Advocacy is an important component of the PA profession. Since the birth of the profession in the 1960’s, legislative advocacy has expanded health policies to include PAs and to ensure recognition of the essential role PAs play in a functional health care team. It is important for PA students to recognize the vital role of advocacy in the continued growth of the PA profession and for students to be inspired to become advocates themselves, whether at a legislative level or within one’s community. So, how does one inspire advocacy?
For me, advocacy stems from an understanding of the big picture side of things and some of that understanding has come from activities we’ve done as part of our curriculum here at UW-Madison. I’d like to share those activities with you and describe some of the steps I’ve taken to pursue advocacy at a student level.
In one of our courses we worked in teams to research the various PA organizations (AAPA, WAPA, NCCPA, PaHx, PAEA, etc.) and shared information with our classmates. We did this within the first few weeks of class and it was really helpful to open our eyes to the infrastructure of the PA profession and emphasize how the growth of our profession depends on passionate people willing to speak for and promote our rights as well as the value of our role in healthcare.
Another influential activity involved discussing the PA competencies. What seemed like a daunting activity at first ended up helping us generate ideas and goals for our academic & professional careers. One of the competencies that really stood out to me was “Systems Based Practice.” The exposure to that idea, of having an “awareness of and responsiveness to the larger system of health care” was really great to have early-on. In fact, in my reflective writing assignment I generated the idea that I wanted to serve in a leadership role in my class. I found that in the roles of WAPA and AAPA rep were great launching pads motivating me to stay informed of state and national issues and then go on to share that information with my peers.
Currently, I’ve composed a few summarized reports for my classmates that I distribute during our SAAAPA meetings. The reports are generally PA-related or health-related issues around the country. For instance, I spotlighted Michelle Obama’s health campaign for kids called “Let’s Move.” I provided my classmates with examples of how advocacy doesn’t have to be limited to the PA profession. We can use our knowledge to promote health outside the office. The “Let’s Move” campaign toolkit included ideas of how to improve school lunches and make sure bus routes went past grocery stores so people have access to healthy foods.
I’m hopeful that I can expose my peers to issues faced within the broader health-care system and perhaps along the way they will discover their passion and that passion will inspire advocacy.