Mar 3, 2019
Considerations for athletic training faculty
By Amber Giacomazzi

An athletic training program faculty member’s schedule is hectic during the school year. Preparing for lectures, exams, grading, advising, committee work, and research obligations comes with the territory. Being an athletic training faculty member is both rewarding and challenging. Professors understand that even if you remain organized, prepare your syllabi, assignments, and exams, you will still run into challenges.

college athletic trainer
Photo: Sgt. Katie Eggers

What advice can I offer athletic trainers who are interested in a career as educators? Maintain a focus on the clinical side to go with your educational requirements.

As the future of athletic training education changes to accommodate the requirements of Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training (CAATE), so do the requirements of the educators. A challenge that we at Concordia University Ann Arbor (CUAA) have experienced in hiring faculty is that not only have the educational requirements, but also having a clinical background as well is also important.

Most often, applicants have an extensive educational background with minimal clinical experience. While a background in teaching is required, having clinical experience helps bring life to the content, as well as give students the confidence in their professor’s skills. On the other hand, having no teaching experience can also prove to be a challenge during the interview selection process.

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Another challenge facing athletic training educators is the new standards set in place by CAATE. One standard that will be implemented in 2020 includes wound care and closure. Much debate has occurred as to the meaning of wound “closure” in the standard. Another is the reduction of dislocations. The question then becomes who should be teaching the students these skills. Should the medical director, team physician, athletic training faculty or an outside entity be instructing these skills? The discussion on the value of developing these skills is ongoing. For example, how many wounds need suturing, and does being taught a skill without practical, on-going experience makes the athletic training student proficient?

As an AT faculty member, I am preparing future athletic trainers. Providing them more than the required content is important.

Some students enter an athletic training program unprepared for the demands that will be placed on them. In the classroom, teaching students to critically think through scenarios has become somewhat of a necessity. Students do not know how to critically think. When put in high-stress situations, students often fail. However, placing the students in high-stress scenarios in the classroom, helps them learn to think under pressure, and thus transfer that into the field.

Time management is another challenge for most students. Juggling the rigor of graduate school, clinical hours, along with another other outside commitments can be overwhelming for most. Helping students prioritize and focus on what’s important is key.

Balancing teaching loads, along with university requirements of scholarship and service, is necessary for the athletic training faculty member. There is no specific way to do this since what is being taught in the classroom, individual research, program commitments like preparing for self-studies or site visits, Program Director and Clinical Educational Coordinator duties, and university committees are always changing. Compromises have to be given on all ends depending on the demands of the faculty member at that time.

Learning to become a better instructor often happens through collaboration with others. Whether it is through casual conversation with colleagues bouncing ideas off of each other, or through workshops, one will learn what works and what doesn’t for them. Experience in a subject matter, and how often you have taught the material is another factor.

Something I like to do with students is ask them for feedback as to what would help them learn the material better, or how could I make the content more interesting for them if the material is a little dry. Having guest speakers come in who can speak on topics of their own expertise is always beneficial for the student as well.

Despite all the trials athletic training faculty encounter each day, being an educator is rewarding. Watching students learn and grow into young professionals, along with developing and applying skills that you helped teach them, is a great feeling.

As an AT faculty member, I am preparing future athletic trainers. Providing them more than the required content is important. Utilizing my 13 years of clinical practice helps me give life to the content, and provides context to the material in order to help athletic training students become effective as a professional.

Amber Giacomazzi, MS, AT, ATC, CAT(C), is an Assistant Professor in the Health and Human Performance Department and Athletic Training Program at Concordia University Ann Arbor. She is one of only a handful of athletic trainers certified by the professional groups of two countries: NATA in the United States, and the Canadian Athletic Therapists Association.

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