Monday, December 22, 2014

Energy Bus by Michelle Vryhof

We know that the inevitable factor of change keeps life interesting, but also challenging. When I consider the past few years of my own life, the situations have been fluidly changing but my “to-do” list is almost always a constant in length. The encouraging thing in my mind is that my never-die work ethic to be productive and be involved hasn’t wavered. The struggle, however, is teetering the line of burnout when trying to balance work and life. Also, keeping upbeat and having a positive attitude toward the daily aspects of the grind can become more difficult as the sport seasons or responsibilities go on and on without rest for the weary athletic trainers.
If you are feeling a little worn out and perhaps not quite your usual self, let me suggest that you take the time to read a small book that that could possibly change your life forever. I know, I know…why am I asking you to do then one more thing that takes up time from busy life? It’s a very short, easy read and the story demonstrates the pearls of wisdom in a way that keeps you interested to read it from cover to cover in one sitting. The book is titled The Energy Bus by Jon Gordon. The 10 valuable rules to fuel your life are:
1.       You’re the driver of the bus.
2.       Desire, vision and focus move your bus in the right direction.
3.       Fuel your ride with positive energy
4.       Invite people on your bus and share your vision for the road ahead.
5.       Don’t waste your energy on those who don’t get on your bus.
6.       Post a sign that says “No energy vampires allowed” on your bus.
7.       Enthusiasm attracts more passengers and energized then during the ride.
8.       Love your passengers.
9.       Drive with purpose.
10.   Have fun and enjoy the ride.

These rules make perfect sense when you read the whole book and find the ways to apply these principles. But here are some additional thoughts of how to keep up the positivity in your daily life, things that I try to remind myself all the time. First, in order to balance energy with work and life, we have to let go of some things in our work life. As athletic trainers, we wish we could do it all and we sure try to. We have to accept and then let go that we perhaps didn’t get to everything on our to-do list or didn’t finish a task quite as well as we would have liked. Do your best, but when it is time to say “no” you are helping yourself and those around you by not stretching yourself too thin and jeopardizing the quality of care you give. Second, stay positive by celebrating the smallest successes or improvements in others. It really spreads enthusiasm and encourages patients in dealing with their pain or struggle. I share this with you in hopes to help anyone who needs a little positive energy pick-me-up as we look ahead to a fresh new year full of great potential!! 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Blog by Kimber Rodgers

I had a patient this week that really made me think.  He has a low grade ankle sprain… something I’m sure most athletic trainers deal with on a weekly basis.  His strength and ROM were normal, but he was not able to complete functional tests. 

I will admit… I don’t like to be wrong.  I’m competitive and I like to be right.  But with this patient, I was at a loss.  I threw everything I had in my arsenal of tricks at him.  But it seemed no matter what I did, he didn’t show improvement. 

I woke up yesterday and remembered: an Airrosti Certified Chiropractor, who moved to my area this summer, met with me in late July and offered his services and conveyed his interest in treating athletes.  So, I called him; I explained the situation, gave him some history on the patient, and he happened to have an appointment available that morning.  With a few tests and a couple of new corrective exercises, he discovered a muscle strain secondary to the ankle sprain I had not even thought to consider.  After one treatment, the patient’s pain was 60% better and his functional status was dramatically improved.

I am so fortunate to have such a talented group of health care professionals in my area!  I would definitely encourage everyone out there to use all of the tools you have at your disposal.  Whether it’s an Airrosti Certified Provider, sports massage therapist, someone with certifications in manual therapy or other alternative techniques, etc. make contact with other healthcare professionals in your area and develop relationships with them.   Those relationships can help improve patient outcomes and help us to become better athletic trainers by learning new “tools” from other healthcare professionals.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Developing a Student Aid program in the Secondary School Setting

