Recently, I read a compelling Facebook post by Brent Braveman, PhD, OTR/L, in which he wrote: “In another thread on a state association’s Facebook page I suggested that in order to be successful in responding to bundled payments by CMS, we need to have a seat at the table and understand the conversation. A colleague responded by describing my words as ‘trite and overused.’ So I provided 10 examples of ways my staff and I have found a seat at the table to promote the distinct value of OT.”
Braveman proceeded to list 10 excellent examples of ways that he and his staff have used or created opportunities to be included in decision-making groups within their hospital system. These committees included falls prevention, procuring DME and hospital safety. They make decisions that hugely affect patient care and therapists’ everyday work lives. I applaud Braveman’s active participation, encouragement of his team’s involvement, and willingness to take time to endorse and explain why taking a seat at the table is necessary and good.
No matter where you work, whether in a large and complex system or a solo practice, there are small groups of people making big decisions that will affect your everyday work performance and quality of life. Whether informed or uninformed, these people open and close the doors to your ability to practice occupational therapy fully and your quality of life on the job. If they do not have an assertive occupational therapist in the group, your perspective will be absent. Let’s be real. Who else on the team thinks as you do? Can you count on other professionals to look at patients’ needs with the breadth and depth that you have, or to look out for your OT colleagues’ best interests? Not likely.
Now let’s consider reasons to resist joining a decision-making group, such as a committee.
Reason 1: “I hate committees. They’re boring and nothing really gets done.”
My response: That’s a generalization, and every committee is unique. See if you can sit in on a meeting before joining. You may be pleasantly surprised, and of course you’ll be that proactive participant who keeps the work moving forward.
Reason 2: “They don’t pay me to go to meetings.”
My response: At your next supervision meeting or performance appraisal, mention your goal is to be more active as a team member and leader. Be ready to suggest a committee or work group that interests you, or that you want to initiate.
Reason 3: “I’m a contract therapist.”
My response: Step up and offer to attend some meetings at no charge; it could open surprising doors. Offer consultation to a work group that fits your expertise.
Reason 3: “I’m an introvert, and I don’t feel comfortable speaking up in groups.”
My response: Get over it. Sorry, that was harsh. What I mean to say is you have worked hard and acquired a ton of knowledge and expertise that is important and worthy, and being ready and willing to speak up is central to advocacy — a key role for every occupational therapy practitioner. If you’re really anxious about doing this, enroll in your local Toastmasters chapter and develop your strength and skills more. Then get your committee mojo going!
It’s time to stop whining around the water cooler. If we want to be recognized for all that OT is and has to offer, we need to be at the tables where people discuss problems and solutions, and make the decisions about our work and our clients’ care.