'A professional association (also called a professional body, professional organisation, or professional society) is a non-profit organisation seeking to further a particular profession the interests of individuals engaged in that profession, and the public interest.' Source: Wikipedia
To enlarge on one part of that definition, 'PAs seek to further a particular profession'. Ask yourself some fundamental questions:-
What voice would your profession have in the broader world without a PA?
Who would represent your profession in discussions with educators. awarding bodies, government bodies, governing bodies, regulators, sporting bodies, insurers etc.
How would the views of your profession be represented intelligently, objectively and without conflict of interest if you didn't have a PA?
Successful PAs pull together all the practitioners in that profession and give voice to that profession as a whole. For a PA to be successful it must be supported by the majority of therapists in that profession. The most obvious way of showing support is by joining and paying your subscription. Unless your profession is represented by powerful and credible organisations practitioners will not be taken seriously, and those who give their time to supporting and promoting the profession will have their credibility compromised when dealing with external parties.
By joining a PA you will be helping us to achieve the second part of the definition mentioned above i.e 'furthering the interests of the individuals engaged in that profession'. If we as PAs are to influence potential employers we must have the critical mass of practitioners behind us and we must be able to say with confidence and with credibility "we represent the profession".
The final part of the definition is about protecting the 'public interest'. All PAs do this to one extent or another even if there is a credible regulator in place. PAs should have robust disciplinary procedures, a publicised code of ethics and make their members aware of the requirements of the Advertising Standards Authority, Trading Standards and Data Protection. Our professions are caught between a rock and a hard place - HCPC regulation is unlikely to happen for any of our professions unless they are perceived as high risk, and the jury is still out on voluntary regulation - in this scenario PAs need to, at least temporarily, fill the void.
PAs do provide job opportunities, event work, discounted CPD and consumables, online shops, members' forums, social media, national registers, conferences, advice and support----but this is a small part of what they do and are not the main functions. The key responsibilities are mentioned above.
Your PA can make a difference but it needs your support. Collectively we already represent a significant number of practitioners, but there are just as many practitioners who have chosen not to be part of a PA, either because they can 'manage without a PA', or it does not fulfil in some way their own personal requirements. Joining your PA requires a small leap of faith, but you will be investing not only in your own future, but also the long term development of your profession.
Paul Medlicott is currently Chair of the Sports Massage Association, Chair of GCMT and a Director of the South Devon Tennis Centre. Prior to this he worked in the City for 28 years specialising in strategic planning, project and change management. He holds an MBA from Loughborough University. Paul has 3 children and lives in South Devon.