I have visited a couple of occupational therapy programs in the last few weeks in my role as the Chairperson of the AOTA Ad Hoc Committee on Health Care Reform to talk about current reform initiatives, the potential impacts on occupational therapy and what students can do to become informed and play a role in advocating for our profession. What a blast! The energy, enthusiasm, and potential power is incredible! Last week I visited the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston (UTMB) and this week I visited with the students at Texas Woman's University (TWU). As part of our conversations we talked about steps they could take to advocate for occupational therapy and strategies we can all use to contribute to becoming the powerful profession envisioned in our Centennial Vision for 2017.
I highlighted the word power because there seems to be some sort of cosmic synergy at play for me right now that is very intriguing. Last summer I was asked to submit a workshop proposal for the Texas Occupational Therapy Association (TOTA) conference and at the same time adapted the abstract for submission to AOTA conference in Indianapolis. The workshop "Leadership and Power: Propelling Occupational Therapy Beyond 2017" was accepted for both conferences. So I already had power on my mind when the topic also came up in thinking about the next leadership development program for managers being offered in the fall by AOTA.
Personal power has become a very interesting topic to me as I have worked the last year in a very large (19,000 employees) and very complex organization. I have learned a lot about how to influence others and achieve important goals through collaborative and positive working relationships.
Here are a few random thoughts about personal power and how to increase it:
I would love to hear from others who have learned about personal power and who have consciously worked on increasing their personal power. What did you do and why was it beneficial?
How can we harness the power of our professionals' personal power and that of students and focus it through advocacy?
Much to think about! :-)
Good question, Brent.
I think AOTA is heading in a good direction through the Emerging Leaders Program. It is a great place to nurture the next generation of OT leaders. Meanwhile, then there is the "next cut" of potential leaders I think our profession should also spend some time and nurture, too. They might be a notch below the ones who got the leadership opportunities right now, but their upside could be just as great. I will BOLDLY say that I belong in the latter category! As someone from this perspective, it is important for some notable people in OT (I was fortunate to have Dr. Clark seeing this in me since she met me in day 1 before I started OT school!) to discover these people as well. Just as important as the current next generation "superstars are in our profession, people like me needs to be found and nurtured! Otherwise, I think the profession could lose a potential crop of leaders as they lose their power because there was no one to untap their potential (of course I am exaggerating here).
As for advocacy, I think this is where collaborating with other professions could be handy. In CA, we have an event called CaHPSA Lobby Day (CaHPSA = California Health Professional Student Alliance). Basically, we rallied at state capital building in Sacramento and we also make legislative visits (similar to Capital Hill Day AOTA) to advocate for single payer health care. I think having experiences like this will reinforce some of the things regards to how our profession came about and why we have to be an advocate for our profession.
In regards to what I do, I am actually advocating for an open line of communication between caregivers who are using school based services and the OT's working the profession. For me, I specifically target the autism community because it's an area that is near and dear to me. The fact that I took my time to explain what OT is, what OT could do, and clarification of OT's roles in the school settings to parents over and over again actually was well received by the autism community. So, this is something I will continue to do.
Of course, I will also try to tackle on topics that are crucial to the autism community and put them in form of OT conference presentations. If not, I will also like to team with other autism experts in OT to do conference presentations, as I believe the whole OT community can benefit from hearing about autism from a perspective like mine.