Sep 22, 2016
Make a Change
Dr. George Wham

George Wham, EdD, ATC, is the Head Athletic Trainer at Pelion (S.C.) High School. He has served as an Instructor in the University of South Carolina’s Athletic Training Education Program and continues to work with the department. He’s also participated on numerous committees for the South Carolina Athletic Trainers’ Association and the NATA, consults with the Brain Injury Association of South Carolina, and sits on the Board of Directors for the South Carolina Athletic Coaches Association. Dr. Wham can be reached at: [email protected]

Balancing home and work continues to be a challenge for athletic trainers. Most of us see athletic training not just as a job, but a calling, and that makes drawing boundaries difficult.

Yes, the athletic training profession certainly requires sacrifice. But as our profession evolves, we need to ensure that we grow towards better work-life balance, more professional fulfillment, and less burnout. Until we do so, we will remain undervalued in both athletic departments and the health care community, with our personal/family life paying the price.

During the War of 1812, Commodore Oliver Perry said, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” This quote applies to the way athletic trainers have played a role in our own problem. For too long, our profession has used “hours worked” as a source of pride and a key metric for how good an athletic trainer is.

Furthermore, our natural willingness to work hard and do whatever it takes for our athletes has created a work environment that allows employers to take advantage of our dedication. As long as we are willing to work 70- to 80-hour weeks, employers will let us. We must stand up for ourselves.

Over the years, my athletic training program at Pelion (S.C.) High School has made great strides in allowing for a better balance of home and work. The key has been the evolution of an athletic training staff instead of a single athletic trainer.

In 2005, we added a second athletic trainer, and a third was hired in 2011. Admittedly, both are part-time positions, but they have been vital in improving my home-family balance, especially since my three children have come along. I am not sure I would be at Pelion anymore if I was still working 70 hours a week, every week, which was a common practice prior to getting my current staff. Remember: if the job regularly demands 60 to 80 hours per week, it probably requires more than one person.

Beyond the development of a staff, other things have played important roles in allowing me a better work-life balance. First, our program is fortunate to have school and athletic administrators that appreciate the importance of family and personal time. A climate of “give and take” exists between our administrators and athletic training staff that serves our athletes well.

We also consider risk and rate of injury for an event when determining athletic training staffing needs. We’ve figured out how to provide appropriate care without having excessive athletic trainers present.

Finally, as a rule, I don’t take work home. So when I am home, my duties to my wife and children have my full attention. Admittedly, with the advent of smartphones, I need to do a better job with not constantly checking and responding to email when home. Alas, there is always room for growth!

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