Social Responsibility is defined as “the promotion of a mutual trust between the profession and the larger public that necessitates responding to societal needs for health and wellness.” Two characteristics I intend to focus on with regards to this core value is the notion of advocating for the health and wellness needs of society and promoting community volunteerism. Advocating for the needs of our patients, pursuant to sample indicator #1, in terms of their health and wellness, is essential for a future physical therapist. As PTs, the best interventions, at times, is the prevention of disease pathologies and education about the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. Given this, I will discuss some examples of community outreach in the promotion of health and wellness that I have undertaken during my time at GSU.
During my tenure as president of the Physical Therapy Student Association, I took the principle of community to heart, through the coordination and leadership of free community health screenings at the Governors State University recreation center. Being able to work with members of the community at our university to provide free screenings for vital signs, balance, and strength was a valuable experience. Through the opportunity, I was offered the ability to use my clinical skills and education to better a community group—in addition to raising awareness and advocacy for physical therapy as a profession. Also, because the opportunity entailed several physical skills (such as the taking of vital signs and balance assessments), it allowed me to practice and tailor these skills.
Artifact - Free Community Health Screenings
This image of Trace and David (used with permission) perfectly embodies what it means to be an excellent PT. There appearance is professional, they appear with confident, and provide clear communication. These two are my role models in the progression of my educational career—moving into my professional career.
Another example of my growth and development, in terms of promoting the health and wellness needs of society, can be seen in my volunteering for the scoliosis screening in May of 2016. In this event, I was provided the opportunity to perform screenings, under the guidance of several of our program professors, on grade school children at St. Benedict’s in Blue Island. Scoliosis is a condition that can progress unnoticed, without a keen eye and assessment skills. Furthermore, the disorder is much more easily treated/staved, if it can be spotted in at young age, but can lead to orthopedic concerns and even pulmonary compromise if unnoticed or untreated for too long. Because of this, scoliosis screenings are essential (and mandated in the state of Illinois) to provide a healthy upbringing for the youth of our nation. The experience required both physical and communicative skills. Physically, I learned and practiced how to use a scoliometer, what to look for, and what justified a “positive” vs. “negative” result. In terms of communication, the experience was different for me because I had to explain what scoliosis was, and why I was testing for it, to a population of students who aged 9-11 years old. Because true community outreach that addresses the health and wellness needs of society must incorporate education, in addition to a physical intervention (if needed), having this opportunity to practice the former was beneficial for my professional growth.
A third instance of my community engagement, in promotion of health and wellness, was in my attendance and work at the community fall screening at Rich Township in October of 2016. In this event, I was provided the opportunity to perform 2 tests, as well as provide education to individuals, regarding fall risks and prevention. Falls are some of the most impactful, traumatic, and life-altering events that an individual can face in their later years. Despite their ability to be prevented, they remain a commonplace source of fractures, brain injury, and subsequent co-morbidities associated with inpatient stays. Because of the numerous co-morbid problems that can result from falls, preventing them is the best practice. Through this event, I was able to practice my assessment of the 5-time sit-to-stand test and the timed-up-and-go test and interpreted these values to give a basic assessment of each individuals fall risk. Additionally, I worked to provide educational information to these individuals about ways to prevent future falls. One thing I found especially profound about this experience was that many of these individuals took information and education, not only for themselves, but to pass along to their friends and family members, as well. Given this, the true extent of the community outreach was likely much than just the individuals in the room, and demonstrated a community outreach that encouraged the action of others, rather than just their understanding.
The second aspect of the core value of social responsibility that I will discuss is the idea of promoting community volunteerism, from sample indicator #6. This principle extends beyond simply providing a service towards encouraging the action of others in providing the service. In many ways, this principle is akin to the idea of promoting patient independence—that our job as a physical therapist should be to “fix” the patient, but to empower the patient to better him or herself. Through my position as president of the Physical Therapy Student Association, I made it a personal and organizational goal to promote volunteerism without the ranks of my class and professional organization.
One example that I already touched upon previously, but will point out again, was my planning and coordination of the community health-screening event. While I could have feasibly gone to recreation center, set up a table, and provided community outreach on my own, the scope of this service would have been limited by the fact that I would be on my own. Rather, I knew that for the event to be truly beneficial to our university’s community, it must incorporate many members from our organization and class. The first community health-screening event was performed in October of 2016, and was used, additionally, as a promotion event for physical therapy month. The event was such a success, in terms of community & volunteer participation and the benefits therefrom, that I made it goal to host another event in the spring. In line with this goal, I organized and lead another health screening in April of 2017 and saw a similarly inspiring participation from my classmates and the community members we served. In accordance with the notion of promoting volunteerism, I hope that through my leadership in coordinating and planning these two events, I have helped pave the way for future classes to continue and build upon these events. In this way, the promotion of community volunteerism would extend, not only, to my current classmates and community members, but to future cohorts and members of the university community.
A second example that I pose as evidence of my development and growth in terms of promoting volunteerism is my leadership and collaboration with others in the planning, execution, and development of the “Run, Walk, or Roll for Rehab” 5k event. During my time in the PTSA, I have been privileged to have a leadership role in planning our club’s paramount community event, in back-to-back years. During these experiences, I learned about the value of collaboration with others, planning, and promotion of volunteerism, in pursuit of benefitting a socially and scientifically vital organization (the Illinois Brain Injury Association). Given the scope of the two events, coordinating the promoting volunteers to work the two events was a major task. Contrary to the community health screenings I lead, which could conceivably been done on a more individual level (albeit with a lessened scope of community benefit), these 5k events could not have been done without the coordinated effort of other leaders and the service of my classmates and volunteers. Because I helped to lead the event in back-to-back years, I was able to appreciate and enact several changes the second year that I learned from the first year. One example of this, which might seem minor, but actually translated to a significant reduction in setup/breakdown time of the event was the creation of a zoning map for the placement of cones and signs. While in the first year, I severely underestimated how long it would take to set up material on the course (and therefore spent a lot of my own time, that could have been better spent elsewhere), the second year, I learned from this area of potential improvement and delegated the actions to other individuals. I divided the course into quarters, determined the quantity of, and where I wanted, the cones, and split individuals up into 4 groups to set up each quarter. The process was much more streamlined than the year before, and allowed me to involve more people in the planning process—paralleling the principle of “promoting volunteerism.” This example of delegating actions to other individuals (rather than overworking and expending my own time) is something that carries over to a physical therapy setting, where time-constraints often necessitate the delegation and supervision of exercise observation to technicians.