I know that physios often complain that the public doesn’t know what we do and that we’ve often used this lack of understanding as an explanation for the chronic underfunding of the profession and our lack of political clout, but I’ve often wondered whether our relative invisibility doesn’t also, sometimes, have its advantages.
Take the New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s latest ‘Occupational Outlook for 2014‘
The new tool is targeted at people looking for career advice and includes a funky new infographic-inspired way of profiling the profession’s current income, costs/fees required to become qualified, and job prospects. There are Apps for your smartphone and an interactive web page to help people compare and contrast between professions.
There are profiles for professions in construction and infrastructure; manufacturing and technology; primary, service, and creative industries, and social and community services. So quite a lot of useful information really.
In the section on Service Industries there are profiles for hairdressers, human resources personnel and exercise instructors, and in the Social and Community Services, profiles for dentists, doctors, early childhood teachers, firefighters, healthcare assistants, journalists, pharmacists, police, psychologists, registered nurses and school teachers.
“But wait,” I hear you say. “Didn’t you miss one between the pharmacists and the police?” “Where are the physiotherapists?”
Well there is no profile for us. It seems the profession simply isn’t big enough to warrant a category all on its own. And so, once again, we’ve been overlooked!
But is this really such a bad thing? Isn’t there something reassuring in the fact that the government and the public don’t have us on their radar at the moment? Aren’t there advantages in being allowed to carry on regardless – managing our own estate without the interference that comes with a high public profile? Do we want the same kind of scrutiny that is afforded to midwives, doctors and psychologists? I wonder.
And things aren’t all that bad. Only a few weeks ago in The Budget, physiotherapy education got a financial boost that it’s been lobbying for for years. The government announced that degree level physiotherapy will be moving to a new funding category from 1st January 2015 – bringing it in line with nursing. This will mean universities get an additional $1,200 of government funding for each enrolled student and at AUT that will equate to an extra $180,000 of funding per year. And that’s not to be sniffed at!
Interestingly, the government’s announcement took everyone by surprise, including both physio schools and our professional society. So it seems we can still achieve good outcomes without being the centre of everyone’s attention.