Doctoral Candidates Advocate for Profession
By Karen Angelo
When students are knee high in books and exams, legislative issues may not be top of mind. But when physical therapy (PT) students were encouraged by faculty to take a hard look at laws that could affect their careers, they visited U.S. Rep. Tsongas to advocate for their profession.
“I was impressed by the patience and thoughtfulness Congresswomen Tsongas showed when answering our questions,” says physical therapy student Kristine Little. “I felt like she understood the importance of physical therapists and the role we play in healthcare to keep people healthy.”
If Congress doesn’t take action by Dec. 31, Medicare patients who need rehabilitation from disabilities, car accidents, hip injuries, stroke and other ailments will be limited to roughly two months of treatments at an outpatient therapy clinic. Any patients that exceed the cap, whether they are healed or not, would have to stop therapy or pay for services out of pocket.
Tsongas supports a law that repeals the cap on outpatient physical therapy, speech-language pathology and occupational therapy services.
“I appreciated hearing from students who will become the leaders in the physical therapy field and I believe we must do more to increase awareness and understanding of physical therapy’s role in the nation’s health care system,” says Tsongas. “The continuity of care provided by physical therapists is a necessary step in recovery. Therapy caps place a burden on the people that require these services, and can lead to higher health care costs down the road.”
The students learned how to advocate for the patients they will help heal and the future of their profession.
“This experience gave me and my classmates a real-world preview into the type of issues we will be facing when we graduate,” says Little. “I think it was important for us to share with Congresswoman Tsongas how the bill would affect us. I learned that it was important to share our views personally because now she’s not doing something for a bunch of strangers, but for a great group of students who came to see her, and were interested in what she had to say and took time to thank her for her efforts.”