I’ve had several friends and colleagues, even coaches at my school, ask me how I find and keep so many good student aids.  We treat our student aid program just like we would if we worked at the college level or if these students were employed through us.  We have high expectations of our students and hold them to a high standard.
I think there are several things that contribute to developing and sustaining an effective student aid program.  These are things we do at the high school where I work; there definitely is not a right or best way to do it… but this has been working for us over the past 5 years, and interest in our student aid program continues to grow. 
I think the first step is evaluating the needs of your athletic programs to determine how large, or small, you would like your staff.  We start the year with around 20 student aids, and typically have an additional 3 or 4 students in class that do not have obligations after school.  Inevitably, you will have student aids quit.  They either don’t know what they are truly getting in to, decide they want to spend their time doing other things, or move; but for whatever reason you will lose at least one student aid every year.  The extra students who start the year with no obligations can serve to fill those spaces, in the eventuality you have a student aid leave your staff.
Next, we have an application that all students interested in the student aid program complete.  The application includes a summation of duties and expectations, a brief questionnaire, and a grade report to be completed by the student’s current teachers.  We evaluate each application before contacting students for an interview.
During the interview, we go into more detail about what will be expected and required of the student aids in our program.  We stress the amount of time that is required to become a student aid, and try to reiterate that point several times during the interview.  We get to know each student to determine if they would be a good fit with our current staff.  Then, we answer questions the student may have for us.
Upon completion of the interviews, we send a letter to each student informing them whether we are offering them a position on our student aid staff, desiring them to take our class with no extracurricular obligations, or (in rare cases) saying “Thank you for your interest, but….”  I believe by treating the process of selecting our student aids as a professional application, we emphasize the importance we place on our program and give students selected a sense of pride and accomplishment.
Before the school year begins, we hold an in-service with our newly selected student aids to teach them basic skills we want them to know early on (e.g. CPR and First Aid, basic taping techniques, etc.), and then another with our entire staff to go over rules and procedures, brush up on basic skills, and prepare the athletic training room for the coming season.  Throughout the year, we hold monthly meetings to inform student aids on upcoming events and to discuss any issues that may have occurred.

We also try to have fun with our students. We carve pumpkins together at Halloween, have a Christmas party, and several other things throughout the year to show our student aids that we appreciate their hard work and dedication.   I know our students look forward to having homemade lasagna and Secret Santa at the Christmas party every year.
While this has worked for my school, you have to find something that works for you and your situation.  However, I encourage you to expect more from your student aids; if you hold them to a higher standard, they will begin to do the same for themselves and may surprise you with what they are capable of.

Monday, October 27, 2014

ATC’s and Impact: Not just Cognitive Recall

Often the world of athletic training, we hear the word “impact”.  There can often be a common misconception of what the true word of “impact” means.  Any athletic trainer will tell you that when they hear the word “impact”, they automatically think of ImPACT testing.  An ImPACT test was developed by clinical experts who pioneered the field of helping treat concussions.  ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) is the most-widely used and most scientifically validated computerized concussion evaluation system.  ImPACT provides trained clinicians with neurocognitive assessment tools and services that have been medically accepted as state-of-the-art best practices -- as part of determining safe return to play decisions. Though this is appealing and VERY important in decision making regarding athlete’s return to play protocol, I prefer to think of impact as something that we ensure as health care professionals…something that we choose to do.  Here is how we can make an ImPACT of our own in the profession of athletic training:

 Get involved!! – How often do we see those people just “sitting” on a job?  One thing comes to mind…supervisor.  Yes, we all know that CEO’s and big Whigs of major corporations are apparently making the “big bucks”.  But what is it that they really do? Sure, they might be a pencil pusher and big “high man on the totem pole” who calls the shots.  BUT, are they actually teaching you anything?  What is it that you are learning from your superior?  Are you learning anything at all?  If you commonly find yourself stuck between a rock and a hard sport regarding the “day in and day out” normal work grind of the run of the mill job, you are spinning your wheels.  I challenge you all to broaden your knowledge base of sports medicine and to get involved in an organization in some way or another. Reach out and join a committee, or volunteer to help others.  You’d be surprised how much this would make a difference. Even if you don’t learn anything new, there is always the chance you could educate someone else and become a teacher!

Vote!!-  Every couple of years, there is always the opportunity to elect new board members into new organizations.  Some of which you may have heard of: SWATA, NATA, GHATS, YPC…etc. The list is endless.  How are we able to broaden our base of knowledge and implement knowledge construction in place of knowledge reproduction if we don’t elect new leaders or teachers of our own?  Remember that old hag you had in grade school who was mean to everyone.  20 years later, you realize that she’s still around and now it’s not you dealing with her, only your children are.  Sound familiar?!  Need I say more?  I rest my case!

Stay abreast on current research!!-  Yes, yes, yes.  I know. Last thing that we all want to hear are the words “statistically significant” or “the null hypothesis showed that p is less than 0.5….” blah blah blah.  I myself hated statistics and am NOT a research person. But let me ask you this: The first time you ate some of grandma’s cookies that were dry and tasted like chocolate chip corn bread, did you ask for more?  No!!  You found a way to bake something better right?! Why? Because who wants to eat something that tastes atrocious?  I sure don’t. So, does it make sense to keep “spinning” our wheels? I think you can answer that one. 
There are new trends of research and medicine that are evolving every day.  As health care professionals, how are we to treat the hurt and wounded if we aren’t up to speed on current research and medicine? 

