Sports Medicine Research: In the Lab & In the Field: Female Athletic Trainers Balancing Life and Motherhood (Sports Med Res)


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Female Athletic Trainers Balancing Life and Motherhood

Motherhood and Work-Life Balance in the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I setting: Mentors and the Female Athletic Trainer

Eason CM, Mazerolle SM, & Goodman A. J Athl Train.  2014 (3):000-000. doi: 10.4085/1062-6050-49.3.03

Take Home Message:  Female mentors/role models who are successfully maintaining work-life balance are critical to the success and retention of quality female athletic trainers at the NCAA Division I level. 

Work-life balance (WLB) is a difficult thing to accomplish for clinicians in sports medicine, especially at the NCAA Division I level and for female athletic trainers (ATs) who may want to become mothers.  Young female AT students and professionals may benefit from having positive role models who exhibit appropriate strategies to achieve WLB.  This study aimed to see how role models and mentors within athletic training influence female ATs in the NCAA Division I setting. This qualitative study of 27 female ATs (average age = 35 years; 14 single, 6 married, 7 married with children) who worked in the NCAA Division 1 setting revealed two themes surrounding WLB and professional development: 1) an influence of role models and mentors and 2) a desire for female role models and mentors.  Many of the ATs were able to identify role models/mentors who influenced their professional and personal lives, either positively or negatively.  Additionally, 64% of the female ATs expressed a desire for female role models/mentors.  Female ATs who interacted with other females who were successfully managing WLB felt more confident about their abilities to continue in athletic training.  Interestingly, some role models/mentors were noted to have “sacrificed” the personal side of WLB and this was perceived by some female ATs as something that they were not willing to personally do.  Contrarily, some female ATs were viewed as maintaining their personal lives; however, their professional abilities suffered, and this also negatively affected respondents’ views of staying in the profession.  Of these 27 female ATs, only 3 planned to stay at the NCAA Division I level for concerns about WLB. Six ATs noted that they were planning to leave AT profession entirely. 

This study highlights a difficult concept among clinicians in sports medicine; WLB is something that should be feasible to every clinician, no matter their position, level, or gender.  One can see that there are many confounding variables such as competition level and parenthood that may represent challenging barriers to WLB.  Positive mentoring/role modeling seems to be very important to help provide avenues for success for our young and aspiring clinicians.  This article is interesting for me to read shortly after NATA’s annual meeting, where some strong and well deserved female professionals were inducted into the NATA Hall of Fame.  I found myself sitting in admiration and hoping to be able to achieve even a small portion of their professional and personal achievements.  Every award winner always seems to highlight an outstanding support network, but also a few key mentors.  It is important to note that you may be serving as the role model currently without knowing it, while you may be seeking one yourself.  There is no set of assured answers for WLB, but it is critical to provide a support network to show successful strategies, as well as how to mitigate certain challenges.   

Questions for Discussion:  What strategies have you identified for maintaining appropriate WLB?  Is there any person that you could identify as a past or current role model/mentor?
Written by: Nicole Cattano
Reviewed by: Jeffrey Driban

Related Posts:
The Pursuit of Happiness: Clinical Setting, Gender, and Parenting as an Athletic Trainer

Eason, C., Mazerolle, S., & Goodman, A. (2014). Motherhood and Work–Life Balance in the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I Setting: Mentors and the Female Athletic Trainer Journal of Athletic Training DOI: 10.4085/1062-6050-49.3.03


Dustin Grooms said...

What do you think about moving away from the classic athletic model of providing services and moving to a health care model?

The NATA has published on this concept several times:

This seems like the logical next step for our profession. As physicians progressed from all hours house calls to the large team of professionals working in shifts in the modern hospital, so to athletic training needs to progress in how we think about ourselves and how we deliver care.
I know many prefer the traditional model, as it may help build coach and player relationships, but at the expense of a terrible work life balance. In addition the move to the above proposed model may actually improve care, as documentation must through and patient progress tracked more readily. Asa described in the link, this systematic approach provides a gateway to seek third party reimbursement and improve our salaries.

I know change can be hard, but if we want really solve many of the issues that have been brought up recently regarding our profession, including: improving work life balance, improving salaries, achieving reimbursement for services, improving retention within the profession and our status as health care providers we must be adaptable and consider a change from the sport assignment model.

Dustin Grooms M.Ed, ATC, CSCS
The Ohio State University

Nicole Cattano said...

Thanks so much for your comment and the linked article Dustin. You make some really great points and ones that I think our profession should be open to.

Change is always difficult, but I am skeptical as to how open coaches, administrators, and athletes will be to this type of a model. I have heard many coaches state that they "need someone (an AT) always to be there just in case" and to cover their liability in the event an injury occurs. While I know this is a misconception on coaches parts, it is one that we struggle with regularly.

I am a firm believer that we are a Healthcare profession and think 3rd party reimbursement will help in the nationwide recognition on this. However it has been an extremely uphill battle.

Do you see any potential transitional strategies for our profession to move towards this type of a model?

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