Physical therapy students advocate for patients, the profession in meeting with legislator

Two DPT students met with N.C. Rep. Ricky Hurtado, whose district includes portions of Alamance County, on May 14 to discuss how legislation can affect the physical therapy profession.

Third-year Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) students take an administration and management course before heading out on their final clinical internship prior to graduating in December.  The main instructor, Dr. Carrie Bryce, rehabilitation director at Alamance Regional Medical Center, invited two guest speakers in April to teach about advocacy in the profession.

Assistant Professor of Physical Therapy Education Mary Kay Hannah, who is president of the American Physical Therapy Association North Carolina (APTA NC) chapter, and physical therapist Ginger Garner, a continuing education instructor and chair of the APTA NC’s legislative committee, not only taught how legislation affects physical therapy practice and ultimately physical therapy patients, but they engaged the students in real-live advocacy.

In years prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the APTA NC Advocacy Day in Raleigh provided an opportunity for DPT students to meet in person with their state legislators.  This year, the third-year students learned how to find their house representatives and senators and contacted them by phone and email. Since the Physical Therapy Practice Act is a law that is passed by the NC General Assembly, relationships with legislators can allow physical therapists to provide them with critical information about how the physical therapy profession can take care of patients.

N.C. Rep. Ricky Hurtado

While the assistants of many legislators replied to the DPT students, N.C. Rep. Ricky Hurtado of House District 63 replied himself and set up a meeting with the students. House District 63 includes much of the northern half of Alamance County, including portions of Burlington and Mebane.

Third-year DPT students Ashlyn Herold and Josh Boyle hosted Hurtado on May 14 at a physical therapy clinic in Mebane. They were joined by Elon DPT Adjunct Instructor and Clinical Instructor Mike Sherk, and Hannah.  Herold and Boyle were able to show Hurtado around the Cone Health outpatient physical therapy clinic with ease because they had both trained there with Sherk.

The students were excited to learn that Hurtado wants to hear from his constituents about issues that he votes on, particularly in the teaching and health care sectors.  Tthey learned that as constituents, they have the responsibility and ability to weigh in with their legislator.  Physical therapists advocate for each patient with each patient visit individually, but physical therapists also advocate for patients by volunteering in the community volunteerism and by forming relationships with legislators to ensure that we meet the APTA NC vision that all individuals will have access to physical therapy, recognized as the optimal choice for improving wellness, movement, and quality of life.