By Matt Hawkins

Bradley’s doctor of physical therapy students engaged legislative leaders through the American Physical Therapy Association’s annual political advocacy week. The letter-writing campaign introduced students to issues they will face as professionals working with patients.

Physical therapy students nationwide sent more than 10,000 letters and emails to congressional members during the week, which focused on APTA efforts to remove Medicare’s cap for physical and speech therapy payments. Students researched the issue through class activities prior to the advocacy week and familiarized themselves with APTA’s resources.

“This set me up to be a better physical therapist,” said Derek Nunnamaker, of East Peoria. “It’s exciting to see the response to events like this because we know we have a valuable force behind us.”

Hannah Booker, OF Tremont, Illinois, credited the exercise for showing her challenges patients may face beyond rehabilitation concerns.

“This pushed us outside the physical issues we deal with to help us see financial and emotional matters that can affect care,” she said. “I’m glad we’re learning now about tools that will help us later.”

Physical therapy professor Dr. Jamie Way said the exercise would make students stronger advocates for patients once students moved into professional settings.

“Students understand the concept of advocacy, but it will be a bigger impact in clinical settings when they work with patients,” she said. “That’s when students will be forced to work around these other issues patients face. It will bring to life the need for advocacy on behalf of patients.”