OF EXERCISE PHYSIOLOGISTS
of Exercise Physiologyonline
An international electronic
journal for exercise physiologists
Vol 2 No 10 October 1999
Issues, Leadership, and Hope in Exercise Physiology
Tommy Boone, PhD, MPH, FASEP
Professor and Chair, Department of Exercise Physiology, College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN
Is the exercise physiology job market a solvable problem? Is the hope that ASEP can materially improve professionalism a reasonable expectation? Are exercise physiologists overwhelmed by the challenges before them? Are non-ASEP exercise physiologists likely to adopt a pro-ASEP strategy? Are virtually all exercise physiology jobs likely to remain in the large cities versus work in the urbanized areas? What is the justification for change? Is it time to face up to the curriculum needs? Are problems in locating the right job just the tip of the iceberg? Is it irrational, dumb, and wasteful to argue it is time to something? These issues are just a beginning in this article. There are other issues.
Do exercise physiologists have the right to continue dialogue on all aspects of professionalism? Is it within the hope and power of ASEP to design and construct highways of opportunity with increased public interests? Is it too tantalizing, too revealing, or too much of a surprise for exercise physiologists to decide to govern themselves? Is talk about certification, licensure, and accreditation a sign of mental bankruptcy? The problem is not one or two fundamental concerns. It is much more.
These are tough issues, but it is important that today’s exercise physiologists not curdle into complacency. While it is impossible to predict the future, exercise physiologists are better equipped today to create a shared vision with application to diverse opportunities in the public sector. Signs of success are evident with the upcoming Second Annual ASEP Meeting in Albuquerque, NM. Under the leadership of Dr. Robert Robergs, efforts to promote exercise physiology haven’t been more apparent. Even the most improverished should recognize the vigorous, steadfast commitment to professionalism.
The best examples of sustainable expansion include the continued strategic framework for addressing professionalism. The upcoming meeting presents cutting-edge research and proposals essential to establishing improved safeguards for insuring better jobs. The proposals are tempered with educational and public policies that represent the new frontiers of exercise physiology. The commitment is absolute. It is a new beginning to help shape the profession and the world in which exercise physiologists work.
To help meet the challenge, the goal of ASEP is to set standards to insure that exercise physiology is recognized as a world-class profession. The power of standards and accountability is that, for the first time, all exercise physiologists can be held to the same high standards of performance. Course and content standards, internship requirements, hands-on laboratory skills, and the completion of a baccalaureate degree defines quantitatively recognized professionalism.
The partnership between ASEP and its members is especially important to networking with other exercise physiologists to refine and renew their own birthright. With the 21st century just around the corner, the power of the interaction between ASEP and exercise physiologists lies in the alliance that will chart the course for new leadership. Leadership among exercise physiologists is an underutilized weapon in the battle for professionalism. In the new era of cooperation, exercise physiologists are devoting time to professional development.
Hence, exercise physiology is undergoing today what might be considered the crossroads to remaining fixed to sports medicine as a discipline of study or becoming a profession. Under the pressure of college graduates to locate good paying jobs, department heads are beginning to analyze market demand. Curriculum reform and internal reorganization are anticipated to relieve the tension that is produced between the college graduates and their right to access good paying jobs.
Given the recent development of the American Society of Exercise Physiologists, now is the time for the current system of leaders in the field to provide assistance to ASEP in bringing about curriculum changes. Restraints should be removed and discussion about “how to” update the curriculum are important to the professionalization of exercise physiology. In addition, the proposed changes should incorporate a strategy for providing universal guidance in the development of future leaders in exercise physiology. These activities, while unprecedented in exercise physiology, have been managed successfully in other fields of study.
There doesn’t have to a complete agreement on how best to define leadership, except that college professors should acknowledge their responsibility and accountability for the courses they teach. Joint accountability with department heads who oversee the academic programs should help to insure quality and appropriateness of the services. All non-relevant courses should be dropped from the curriculum in order to insure a quality of instruction and efficient use of resources and hands-on experiences. Quality controls need to be in place at every institution to evaluate the status of the program offerings.
The aim is to provide a better education with more job opportunities through a more logical interconnection between colleges and careers options in the public sector. Currently, there is very little support of this kind. The restructuring of existing academic programs is complex. Change, however, is inevitable as is the integration of exercise physiology into the mainstream of professional thinking and service. Exercise physiologists can no longer remain controlled by traditional influences.
Although recently, there are scattered concerns from practitioners that a formal education and clinical preparation should be required of all exercise physiologists, ASEP represents the first step to negotiate curriculum reform. This can only be viewed as a positive step forward for the professional development of exercise physiology. There is an urgent need for more exercise physiologists as visionary leaders to help direct the profession and college graduates into the 21st Century.
