For Real Change, PAs Must Commit to Advocacy

AAPA President Urges PAs to Take Action in Order to Keep PA Profession Relevant

December 21, 2020

By Beth Smolko, DMSc, MMS, PA-C, DFAAPA

Beth Smolko headshot
Beth Smolko, DMSc, MMS, PA-C, DFAAPA

Over the past many months, one thing has become abundantly clear: PAs are the flexible, adaptable, high-quality providers that our healthcare system needs—especially when responding to a crisis as far-reaching as COVID-19.

We already knew this, of course. However, others are now noticing the power of the PA profession and how effective we can be when fewer barriers are standing in our way. In several states and at the federal level, some PA practice restrictions have been temporarily waived to allow for more flexibility. Although those temporary orders have been a welcome change, we now need to focus on making these changes permanent.

Our patients’ health and well-being depend on us. Now is not the time to back down; now is the time to mobilize our profession to remove barriers and achieve our goals. But first, we must overcome apathy.

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AAPA works strategically and tirelessly to support state and federal advocacy efforts. We know that it is important to our members and that removing barriers can have a positive effect on PA practice.

As we head into 2021, there will be tremendous opportunities in state legislatures to make a push for change. AAPA will once again collaborate with our state chapters, assisting with everything from drafting legislation and developing communication plans to securing earned media mentions.

Unfortunately, the combined efforts of AAPA and state chapter leaders are not always enough. It takes a village—and that village must include you.

[Get involved in AAPA’s policy and efforts – join or renew your membership today]

For years, a small number of PA leaders, often with little financial support or inadequate numbers of volunteers, have been leading their individual state’s advocacy efforts, diligently trying to change legislation and improve PA practice. Too often, though, they have been on their own without the collective force of their state’s PAs behind them.

To create lasting change that will elevate the PA profession across the country, PAs and PA students need to be more active advocates. We need to amplify our message and make our voices heard, and we can only do that with your help.

Participating in advocacy efforts does not require taking on a leadership role or making a significant time commitment. Our state chapters understand that it is not an option for everyone, especially in uncertain times like these. But they can still use your voice, which is an incredibly powerful tool. This could take as little as 5 minutes of your time.

Grassroots advocacy is a critical part of policy change and often is one of the easiest and most effective ways to take action. Legislators want to hear from their constituents, not paid lobbyists. As practicing PAs, students, and educators, you have stories that bring to life key issues legislators need to hear and understand. Personal stories portraying your experience can be powerful and can help move legislators into action.

Here is what I’m asking of you: When your state chapter or AAPA urges you to reach out to your legislators, remember that every voice and every action counts. Make your voice heard. When an advocacy alert goes out to 10,000 PAs, we need 10,000 PAs answering the call—not 200. When your state chapter hosts a hill day in your state capitol, be there.

I have heard from too many state leaders that PAs are apathetic and unwilling to take even small actions. If that does not change, neither will PA practice. And as we have learned this year, our profession must be open to change, or we will fall behind.

No one else is going to do this for us or for our patients. We must be accountable and responsible for the changes we want to achieve—changes that are not just nice to have. They are necessary to ensure the PA profession remains relevant and competitive in today’s and tomorrow’s marketplace.

I am imploring each and every one of you to take action because every letter, every email, every phone call, every PA present at the state capitol amplifies our voice by one more. Those single actions add up to make us a powerful force.

Join your state chapter. Renew your AAPA membership. Make your voice heard. Your profession and your patients depend on it.

This article was originally published in the December 2020 issue of JAAPA.

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