Describe your setting:
I am employed at McKinley Health Center at the University of Illinois (U of I), located in Champaign. The Health Center serves the students at U of I – a total population of about 42,000. I thoroughly enjoy working on such a beautiful campus with an extremely diverse student population. I work directly under a Physical Therapist and I am the only Athletic Trainer (AT) in this setting. We work closely with a nutritionist and a fitness educator, and the four of us comprise the SportWell Center within McKinley. I do therapy with patients and treat athletic and/or exercise-related injuries sustained by students (undergraduate, graduate and doctoral), with the exception of intercollegiate athletes. I typically work with injuries sustained through club sports, intramurals, exercise classes, weight-lifting/working out, and running. Oftentimes, I will collaborate with other SportWell providers for the health and well-being of our patients.
How long have you worked in this setting?
I am just starting my 5th year in the clinic. Prior to this, I had never worked in a clinical setting, and the Health Center had never employed a full-time AT. Though it was a completely new experience for all of us, it was an easy transition for me and the camaraderie was instantaneous with the other SportWell providers.
Describe your typical day:
Starting at 8:00am, I generally see between 8-12 patients/day, by appointment only. Appointments generally last between 30-60 minutes each. I do an initial injury evaluation for first-time patients, where I will assess their gait, posture, footwear or other biomechanical factors that may be influential. During follow-up appointments, I generally focus on taking them through therapeutic exercises or provide hands-on treatment. I catch up on injury documentation over lunch, and at the end of each day. Occasionally I work at health resource fairs around campus and collaborate with other health professionals to organize running clinics each semester, which focus on injury prevention, proper running technique, nutrition and training. About 40% of my patients are runners, so I do a fair amount of running gait analyses and instruct numerous patients on proper running form.
What do you like about your position?
All patient interaction is by appointment-only, no walk-in hours. I work 40 hours/week and make my own schedule each semester. The appointments in this setting are provided for the students with one flat health service fee each semester, so I don’t work with insurance fees. The benefits in this clinical setting are great, and I enjoy working with a small staff that specializes in several different healthcare domains. Over the past three years I have seen a drastic increase in the number of running-related injuries on campus, since U of I has been the site of the Illinois Marathon, and I am currently working toward a certification in Good Form Running. This is a great setting for me to specialize in running-related injuries and prevention.
What do you dislike about your position?
I am the only AT at the University Health Center, so oftentimes during the fall and spring semesters my schedule is booked out for 2-3 weeks, and each year the number of student visits increases. Because of this, students are limited with the number of treatments they can receive each semester. I am limited with the types of modalities I am able to use for treatment in this setting as well.
What advice do you have about your practice setting for a young Athletic Trainer looking at this setting?
First, and foremost, I would advise young professionals to try to work in a variety of athletic training venues/settings as students, in order to decide where they are best-suited. Even if you think you know where you want to end up in your career, certain experiences or opportunities may steer you in another direction. My particular clinical setting is unique for an AT because of the types of injuries I have worked with, and the limitations in treatment options, but it has certainly broadened my knowledge and creativity with regards to therapy and hands-on treatment. It is imperative to think outside the box when developing home therapy routines in order to keep patients interested. Unless the student is willing to go to the rec center for daily therapy, he/she may not be diligent with recommendations, which can be frustrating for both the AT and the patient.
Convenience is the key to patient-compliance in this setting, which leads to positive outcomes. Also, I have found that broadening my knowledge in hands-on types of treatments has been extremely beneficial in this setting. I have attended several courses about myoskeletal techniques and positional release therapy, which have resulted in good outcomes. I see the same types of injuries in my office day in and day out, so learning a variety of different treatment techniques through continuing education opportunities helps to keep myself and my patients entertained, all the while working to get the best injury outcomes.