Students need to hear from professors with the ability to create a clear picture (vision) of where they are going, what they will do, and how they will communicate with the public. They need leaders who will inspire them, and who are trustworthy. They need professors who will move exercise physiology in the right direction with integrity and who understand change and have a strong feeling that a change must occur.
The impetus for change in exercise physiology has its root in college graduates not getting enough of the job market. Their feeling is that change must occur, and the primary method for doing so is through the support and leadership of the college exercise physiologists. The big question is how long will it take the academic exercise physiologists to let go of their established beliefs? From the ASEP point of view, the redefinition of the exercise physiologist can’t be realized in a vacuum of only a few dedicated professionals. Reeducation, persistence, and the clarification of the goals and objectives by ASEP members are imperative to unfreezing the familiar and refreezing new attitudes toward change.
Experience shows that resistance to change is related to perceived embarrassment and insecurity. Hence, it is partly understandable that hard working professionals are not interested in a “better way” if what they have been doing can be demonstrated to be wrong. Thoughtful interaction with professionals who resist change may help to develop a more receptive attitude to change. In fact, according to Grohar-Murray and DiCroce (1997), the most important factor in decreasing resistance is in establishing trust.
ASEP members can help reduce resistance to change by: (1) providing an explanation of the purpose of why the organization is important to the professional development of exercise physiologists; (2) explaining the personal and professional benefits of an exercise physiology organization; (3) acknowledging the personal and professional concerns of exercise physiologists; and (4) analyzing shared objectives and the willingness to help each other (Bassett and Metzger, 1986). It is with these responsibilities in mind that all exercise physiologists should agree. As resistance to change decreases, exercise physiologists prepared at the baccalaureate level must, as never before, be prepared to assume leadership and decision-making roles.
ASEP provides a framework for the principles of leadership and management for professional exercise physiologists to enact their roles in the new world of healthcare, fitness, rehabilitation, and athletics. It is the hope of ASEP members that changes that appear in the upcoming months will benefit college graduates, and thereby foster greater professionalism and leadership among exercise physiologists.
I have heard that if a person advances in the direction of one’s dream, that person will meet with success. Sounds simple, but what if the dream is unrealistic? Advancing in the direction of a dream is not enough if the foundation under it is not built. A dream that is not realistic can be dangerous! It can seduce a person into a harmful illusion if success is not realized.
What does this have to do with exercise physiology? Everything! Considering the struggles before many non-PhD exercise physiologists, the answer to the question is that it has everything to do with the exercise physiologist. Aside from a few chances to present research at different sports medicine meetings, what can the exercise physiologist hope for? The answer is actually very simple.
Advancing in the direction of one's dream does in fact result in success "if" the advancement is goal-directed. Hence, it is important to have a mental plan or road map to reach your goal. Now, close your eyes and think for moment what you would like the future to be for the recent graduate in exercise physiology. Is your image a closed caption of a young man or woman who has worked hard and who deserves respect for his/her professional work? If not, then your goal or outcome at graduation isn't congruent with the goal of most young college age students.
Exercise physiology students have in their minds the same hopeful images of success and respect as students from physical therapy and other professional programs. Students are for the most part goal-directed, and they are hopeful of landing the job that they have in their mind. Hope is in the mind. It is linked to attaining one's goal but, if the goal isn't realized, maintaining hope is difficult. Some graduates make it while others don't. Those who don't make it see the challenge as impossible. They have no hope of fulfilling their dreams as an exercise physiologist. It is as if they have no drive or determination to keep them going.
Students should be encouraged to think that if they can't find the job they want, then create the job or figure out how to get the job another way. This alternative thinking is implied in the statement, "If you can't do it one way, then do it another way." Stated different, "Where there is a will, there is a way." Or, where there is willpower, there is hope. Hope, however important, is not enough if students don't know the correct path to realize their dreams. Just any plan will not work when specific needs and requirements must be met.
Finding a job or finding the right job is a challenge. Few students get the job they want days after graduation. It takes a lot of work to get to where you want to go, but it doesn't have to be a failure waiting to happen. It takes planning and positive thoughts to think of new pathways around obstacles. Students need to know that when one approach doesn't work, then they should try a different approach. They should learn the importance of focusing on thoughts that will help in reaching their goals.
Professors can help, too. The advantages of doing so are many. Students also need to know that there is always a way. Life is tough but students must push away the mental inertia of self-doubt and to constantly minimize the negative. They must learn to think positive and concentrate on doing what is right and, yes, professors, too can help by getting involved in nurturing the students' path to success.
Bassett, L. & Metzger, N. (1986). Achieving Excellence: A Prescription for Health Care Managers. Rockville, MD: Aspen Publishers.
Grohar-Murray, M. E. & DiCroce, H. R. (1997). Leadership and Management in Nursing. Stamford, Connecticut: Appleton & Lange.
Copyright ©1999 American Society of Exercise Physiologists. All Rights Reserved.
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