsay are Advanced Medical PT mentors who were on hand between assignments (next stop the pacific northwest) to soak up some knowledge at a few of the many educational seminars offered and impart their unique clinical experiences to those curious about travel therapy. The smart and engaging pair provide a shining example on howAPTANEXT-dinner to pursue clinical and geographic diversity with a partner to lean on. It was a real pleasure to join the group for a dinner at Le Diplomate, a boisterous French bistro-style eatery on the busy U. Street in downtown DC. After an animated dinner conversation, we were able to enjoy a spirited and highly unconventional game of indoor bocci ball that needed to be seen to be believed (thankfully no video exists).

 

My 4th Capitol Hill Day undertaking started at the crack of dawn the morning of June 4th with a networking breakfast that also doubled as an advance prep for the day’s festivities. From the Gaylord hotel, buses carried the numerous state delegations to the Capitol amidst a steady drizzle. The early start time combined with the thick plaster of gloom enveloping DC resulted in some bleary-eyed activists marching to the congressional lawn. However, the energy level quickly turned among the army of therapists armed with blue placards reading: Physical Therapy Transforms. A variety of speakers, including APTA president Paul Rockar and CEO Michael Bowers took to the podium with messages of optimism, pride, and service. Although the recent repeal of the Sustainable Growth Rate (doc fix) and subsequent 2.5 year- extension of the therapy caps exceptions process removed a degree of urgency from this year’s congressional visits, the overall enthusiasm level remained high. With 58 senators voting for a full repeal (needed 60 since it was an amendment to broader SGR bill) the movement has a lot to be proud of in its fight to remove the onerous anchor that is the therapy cap. All told, over 400 congressional visits were made on the day that ended up being the 2nd largest PT advocacy event in APTA history.

 

Although the caps get top billing, a couple of other legislative priorities received attention as well:

 

National Health Service Corp

The push to expand therapy access to rural and underserved urban communities would get a tremendous boost if physical therapists can be added to those eligible for the NHSC loan forgiveness program which gives financial incentives to those willing to practice in disadvantaged areas. Since a major component of travel therapy is providing therapists in areas of need, this issue is close to our hearts and dovetails nicely with our own tuition reward initiative. The APTA reports:

 

The Physical Therapist Workforce and Patient Access (H.R. 2342/S. 1426), was reintroduced in the US House of Representatives by Representatives John Shimkus (R-IL) and Diana DeGette (D-CO), and in the US Senate by Senators John Tester (D-MT) and Roger Wicker (R-MS). This legislation authorizes physical therapists to participate in the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Loan Repayment Program, ensuring patient access to essential physical therapy services

 

Concussion Management Legislation

With an estimated 3.8 million sports related concussions occurring every year, it is imperative that a set of national standards are adopted in dealing with prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention. The APTA has taken a leading role in fighting for physical therapists to be recognized health care professionals in making decisions on the safety of a “return to play”. The SAFE PLAY ACT (S. 436/H.R. 4829) was introduced this year and in addition to broadening the role of pts in concussion management, the bill contains numerous educational initiatives, action plans, and training tips to decrease the risks associated with concussions.

 

As always, my visit to DC often starts with pessimism and ends with overwhelming optimism. Something about seeing the prideful activism on display despite the  myriad frustrations of our current gridlock brings out the patriot in me. The therapists I met were completely lacking in cynicism and showed immense professional pride in recounting their clinical experiences for the benefit of our nations legislators. Advanced Medical stands tall with the therapy community and salutes the powerful efforts of physical therapists bringing essential care to our citizens.

Until next time…