Knowing Your Value

August 17, 2017
By Maria Hutsick

Maria Hutsick, MS, LAT, ATC, CSCS, is Head Athletic Trainer at Medfield (Mass.) High School and former Director of Sports Medicine at Boston University. She is a past president of the College Athletic Trainers' Society and was honored with an NATA Athletic Trainer Service Award in 2010. She can be reached at: mhutsick@email.medfield.net.

 

The majority of athletic trainers have at least a master’s degree and have passed their national boards and state licensure and maintain 80 continuing education credits each year. We work long hours and are always there when we are needed. We run the concussion programs and the emergency action plans and take care of the athletes, students, teachers, and even the occasional maintenance worker. We have to be well versed in nutrition, emergency care, rehabilitation, psychology, strength and conditioning, leadership, budgeting, hiring and firing, and the entire health care of the athlete. We are the surrogate parents at times, especially at the college level. We take the athletes to their appointments, sit with them in surgery, help them mentally get through their rehabilitation, listen to their troubles, and often get called in the middle of the night because they are in trouble or hurt. With all that being considered, I seriously doubt that any of us are being paid what we are worth.

I have long heard athletic trainers complain about their salary and work conditions, but they only complain. They don’t take action. If you want change, you have to put forth the effort and come up with ideas of how to make your job better.

I have long heard athletic trainers complain about their salary and work conditions, but they only complain. They don’t take action. If you want change, you have to put forth the effort and come up with ideas of how to make your job better. 

For example, when I was the Director of Sports Medicine at Boston University, I asked my staff for their input. We used the NATA’s formula for calculating how many staff we should have based on the number of athletes we served. Then, I kept track of our hours, provided a list of the number of athletes I saw on a daily basis, went to coaches that I trusted for support, and sent all this to the athletic director. I fought for my staff to have time off and salary increases, and I also came up with solutions of how to increase pay over two to three years. Sometimes my strategies worked, and sometimes they didn’t.

The best solution to improve pay and the overall work environment is to set up a medical model so they athletic trainer reports to a physician who is versed in medical education versus an athletic director who is aligned with coaches. At BU, we worked toward the medical model before I left, and it’s now been accomplished. The athletic trainers’ budgets are better, the number of staff has increased, and salaries are higher. They don’t have to report to the athletic director, and coaches can’t fire them or try to get rid of them.

Now that I’m at the high school level, I have gone from teaching part-time to not teaching and being a full-time athletic trainer. I mentor and teach one class in athletic training, and I am on a teacher’s contract with all the benefits and salary steps. I don’t have to teach and still work long hours, but I am well compensated for it. I have summers and holidays off, and I work very few weekends—and only on Saturdays. I also only travel with varsity football and to the play-offs with teams that qualify. I shared my job description and how to approach the administration to become a full-time person with other athletic trainers in my league, and now many have followed my example.

If you are underpaid and overworked, which is the majority of athletic trainers in our field, stop complaining and form a plan. Talk to others who have been successful. Be proactive and think of ways to improve your position. Most athletic directors don’t have a clue what we really do, but from a liability aspect, we are a valuable asset to any organization. Keep records and track your hours. Let people know what you want. Don’t be afraid to ask for things to improve your job, and don’t take a job that pays so little it is not livable. You can find a job that will pay you a decent salary. 

 

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