An In Depth Look with… Doug Long, ATC
Describe your setting:
I am in a hospital based clinical setting. We provide weekly school visits to eleven local high schools and one junior college. We are in one local high school and the community college on a daily basis. We provide game staffing for any of our schools’ home events that we can work into our collective schedule. We also have responsibilities for doing rehabilitation on sports injuries in our Great Plains Sports and Therapy facility, an affiliate of Great Plains Regional Medical Center.
We are a multifaceted group. There are two other ATs, one PT/ATC and a Specialist Certified in Sports Physical Therapist on our Sports Medicine Team. Our entire Rehabilitation Services Department houses Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Speech/Language Pathology and Sports Medicine. We have an outpatient Pulmonary Rehabilitation section in our gym area. We offer speed, agility and quickness/athletic enhancement camps in the summer for area athletes. We provide services to twelve high schools and one junior college in the North Platte area. We staff schools in four counties. Participant schools range from Nebraska Class A, the largest enrollment to Class D2 the smallest enrollment. We staff over 50 football games in a fall season. We also staff over 75 athletic events in the winter and summer.
Our department has begun doing pre-employment job screens for outside employers and for our own hospital. Two of our ATs are an integral part of that screening process. The goal of the job screen is to identify participants who are at risk for not being physically able to perform their job duties. I also work with our bariatric surgical team to implement physical activity programs for patients who have had or who are going to have bariatric/weight loss surgical interventions.
How long have you worked in this setting?
I began work here in North Platte, Nebraska in private practice physical therapy clinic. Two years into that employment Great Plains Regional Medical Center bought the practice and we all became hospital employees. I have been in the clinical setting for 23 years. Prior to the clinic I was the Head Athletic Trainer and Physical Education Instructor at Chadron State College, here in Nebraska.
Describe your typical day:
I am a full-time, hourly-paid employee, as opposed to a salaried employee. I work a 40-hour week and avoid overtime. My days vary from 10-hours to only four hours depending on patient load and game staffing requirements.
On clinic days, I start out going to my assigned schools to evaluate injuries that have occurred since my last visit or follow up on existing injuries. Then I go back to the clinic to catch up on paper work. I go out to North Platte Community College to teach Care and Prevention of Athletic Injuries at noon and then open the athletic training facility from one to three in the afternoon. After the college I come back to the clinic to see sports injury patients or general fitness patients in our FIT Camp program until as late as six or six thirty as needed. I sometimes also come in a 5:00am to work with a FIT Camper if that is what fits their schedule best.
On days I will be staffing a game, I may not come into the clinic at all in the morning. I will come in about noon, check email, check in with the Director of Rehabilitation Services, get a cooler of ice and leave for the game I am going to staff.
What do you like about your position?
Like most Athletic Trainers I love seeing injured athletes go back to the playing surface and do well. The best part of my job is the variety of athletes with whom we work. We have the opportunity to work with athletes who are just starting out in Elementary and Middle School athletics. We also work with high school or junior college athletes who perform at higher levels.
While working with athletes is a big piece of the satisfaction of the job, the salary and benefits are also a good part of my position. We are included in the hospital benefits package, so we are eligible for overtime when we have it. Our hourly rate is in the mid-range of the NATA Salary Survey for similar entities in our geographical and clinical type setting. As hourly employees, we are qualified for our hourly rate of pay, plus additional rates for overtime, weekend and night time increases. We have access to many free services provided to all hospital employees, like free flu shots and other required vaccinations.
What do you dislike about your position?
Like many jobs the amount of paperwork is a drawback. Aside from daily notes, we are compelled to do monthly recertification forms asking the physician to allow us to continue rehabilitation services for the patient if they need to go longer than 30-days. As a hospital based entity we are held to nationally regulated rules for documentation, compliance, HIPPA, Starke Law, etc. There are many departments of our hospital with whom we must work effectively to ensure we are meeting all requirements for accreditation and compliance. We are sometimes held to different criteria than our private practice counterparts.
There are three other practices here in town trying to provide physical therapy/sports medicine staffing in the schools we have serviced for 20 years. The competition with those entities is a daily struggle. They express an interest in sports medicine injuries. They even go so far as to provide on-field care for some athletic events. They are staffing these events under the notion that physical therapy can be provided in the setting offered.
Losing patients to other practices is a very discouraging part of the practice. To be in compliance with federal standards, the patient has the right to choose their care givers and I understand that. The other practice was nowhere around when the athlete is on the sideline mourning the loss of his senior season. We staff games, give athletes the best care on the sideline, give them crutches, wraps and advice…then they go to another practice for their follow up care.
What advice do you have about your practice setting for a young athletic trainer looking at this setting?
Young ATs going into any setting should be aware of several key issues:
- Identify job responsibilities, athletic event and practice staffing, what engagement in non-athletic programs will be required, travel requirements, administrative duties.
- Know the difference between hourly pay and salaried pay. (Hourly rate may allow you to have more of a “life” outside of work.)
- Investigate the availability and policies surrounding continuing education funding and time off.
- Look into the retirement package. Retirement may be a long ways off for the young professional. Believe me, when I say that retirement will be in sight in the blink of the proverbial eye.