Words matter. And today I am at a loss for words. So I turn to the words of our profession and our leaders to guide us through our call to act during our present crisis of social upheaval and what APTA President Sharon Dunn describes as the longstanding shame of our societal “racism and systemic inequality.”
The PTWA mission statement is “to advance the physical therapy profession in the state of Washington through compassion, accountability, representation, and excellence” (CARE). These values lead directly to the Core Values for the Physical Therapist and Physical Therapist Assistant, updated in 2019, to inform the behaviors of all members of our profession. The APTA Code of Ethics for the physical therapist “describes the desired behavior of physical therapists in their multiple roles . . . , addresses multiple aspects of ethical action . . . , and reflects the core values of the physical therapist.” Similarly, the APTA Standards of Ethical Conduct for the Physical Therapist Assistant “delineate the ethical obligations of all physical therapist assistants . . . and provide a foundation for conduct to which all physical therapist assistants shall adhere.” On June 3, 2020 the APTA House of Delegates affirmed the profound connection between the words of the core values and the mandate for ethical conduct in the Code of Ethics and Standards of Ethical Conduct when the delegates integrated the current core values into both documents.
The code of ethics entreats us to respect the inherent dignity and rights of all individuals. We are to be compassionate and trustworthy as we address the rights of all patients and clients. The code implores us to act with integrity in all our professional relationships and roles and to promote “organizational behaviors and business practices that benefit patients and clients and society.” The concluding principle of the code of ethics mandates our participation “in efforts to meet the health needs of people locally, nationally, or globally.”
Yet without intentional, courageous, creative, compassionate ACTION, the language of these documents that guide the moral practice of our profession are merely words. As Dr. Dunn shared in her message of May 31, 2020, “If simply speaking about the problem solved the problem, we would have already solved this” (eg: the inequity of access to health care, the blatant and often violent disregard for the dignity of all individuals, the unparalleled burden of the social determinants of health on marginalized populations).
Words matter. But actions matter more.
Let us resolve to internalize these words and externalize the actions that arise from them. Let us not only demonstrate compassion and respect; let us actively promote them through peaceful demonstration and thoughtful legislation. Let us work in our practice environments, our schools, and our communities to extend access to equitable health care for all individuals. Let us call out against and reverse injustice wherever it appears. Let us “simply” live the values of our profession.
Thank you for all you do every day to enhance the lives of so many. Let us commit to reaching so many more.