At the Academy of Pelvic Health Physical Therapy, volunteer opportunities are vast and allow volunteers to utilize non-clinical skills to advocate for patients with pelvic/abdominal health conditions, the physical therapy profession and it’s professional organization. Interested in volunteering? Check out the Academy’s 20+ volunteer positions ranging from low to high commitment at www.aptapelvichealth.org/vounteer.
By definition, volunteerism is the act of giving one’s time for a worthwhile purpose that benefits the community being helped. What motivates volunteerism is creating change and making a difference in the world. As I began my volunteer path with the Academy of Pelvic Health, the driving factor for serving was having a positive impact on the type of patients we treat. As both a volunteer with the Academy and as a Pelvic and Abdominal specialist, undertaking roles for the betterment of the community fuels my passion on a daily basis. It means waking up every day ready to give to a purpose larger than what one person alone can accomplish. Promoting pelvic and abdominal health, both as a clinician and volunteer, opens a world of possibilities for the individuals we serve. When I began my journey with the Academy, I expected having a path that included the ability to advocate for patients and develop initiatives for our profession would bring a sense of pride and accomplishment and it does. I am thankful for the limitless opportunities that come from being a volunteer.
However, what I did not expect was all of the personal satisfaction I would gain by getting involved with my professional organization. Serving as a volunteer allows the opportunity to serve as an advocate for our profession, our professional organization, and our patients. It is challenging, but also equally rewarding and enriching. Volunteering for the Academy provides a network full of diverse, like-minded therapists driven by the same purpose. The inspiration I feel among these practitioners has had a profound effect on me, both as an individual wanting to have a positive impact on society and as a physical therapist in terms of how I approach patient care. I am humbled by the individuals with whom I work and feel so grateful to my colleagues I may not have met other-wise. They inspire me to take advantage of opportunities for growth and development, through the Academy of Pelvic Health platforms that encourage information sharing, discussions and events like courses and webinars. It strengthens my resolve to use my skills for a higher purpose: removing barriers so that any person who requires our services can obtain care.
The advantage of functioning at a capacity beyond clinical care provides an opportunity to understand the challenges of our healthcare system and to work together to find solutions that meet these challenges. Working as a volunteer is paramount in resolving these barriers to advance our role as physical therapists in pelvic and abdominal health to ensure PT is a gold standard of care for our patient populations with diverse needs, which many include pregnancy/postpartum care, guidance during menopause, transgender care, male pelvic health and pediatrics, etc.
In addition, for many of us who have focused on clinical skills and knowledge, volunteering provides ample opportunities to develop and refine leadership skills that is obtained through our schooling or personal pursuits. Collaborating with others, in a committee or task force, strengthens the ability to work as a team by setting goals, managing deadlines, and driving outcomes while working together for a common purpose. Writing blogs or, in my case, reviewing CAPP-OB case reflections strengthens writing and editing skills. Planning webinars or educational events promotes marketing and organizational skills. Serving on task forces that require research or updating educational materials provides an opportunity to study the most up-to-date evidence. Developing handouts for health care providers and/or patients allows opportunity for creativity and vision. All of these opportunities are not typically available in a full-time clinical position, but to be successful as a healthcare provider, these skills are as essential as our clinical skills. The Academy, with a multitude of volunteer opportunities, fulfills this need as the demands of our profession changes.
As I look back on my volunteer experiences and think about future opportunities with the Academy, I am thankful for the ability to help patients in the clinic and through the Academy’s initiatives. My PT practice is more fulfilling on many levels because of volunteering and, no matter the volume of volunteer work, I can never give as much as the Academy of Pelvic Health has given back.
About the Author
Kristi Kliebert, MPT, DPT has been a physical therapist for over 14 years and found a passion for obstetrics physical therapy after becoming pregnant with her son 5 years ago. Since then, she has obtained her CAPP-OB certificate, prenatal yoga certification and completed a birth doula training. She is currently building an outpatient pelvic health and obstetrics physical therapy program for Sarasota Memorial Hospital in Sarasota, Florida. She is proud to be an active volunteer and is currently serving as a Director of the Pregnancy and Postpartum Special Interest Group, is the Lead CAPP-OB Reviewer and is the Southeast Regional Representative for the Academy of Pelvic Health Physical Therapy. Kristi is also the recipient of the Academy’s 2020 Volunteer of the Year Award.