for exercise physiologists
3 No 9 September 2000
the Sense of Purpose
Tommy Boone, PhD, MPH, FASEP
Professor and Chair
Director, Exercise Physiology
College of St. Scholastica
“There is nothing
more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to condut or more uncertain
in its success than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order
of things.” -- Machiavelli, 1592
AT FIRST GLANCE, nobody
likes change. It goes against the survival instinct of an organization
and, yet change is necessary for growth and prosperity. Any organization
that isn’t willing to risk change and to confront challenges is likely
to surrender to less than their best performance (1).
The degree to which we understand change helps us understand the Will Rogers’
quote “Even if you’re on the right track you’ll get run over if you just
sit there.” The key is not just doing something right but doing the
right thing. Those that fail to do the right thing do not have a
compelling vision for their future. Without a vision, it is next
to impossible to know why an organization exists.
What is ASEP’s fix on its
direction and, thus its framework for making decisions? In short,
where is ASEP heading? The answers to these questions is in the ASEP
It tells us where we are headed, why we make decisions as we do, and what
to expect to find when we get there. In other words, a vision is
so important that it must never been ignored or forgotten. It is
the driving force of the organization. It is why the leaders are
committed to turning ideas into action. It is why our sights
are set on accomplishing the ASEP Goals
What about the Exercise Physiologist
exam? We feel that it contributes to the Vision. It is a reasonable
expectation with a target time frame. It has purpose, specificity,
and a history of events leading up to the “first-ever” national certification
of an exercise physiologist. What about the accreditation of exercise
physiology academic programs at the college and university level?
This, too, is an action committed to by the Board of Directors. The
Board knew who could get it done and when it would be completed.
That person is Dr. Dale Wagner of Vanguard University in California.
The development of the ASEP Accreditation
Manual is not a knee-jerk reaction to the gross inconsistencies in
our academic programs. Rather, it is the key factor in understanding
the primary reason for ASEP’s existence and the strategy necessary for
In today’s academic settings,
it is almost unheard of where an academic program is not accredited.
Yet, for decades, there hasn’t been an effort to organized exercise physiology.
As a result, there is little consistency across programs (either by name
or curriculum), and no evaluation of the appropriateness of such programs.
Without the commonly recognized credentials of certification (and not just
any certification), licensure, and accreditation, the idea of continuing
unchanged says little for the academic exercise physiologists. The great
silence of the academic community is a problem. Think about it.
ASEP is working to fix past failures, and one of the more disheartening
aspects of doing so is the lack of support from the academic community.
The strategy for doing business faster than usual was always to have the
academic community understand the reasons for change. The message
at the beginning was that exercise physiologists have missed the opportunity
to professionalize the field. The silence needs to be broken on behalf
of all exercise physiologists. Otherwise, the price of failure is
reciprocal – when we stop creating change, we stop growing.
This would be a good time
for academic exercise physiologists to risk their position on behalf of
the profession. To turn the profession around, we have to begin and
allow for a lot of time to realize the turn. The size and complexity
of the idea are particularly challenging, but not impossible. The
impossible has already been done – ASEP!
Its leadership and members are working hard to teach and to set an example.
It isn’t easy, however. Finding help who is willing to invest time
in realizing the new exercise physiology structure has not been easy. Thomas
Carlyle said, “We must get rid of fear; we cannot act until then.”
Even in today’s age of enlightenment, no one is totally free of fear.
The fear of not belonging or belonging to the wrong group, associating
with the wrong people, failure to say the right thing, and not looking
like a group player are fears all of us understand. After all,
this is the reason some organizations refuse to cooperate with others.
Out of fear, just one or two key people in high positions can keep organizations
apart and from helping each other. It isn’t right yet it happens
all the time. The quality of the communications between organizational
leaders depends heavily on the examples set by those in charge. It
is either deenergizing and demoralizing or energizing and empowering.
The message here is that
as long as academic exercise physiologists are making it, no one really
looks at the the inherent problems. At the same time, though, necessity
for change is driving them to recreate themselves with a new label.
This will very likely require the cooperation of ASEP members and, after
all, ASEP is for all exercise physiologists. This is a critical issue
about the organization. The point is this: even though non-exercise
physiologists can join ASEP, the differences between them and ASEP exercise
physiologists exist with voting rights. The reason is simple.
People, whether in an organization or not, compete against each other.
The lack of agreement between exercise physiology members and non-exercise
physiology members, should it ever exists, will not dictate the ASEP initiatives.
This is essential in mainstreaming the exercise physiology agenda.
An initiative that will, in fact, take some time to correct.
