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Professional development for athletic trainers

This is an excerpt from Fundamentals of Athletic Training-3rd Edition by Lorin Cartwright & William Pitney.

Professional development refers to the ongoing responsibility of improving one’s skills and knowledge in order to deliver appropriate health care to injured athletes. The successful AT will behave ethically, stay abreast of the latest medical issues and trends, display good communication skills, and be an effective leader.

Standards of Professional Practice

The AT must treat people fairly to the best of her ability and do what is right. To help its members, NATA has updated its standards of professional practice, which are summarized in the NATA code of ethics (NATA 2005, 1998).

The principles of this code include the following:

Principle 1: Members shall respect the rights, welfare, and dignity of all.

Principle 2: Members shall comply with the laws and regulations governing the practice of athletic training.

Principle 3: Members shall maintain and promote high standards in their provision of services.

Principle 4: Members shall not engage in conduct that could be construed as a conflict of interest or that reflects negatively on the profession.

Staying Educated

If medical professionals never learned how to use anything new or failed to use the most up-to-date technology, an injured athlete would not get the best care. Therefore, once a person has earned the credential ATC after his name, he is required to continue his education. The BOC requires that an AT complete 75 continuing education hours, known as continuing education units (CEUs), every three years. The CEUs are obtained in a variety of ways, such as attending educational workshops, writing and publishing, taking college classes, and completing home study courses. In addition to these professional learning activities, an AT must maintain professional rescuer CPR certification (every three years an AT must show proof of current CPR certification).


Whether an AT works at a high school, college, or sports medicine clinic, she must have good communication skills. ATs communicate daily with athletes, parents, physicians, coaches, and administrators at every level. Failure to send the right message can result in many anxious hours and negative consequences. Jeff Konin, in a text titled Clinical Athletic Training (1997), offers many practical suggestions for ATs to enhance their communication skills. He suggests that as a listener, you should be attentive and open-minded. Establish good eye contact, because direct eye contact sends the message that a matter is important. Also, when you use direct eye contact, people often believe that you spent more time with them than you actually did. Pay attention to your gestures; they send messages that can be interpreted in unintended ways. For example, if a person crosses his arms, he may be thought of as closed off, as though he isn’t really listening.


The profession of athletic training has progressed and flourished, undoubtedly because of the leadership of its members. Several principles and qualities of leadership are important for ATs.

  • Integrity refers to the AT conducting herself in an ethical manner, such as following the standards of professional practice noted earlier.
  • Vision refers to being able to anticipate the needs of the athletes. Asking questions such as “How can we keep athletes from getting this type of injury?” helps ATs begin looking forward with a vision.
  • Inspiration refers to being able to persuade people that your vision is appropriate. For example, when an AT rehabilitates an injured athlete, he inspires the athlete to pursue the vision of normal function and return to participation.
  • Competence refers to having the knowledge and skills necessary to perform effectively.


The PREMIER model provides an easy way of thinking about being a future professional. This model is based on the authors’ experience as professionals in athletic training. The acronym for this model can be found in figure 2.1.

  • Promote a professional image. As a student assistant, you can project a professional image by the way you dress. An old saying states that you don’t get a second chance at a first impression. Although wearing shorts, tennis shoes, and T-shirts may be fine during practice or game coverage for warm-weather activities, it is imperative that you be distinguishable and professional looking in case someone needs to find you for help.
  • Remember your vision. You must have a good understanding of your career goals and objectives and what type of person you are striving to become. Some people write down their vision statement so they can continually be reminded of their purpose and set appropriate personal goals.
  • Engage in learning. As a student and future professional, it is important to take initiative to learn new things daily.
  • Maximize your strengths. We all have limitations. If you dwell too much on them, you may not learn and do the things that can make you successful. Cultivate your strengths and ask yourself how they can support your personal vision.
  • Innovate and create. Over the past 10 to 20 years, technology has continually advanced. Today’s problems cannot be solved with yesterday’s solutions. As a future professional, it is important for you to develop new ideas. This will keep you excited about your work.
  • Enlist the help of others. In the previous chapter you learned about the role of the AT and the sports medicine team. The old saying that there is no I in team is absolutely accurate. Be a team
  • Reflect. When you become a professional, it will be essential to think back on what you have done and consider the results, whether you are rehabilitating an athlete or performing a tape job on an ankle. Get into the habit now of reflecting on your actions in the athletic training room to help you learn what you might do better in a similar situation in the future.

Tom Abdenour, ATC, states that you should C your way to success as a certified AT. The four Cs are conscientiousness, competency, courtesy, and courage. To be successful, be conscientious about the little things, such as following through with treatments, maintaining a clean and safe facility, and being available to the athletes. Being conscientious involves representing yourself, your organization, and your profession in a quality manner and being loyal to your staff and organization. Competency involves being good at what you do and continually learning to expand your horizons. Courtesy involves being a team player, interacting with everyone you work with in a positive manner, and treating people as you would want to be treated. Finally, to be successful, you must have the courage and fortitude to take on

More Excerpts From Fundamentals of Athletic Training 3rd Edition