By Kathy I. Dieringer EdD, ATC, LAT, District VI Director
One of the many outstanding aspects of being a part of the
athletic training profession is recognizing the progress we
have made over the years, and seeing the possibilities in
front of us. We certainly have not remained stagnant, which
is vital for any profession, but especially one in healthcare.
At times, recognizing we need to change is difficult;
implementing change, even more difficult. Such is the
case with the elimination of the use of the term, “physician
ATs have worked closely with physicians for decades, with
the term physician extender becoming popular in the 1980s,
primarily as a means to easily identify how the AT or anyone
else was functioning in a physician practice. A physician
extender worked alongside the physician, “extending their
services,” but clearly functioning under the physician’s
supervision. The term quickly became universally accepted in
all areas of healthcare, including among hospital and practice
Unfortunately, healthcare is now moving away from using
this term, as it was being used to describe too many
different types of healthcare providers, all of whom have
different training and levels of competence. Other healthcare
professions have already stopped using the term and are
choosing, instead, to be referred to according to their
credential. Indeed, some hospitals and physician practices
have eliminated the existence of the employee position
known as physician extender.
Another great concern is many ATs are referring to
themselves as physician extenders, rather than as Athletic
Trainers or ATs.
Our profession is experiencing a very important time in our
history. We are becoming leaders throughout healthcare,
increasing our market penetration in every setting and
increasing our presence in legislative and regulatory issues.
The NATA is committed to establishing and reinforcing the
Athletic Trainer brand and is doing an exceptional job. As
we continue to gain momentum in the recognition of our
profession in the healthcare market, it is imperative that we
refer to ourselves as Athletic Trainers.
For the reasons above, this issue was brought to the NATA
Board of Directors by the NATA Committee on Practice
Advancement, after it was also considered and approved by
the NATA Terminology Workgroup. The Board of Directors
unanimously approved this request in January, and the NATA
began to work toward eliminating the term throughout all
marketing material, articles, etc. Now, ATs in this setting
are asked to refer to themselves as “Athletic Trainers in a
physician practice.” This description supports our brand and
further enhances our profession.
It is up to each of us to be an advocate in everything we do,
but especially in how we refer to our own profession. We are
Athletic Trainers first and foremost, regardless of setting or
TE R M I NOLOGY: ATs in a Physician Practice
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