Is it better to stand alone, or with your allies?
Physiotherapy is a unique profession. We have a strong history and tradition of utilising a range of interventions to address injury, pain, and neuromuscular disorders. The relationships we form with our patients are unique as well, often as a result of the time we spend with people when they are at their most vulnerable.
The axiom 'the only constant is change' is certainly true in our profession and in the way that healthcare is practiced.
The public sector has led the evolution of working with multidisciplinary teams, utilising the unique skills and experiences of practitioners of different professions. As a result, there has been a blurring of traditional roles. In private settings and primary care the start of an evolution from referral network relationships to more interdisciplinary care models is evident in many workplaces. This can lead to some challenges at an individual, program or wider system level.
One of the unintended consequences of the evolution of interdisciplinary practice is the rise of the use of the term 'allied health' in describing people in the health system that are not doctors or nurses. This rise can lead to a loss of identity of individual professions in some contexts, and at times raises the ire of practitioners: 'I’m not an allied health practitioner, I’m a physiotherapist.'
But there are some advantages in numbers; being part of a 'grouping' of professions has its benefits, both in the delivery of care and in our advocacy efforts. It is a balancing act to maintain our professional identity while being an effective part of a team in various settings.
For the last several years the APA has not been a member of AHPA (Allied Health Professions Australia). The history behind this is complex, but in 2013 we decided it was time to reconsider this.
Advocacy at a political and bureaucratic level today lends itself to collective work at times, in particular around big issues like the NDIA and workforce reform. We have now re-joined AHPA.
Being part of an allied health group for advocacy purposes can help to leverage our member voice, as can working with an allied health team in our clinical practice. This should not impact our willingness and ability to advocate for physiotherapy, but amplify our voice on common issues.
MARCUS DRIPPS, APAM
APA National President
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