“How are you doing?” It used to be such an innocuous question. Asked with little consideration, answered routinely. But welcome to 2020, where nothing is innocuous, everything is considered carefully, and nothing is routine. Even traditions long held and cherished.
I'm sure by the time you are reading this you have heard that Combined Sections Meeting (CMS) in 2021 will be transitioned to a virtual platform. As President of APTA Acute Care, not only was I involved in this decision but I am also saddened by it. CSM is the life blood of our Academy. It provides a substantial portion of our nondues revenue, but more importantly it is a hallmark of our community. Until recently, it was one of the only places to get high-quality, cutting-edge information and education to build acute care practice. It was one of the only places professionally, outside of one's workplace, where you could meet a substantial cadre of other physical therapists working in acute and critical care. We make up a little over 10% of physical therapists in the country.1 I remember going to one of my first district meetings and feeling overwhelmed as one of the only acute care physical therapists in attendance. State meetings were a little better, but only a little. Ten percent is not a lot. But 10% of 15 000 ... that's a lot. CSM was the place where I could choose educational sessions, rather than be limited to maybe one that might apply to my practice if I squinted really hard. I could attend an Academy networking event and see a whole room full of “my people.” Personally, so much of my professional life has been touched by APTA Acute Care and CSM. I've made lifelong friends from all over the country through the connections and introductions at CSM. I've also seen first-time attendees and students energized by this conference. Even as CSM has grown in recent years, the learning and networking that it provides make up for the crowds and the long walks between sessions. It nearly broke my heart to have to transition such an important touchstone to so many away from the amazing face-to-face conference I have come to know and love. But no amount of nostalgia and yearning could overcome the very present safety concerns, both for our members and for the patients they serve, the colleagues they work side by side with, and the families that they love.
Many of you are likely just as disappointed in this news. And I hear you and understand. Take a moment to mourn yet another loss. And yes, in the scope of all losses, this is not as big. But with so many losses of all shapes and sizes in all of our lives due to COVID-19, it deserves a moment to mourn it. You deserve that. But with this loss, perhaps there is some opportunity. CSM will be different in 2021, that is for sure. But the best part of CSM is all of you, the attendees. How can we take this blow and flip it around? There are some interesting opportunities with this change. Many potential CSM attendees had trouble getting off work or traveling sometimes long distances to attend. Maybe, family obligations made attending in the past difficult. Colleagues from across the globe might now be able to attend, giving us so much more interaction and perspectives to consider. Many people are working hard to find new, unique, and interesting ways to increase access to CSM programming and engage a sense of community in a virtual space. Perhaps, just perhaps, this change can increase access, boost interaction in different ways, and shape our thinking in ways we had not previously considered. The opportunity to do this differently, in APTA's Centennial Year, is not what we envisioned in February in Denver. But that doesn't mean we can't work to make it meaningful in ways we hadn't previously imagined.
Some days, doing “the best we can” may still fall short of what we would like to be able to do, but life isn't perfect on any front—and doing what we can with what we have is the most we should expect of ourselves or anyone else. (Fred Rogers2)
I find myself comforted during this pandemic by Mr Rogers. And yes, I'm sure there is something to explore in that with a mental health professional. But his focus, his care, and his willingness to always look at something hard and difficult and find a way to provide safety and comfort have been an enormous help to me. So while we take a moment to mourn another thing transformed by COVID-19, let us not forget that in that transformation lies potential. So here's to CSM 2021. May we all commit to finding connection and meaning in its transformation.
Sharon L. Gorman, PT, DPTSc
Board-Certified Geriatric Clinical Specialist
Fellow, National Academies of Practice
President, APTA Acute Care
2. James G. 45 quotes from Mr. Rogers that we all need today. Inc Web site. https://www.inc.com/geoffrey-james/45-quotes-from-mr-rogers-that-we-all-need-today.html
. Published August 5, 2019. Accessed August 11, 2020.