These are just a few of what I can think of off the top of my head.  The list goes on and on.  Like I said, athletic trainers are some of the most unnoticed and disregarded professionals in their line of work.  However, we are called on to help those in times of dire need and emergencies.  If we lose focus for just a second in this line of work, than we too start to spin our wheels. Only then do we make an impact on others, but in a negative way. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Life of an ATC: Is It in You?

As many of us enter the working world as a young aspiring professional in our field, we tend to wonder what it would be like first rattle out of the cage.  We are afraid, excited, and yet somewhat apprehensive of it all.  Prior to entering the world of young professionals, our lives as young adults in college are spent in burning the late night oil trying to accomplish our one goal: graduating.  Afterwards, we seek out what we think would be the easiest thing-securing the job. But, we are still unsure of what to expect once we begin our career. I use to think that a day job would be easy. Though athletic trainers don’t really follow the typical 8am-5PM protocol of work, there is still a lot to say for what we do.  Here are a few reasons why I love being an athletic trainer:

1)  Every day is something new- In this line of work, you can expect the unexpected.  Whether it’s being on the sideline at a football game, sitting under a tent at a soccer match, or getting up close and personal on the basketball court, every day presents it’s own challenges.  I personally have witnessed a variety of injuries and issues that have been personally challenging for me.  At the end of the day, you have dealt with or seen an injury, a psychosocial issue with an athlete, dealt with a parent, or witnessed that big “W” from your favorite team. 

2) It keeps me young- It takes a special kind of person to do what we do. Being a former athlete myself, I couldn’t get enough play time.  Whether it was for myself, or for my father, there was never enough time for me to obtain all the play time that could satisfy me.  Sometimes I reflect back on what times where like when I was a kid- often wishing that I could go back in time and relive those glory days on the field.  I often watch kids catch the hail mary that allows them to score the winning touchdown in a game that separates the men from the boys. Seeing young student athletes achieve something that I would not consider a small feat, makes me feel like I’m a high school kid again.  Not to mention being around student athletic trainers who are half my age.  They alone keep me on my toes.

3) Personal satisfaction- I hate to admit it but there are those times when we all witness an athlete go down on the field. Whether it’s a sprained ankle, a subluxed shoulder, or a torn ACL, we are called on as a confidant and health care professional to use our skills and knowledge and utilize it to the fullest, so we can return that particular student athlete or “all star” back to full player’s status.  For me, there is nothing more rewarding then having a student athlete bounce back from such a horrific injury, only to score the highest percentage points in a district game.  Not to mention, there is always that  big “thank you” from the parent themselves J

4) You become a mentor-  Yes, yes, yes. I hate to admit it too, but I did have ill feelings towards school counselors and mentors when I was in school.  We used to think that all of those health and nutrition classes we took wouldn’t be necessary. Little did I know, I was wrong.  I cannot tell you how many times I have been asked about nutrition, health, or even weight training.  You will soon realize that after you develop a rapport with athletes, you will be the one that they come to in dire needs of advice. 

As you can see, there is a lot more to athletic training that just taping and give the typical “ice water” treatment.  Athletic trainers are what I always consider the step children of the athletic program.  Like musical composers, we are the ones who remain in the background and wait in the wings in case we there is a medical emergency.   We are underpaid and overworked but to me, there is nothing in the world like sitting in the dugout eating sunflower seeds and watching the game from an up close and personal view. In  my opinion, sometimes as the bench warmer, you not only get the best seat in the house, but also hold the most important position on the team.  

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Annie's Advice

One group of young professionals that we like to give advice to are the recently graduated, and recently certified/licensed athletic trainers. We all remember our first year on the job, and the challenges we faced. I quickly learned that everything I learned in the classroom, was just a foundation for what was going to be thrown at me. Having a mentor with some tips to help along the way is a saving grace for many fresh athletic trainers. Below I have complied a list of “tips and tricks” to help the new athletic trainer get through the first few years in the profession.
-Get or Stay close to a mentor from the HS setting
-Know and learn your limitations
-Utilize fellow ATCs
-Be confident in your abilities
-Communicate with your team physician
-Evaluate the whole athlete, not just the suspected injury
-Don't be afraid to refer when necessary
-Work to educate your student athletes and others
-Be honest and straightforward with your athletes, parents, and coaches
-Don't be afraid to say NO
-Take time to have some fun
-Think of it as a marathon, not a sprint. Take everything one-step at a time
-Listen to the Kids
-Get to know the janitors and secretaries
-Set up reasonable protocols
-Introduce yourself to the other team's ATC
-Don't be afraid to a risk
-Listen to those that have more experience than you, but also your students
-You're not going to get everything right 100% of the time. Failing is a part of it. 
-Try not to take work home with you
-Don't be afraid to ask for help
-Talk to the kids like they are adults
-Get to know your AD