Herein lies one of the key
issues in managing change: the need for stability and a setting in which
members can acquire the credentials they need for job satisfaction.
The common theme is that credentials are important to the increased assurance
of better jobs and better pay. Credentialing is not defined by a
single approach to one item of interest. It involves a shift in thinking
from just certification to licensure and accreditation. It is, for
instance, a shared vision with the potential to influence behavior and
to overcome resistance. A vision nonetheless that requires a certain
amount of politicking and, therefore, not surprisingly, it is necessary
to reach out to all exercise physiologists.
In time, most exercise physiologists
will recognize the power that comes with the right credentials, the ability
to control the profession through its Code
of Ethics, and the higher level of competence and commitment to the
profession. Hence, what is being suggested is that change isn’t a
bad thing especially when there is a certain feeling of powerlessness without
the doctorate. If change is done correctly, those who view themselves
without power will benefit. This includes many of the individuals
who have graduated with a degree in exercise physiology with a tuition
loan of $60,000 to land a part-time cardiopulmonary rehabilitation job
under the direction of a physical therapist or a nurse.
The challenge for each of
us is to share in the ASEP Vision by supporting the organization and its
right to self-manage the profession. The barriers between related
organizations need to come down. Likewise, the differences in attitude
and thinking among exercise physiologists, however welcomed and important
forces for change, need a common ground of agreement from which the average
exercise physiologist can be helped in doing his/her work. The drawbacks
to not working with each are obvious: the most significant being, a less
than respected group of professionals. No one desires the latter
so all of us will need to embrace the new model for change and over time
work out the logistics of participative management of the exercise physiology
Credibility from Within
For those unwilling to change,
we will miss you. We will miss your technical help and support, your
leadership skills and knowledge, and your ability to communicate with others
and to facilitate committee work and/or organizational functions.
Again, we will miss you. We will, however, move on and manage exercise
physiology from within the ASEP organization. The trick for the unwilling
is to figure out the reasons for change, and accept the value of change
for everyone. Let us all have the courage to sit down and talk objectively
and passionately about the broadest possible definition of exercise physiology
and its Scope
of Practice in the public sector. In so doing, let us keep in
mind the concept of balance between research and professionalism.
Let us not loose sight of either while trying to bridge the two with honest
communication, and let us learn how to lead with integrity and respect
for all exercise physiologists.
The basic point is: Important
work-related changes shaping the nature of what non-PhD exercise physiologists
do in the public sector demand that we become more sophisticated with respect
to issues of credibility. With that increased sophistication, we
can help our graduates be more competitive. We can even make the
profession of exercise physiology more exciting and personally satisfying
for all exercise physiologists. It is also my impression that it
is naïve to assume that any generic organization, however good at
what it does, can completely reorient an emerging profession like exercise
physiology. This is especially the case with the development of undergraduate
accreditation and new ways of thinking about the field.
It is almost impossible to
overstate the significance of what accreditation will bring to the field.
The changes that are expected to take place will require more exercise
physiologists to allocate more time to finding intelligent ways to adapt
to the academic changes. Managing the academic diversity in an effective
and responsible way requires, first, leadership and then, second, the ability
to manage the implementation steps of accreditation in as responsible way
as possible. But, given the truism that “knowledge is power” and
yet information alone is not always enough (2), the key
ingredient for those aspiring to professionalism is perseverance.
John P. Kotter presented early in his book, Power and Influence,
the following statement that is a good example that knowledge alone is
“Beyond the yellow
brick road of naivete and the muggers lane of cynicism, there is a narrow
path, poorly lit, hard to find, and even harder to stay on once found.
People who have the skills and the perseverance to take that path serve
us in countless ways. We need more of these people. Many more.”
There is no doubt that the challenge
for many of us is to learn how to persevere. This kind of thinking
is absolutely essential in all aspects of the professionalization.
Essential, especially because of the present organizational structure and
delivery system (or the lack of it). The lack of accreditation and
academic sophistication to keep pace with other professions must change,
and change it will with the ASEP restructuring of exercise physiology.
The power of a singular voice
for exercise physiology can not be overlooked any longer. For some
time, exercise physiology has needed a professional organization that is
held accountable for translating to the others its vision and purpose for
its existence. ASEP is designed to share professional authority by
means of sharing organizational governance. The professional organization
should be the source of exercise physiology practice, whether academic,
clinical, and/or in the business realm. Shared governance allows
for increased control over the profession, with increased opportunity for
personal and professional achievement and economic security.
L. (1994). Mastering the Challenges of Change. New York, NY: AMACOM.
J. P. (1985). Power and Influence. New York, NY: The Free Press.
©1997-2000 American Society of Exercise Physiologists. All Rights
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