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Athletic Trainer Retention: What Are We Doing About It?

By: Jenna Street, MS, ATCstreet.jenna@gmail.com@JennaStreet

One of the hottest topics in the athletic training profession right now is Athletic Trainer (AT) retention.  Whether you hear it discussed in social media, at conferences or over a casual cup of coffee, the topic is of interest among ATs throughout the industry.

As ATs, we sometimes feel undervalued within our profession. In some cases, people use the athletic training profession as a stepping stone to another profession.  The common reasons Athletic Trainers, specifically young professionals, leave the profession include odd hours, long days, salary, family conflicts and lack of professional and community respect.  Almost all of the topics mentioned have solutions.  The answers may not be fast or immediate, but they are worth exploring.

In order to find solutions, we must first change the conversation. Don’t ask why people are leaving the profession; ask why people are staying in the profession. In addition, we need to have the conversation of how to help others stay in the profession.  There are numerous Athletic Trainers who have been in the profession for over 25 years; they must know a thing or two!  We must remember there is a reason we all entered this profession and a reason why many of us stay.

As an Athletic Trainer, your reasons might include helping others or having a love of sports, the human body or the mechanism of injury.  You might enjoy the overall fun of the job, like never having 2 days the same.  Athletic Trainers also have the ability to work in a clinic, a hospital, outside on a field and travel both nationally and internationally.  There is also the flexibility of working full time, part time or contract.  You could work 9-5, or not.  Athletic training professionals also have the ability to teach within the profession.

I can personally speak to this topic with this being my 9th year as an AT.  As an AT and a young professional, there have been numerous sleepless nights, coaches who are practically impossible to work with, not to mention the parents, sponsors, insurance … and the list can go on.  However, for each moment that tries my patience or robs me of a night’s sleep, there are countless moments that keep me going to work with a smile on my face.  I love that no 2 days are the same. I love the challenge; the collaboration with other healthcare providers; the smile on an athlete’s face when they notice an improvement; the opportunity to travel and, most of all, the thank you from the athlete.  For me, this list of positives could continue to go on and on.

We should be surprised at ourselves for not changing the conversation sooner.  After all, one of our primary roles as an AT is prevention of injury and illness.  How can we not take this same approach of prevention and apply it to our profession and our career?

These solutions may not be fast, but if we first turn the conversation to be a positive conversation, it will catch on