Good luck on your career as an athletic trainer! Take it one day at a time, lean on others for advice and assistance, and most importantly, Have FUN! Welcome to the best profession out there. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

How to cruise through speed bumps and avoid traffic jams of the secondary school ATR

I cannot emphasis enough my passion for the secondary setting however it often comes with professionals in the early phases of burn-out. When I see these professionals I want to shake them and help them speed through the chaos of the secondary traffic jams that usually occur from 6:30-9am and 1:30-9pm. I have found that when speaking to my colleagues that are in this situation they often times refuse to change their ways and believe burn-out, stress and extreme tiredness are all part of our profession that we have to accept. This is not true!
A close classmate of mine realized this the hard way. In a classroom setting round table discussion a group of Athletic Trainers from across the nation drilled him with questions often beginning with why, such as “why do you put out water”, “why do you work on Sundays”, “why are you juggling patients” after the intense questioning he broke down. His simple answer was, “I don’t know why, maybe it’s because I have always done it.” This response got me thinking, how could I help him…….?
After collaborating with dozens of secondary athletic trainers from across the nation here is a short and simple map to beginning the steps of avoiding burn-out, lowering your stress level and enjoying your job once again-
1. Make your presence known- yes it may take more time at the beginning however in the end you’ll stop chasing your tail
  a. Speak at booster club, PTA or open house meetings- parents need to know who you are and what your title is.
    i. This is the perfect time to correct vocabulary and emphasis our title as “Athletic Trainers NOT Trainers.”
    ii. Explain your treatment protocol, concussion policy, referral policy etc.
    iii. Communicate with parents, if they have a child that is an athlete they should know you just as if you where the Head Coach
  b. Speak to the faculty- Ask your principle for a 20 minute time slot during your teacher in-service. This again gives you the upper hand in informing the staff of your title and policies
  c. Speak to each of the sports teams- This step is crucial! Do not allow a coach to speak to their athletes about your treatment policies, title, and overall athletic training room procedures. When you allow someone else to inform the athletes you give room for error
2. Make the ATR a clinic- when speaking to your parents, faculty and athletes inform them that they will be treated in a clinic not a “room”. This helps the individuals understand what you are expecting such as:
  a. Schedule appointments with your patients- have your athletes sign an appointment book when they walk in, first come first serve mind-set.
    i. Require all patients to attend am clinical treatments and if needed they can schedule an additional appointment for lunch, athletic period or after school. This gives you the opportunity to create a schedule and provide space between each treatment.
    ii. Require a sense of etiquette within the clinic- low voices, no cell phones, no food, no shoes etc. This will help the athlete understand the importance of their treatment and provide a calming environment
    iii. Slow down- yes you have too many patients for the amount of time you have with them and yes you might not be able to do the entire treatment that you would like or would be beneficial, however you must slow down
1. Learn to prioritize your patients and their treatments- try to see your patients twice a day so that you have the opportunity to do two different treatments. This will provide you time between the treatments to reflect on your patient notes and research any new treatments you would like to do in the second treatment time
2. Stop running around the ATR like a crazy person, it freaks out your patients and causes them to become anxious. Instead take your time with each patient, ask about their day, the upcoming game etc.
3. Give away hydration- yes, this has been a part of our profession forever but when you are treating 30 athletes in a 45 minute window at a 6A high school, water should be the least of your worries. Your focus should be to treat, care, prevent and rehabilitate your patients like the medical professionals we are.
  a. Most high school sports have a manager, spend one class period teaching them how to clean coolers, location of all supplies and process of setting up for practice vs. games.
    i. This allows for more responsibility from the manager which is a skill all teenagers should learn and provides you time to treat patients. This allows for the coach to communicate any schedule changes to a student whom they already have in their class instead of calling you or you worrying about what practice will be like today.
4. Be a professional- This one is going to be the hardest but will make the most impact.
  a. Dress like a professional- Don’t dress like a coach, you are not a coach, you are a medical professional with an extensive background in sports medicine. Don’t be scared to wear something other than khakis. I choose a few years ago to start wearing scrubs in the clinic and for inside sports. I have them in school colors with a monogram of the schools logo and my title. I found that the patients, parents and faculty’s attitude changed remarkably in a positive way. I am treated with respect and curiosity because I have made my presence known that I am a medical professional. This curiosity comes from patients, parents and faculty wanting to know more about athletic training and our skills.
With these 4 easy steps I hope you are cruising through your day and avoiding all traffic jams that occur in the secondary setting. Of course there are countless ways to improve our setting however these have made the most impact on my setting and many others. Please pass along any other ideas that have worked in your setting so I can add them to the list, we are only as good as our weakest link