One of the presentations I gave this week was to students in the OT program at San Jose State University in California.  I was grateful to receive feedback today that the students found my description of professional association membership valuable and thought I would share it.

There are over 140,000 occupational therapy professionals in the United States.  We have approximately 41,000 members of AOTA.  When talking with policymakers the more powerful statistic is “we represent the interest of over 140,000 occupational therapy professionals across the United States.”  The reality is that we are doing that with the resources generated by 41,000 members.  Imagine what could do with 60,000 members; 80,000 members or 100,000 members.  This brings to light the question why be a member of my professional associations, what is the value to me as a practitioner?

I view membership like an insurance policy.  I am a member of my national and state associations to protect my ability to continue in my daily practice.  AOTA and my state association are protecting the work I do today and paving the way for the work I seek to do tomorrow.  Without AOTA’s advocacy efforts of the years past there would not be reimbursement for occupational therapy in Medicare, IDEA, Medicaid, etc….our ability to earn a paycheck to do the work we love is directly correlated to the success of our professional associations.  Finally, the information provided from AOTA and my state association is the power I need to be an informed practitioner.  AOTA and your state associations are right now positioning Occupational Therapy to be successful in the implementation of health care reform.  What if they were not there, where would that leave your clients and your practice?

I also, do not believe that we can look at membership as an either or scenario.  Inevitably, when I am presenting and the topic of membership comes up, half of the individuals who identified as being AOTA members also identify being members of their state association.  Both are essential to your practice.  Both serve a distinct purpose to your clients and your practice.  Both need your support.

I do not believe we, as associations, have a good understanding of why people are or are not members of their national and state associations.  This is however, something I want to know.  So, why are you or are you not a member of AOTA and your state association?