A day in the life of the athletic trainer in the secondary setting.
To start, I’m not complaining. Athletic trainers have so many pros to their job, that’s what keeps them going. But sometimes there’s no true understanding to some of their days. While some days are easier and simpler, perhaps only a 4 hour day, some are 15 hour days…not lying. During the fall and spring there’s often at least 1 of these days each week. They balance out in the end. By the end of the year, if you think I worked so little, or so much, I probably evened out by the end of the year to right at or just over 40 hours / week for an average. A mix of the easier weeks and the harder weeks.
And this is my day and my week and my athletic training life. There are so many variations of this life amongst different athletic trainers.
We are also on call- like always. Seems like its hard to ever turn down a call, text, email requisition for thoughts and opinions. You may think this is easy to turn down and ignore. Maybe for some of you it would be. But for many athletic trainers, we got into this field because we love to see our patients progress. We don’t want them lingering in our athletic training rooms longer than needed. We want to see them on the field and self sufficient with their rehab. And while I hear some ATCs say, ‘oh, that’s not your problem’ if they get hurt in school or on a non-athletic field, it sure is my problem if they don’t heal correctly before they come play at the school. So it is always in my overall vested interest to be on the ball for them all if they are one of my athletes at some point that year.
Athletic trainers also like to help others. Why else would anyone want to be providing free healthcare? There’s really no other medical profession (yes we are a licensed medical profession like the PT, PA, etc) and need a supervising physician to practice. Most ATCs throughout the country cannot bill with insurance yet; although it is something that our national/state associations are trying to obtain. I do believe the fact we can’t bill is one of the reasons we don’t get paid as well as we deserve. In other words, our patients/athletes free healthcare just means I get paid a little less as well. But we do have a decent salary comparatively. I’m honestly not sure what that picture looks like if we do get to that point while I still work as an athletic trainer. Did you know that there are so many AT set ups. Some schools pay for the athletic trainer’s full salary (even if they teach or don’t teach), and more contract out their ATCs with split pay methods with an outside PT clinic, ortho clinic, PCP office, or hospital. And then some do not incur any costs to the school at all outside of space and some supplies; salaries come completely from an outside source.
For the practice I work for I work 2 days a week in a clinical setting alongside physicians. I then work daily at the high school. This is a perk because I create a great relationship with my physicians and can bounce ideas off of them, constantly learn, and get my athletes and friends and family into an MD within an hour of them requesting an appointment (if the patient is available).
I am picking a single day to describe.
I am up at 5am to get a workout in before the kids wake up and get ready for school. I either head to the YMCA or meet a friend to run outside (I don’t like running alone in the dark) My kids are 11 and 13 years old. Goal is to be home before 615am so that I can be around while they are getting dressed. They walk out the door to the bus stop at 7am. If I haven’t hopped in the shower yet, I do now. My goal is to leave right after the bus picks them up around 7:10am.
7:15 is more my actual run out the door time by the time I throw breakfast/coffee and my snacks for the day into a bag. Maybe it’s really 7:20am. I know I technically have to be at clinic by 7:30am… its a 25 min trip to the clinic and I have a hard time getting out the door by 7am. So arrival time to clinic is more like 7:40am…into my parking spot. I run in, throw my stuff down by my desk and get straight to work. Thankfully, we usually don’t get any patients til 8am so I don’t miss a lick.
Clinic is busy with bringing patients back, getting data into computers, assisting the physicians with their work ups, imaging reviews, and documentation with the patients. Sometimes I get to use my AT knowledge to additionally explain things to the patient or give them recommendations. We are generally pretty busy. Rotating between 2–3 medical assistants/ATCs working in clinic to work with patients and get the physician to the right room and on time. I also have my phone on silent but nearby and my email up. I routinely will get emails/texts/calls from our director, other staff, athletes parents, and coaches that need to be tended to between patients as I can quickly assess and respond. On this specific day I have a mom messaging me about a brace and a place to get one. I also have an athlete that needs an MRI reading appointment change with another physician in the practice. This process is usually nonstop until 12pm today. Sometimes food is catered to the clinic, not today. I have a protein shake in my car but I have been so busy I’ve forgotten to eat any snacks this morning because I have not stopped. Between 12 and 1pm I am working on the football calendar and getting the Emergency Action Plan for another school edited so that I can run it to Staples to print soon.
1pm rolls around and I’m still fussing with the schedule and email responses. I also have to run upstairs and look for a brace for one of my athletes. 1:25pm gets here and I literally grab my stuff and bolt out the door. I haven’t eaten anything since my protein shake for breakfast. I’m so hungry, but forgot to get water and ice to make my shake. So I stop at Zaxbys (not on the diet plan this week) and decide I’ll push my protein shake to dinner on the soccer field.
I arrive at the school at 2pm on the dot. I park, run in and start getting the room ready, ice filled, kit to the gator, ice to the gator, plug in my phone so it won’t die. Respond to a couple texts about the brace or another athlete. I’m then greeted with a couple athletes on the football team that need to do rehab. They haven’t practiced fully yet and need one on one treatment and rehab. I get them set up on heat and stim. As soon as they are going, another one comes in to get their ankle taped. Then another. Then my students I’m a preceptor for from WCU show up. Suddenly another 3-4 kids are walking in requesting food (I have a food drawer), tape, wound coverage, or treatment of an injury. Most routine but occasionally new. But the 2 doing heat and stim are now done and need to do rehab. So I toss out 3-4 exercises to do as I start working through the others. They are only a couple exercises in, when a few volleyball players pop in. Thank goodness they are self sufficient and help themselves to get treatment started or even just help me and my students. By this time, there’s no less than 10-12 kids in my little room all requesting something different. Football is supposed to go out at 3pm, so I am trying to get them all taken care of and out priority. We are slowly knocking them out of the room. The rehabbers are getting done and I’m taping them up.
3pm gets here- football is out of the room. Volleyball players are getting prioritized now. One with low SI joint pain that we are doing stim and heat on, one with a new knee pain to assess, one with a chronic shoulder pain that we’ve been treating. Thankfully she knows her rehab plan. Soccer goalie comes to get his thumb taped. Soccer player requests an ankle tape. Cross country spills in- they have to be out by 3:15 to ride the bus to another site to practice. I wrap a shin and tape an arch. 2 aren’t going. We have to start a rehab program with one with patellar tendinitis. I get my WCU students started on his treatment. The other is doing ankle rehab. I turn around to see a golfer standing there for her rehab time. I grab a hot pack and get her started. A few football players that are not in weight training in 4th period come in to get treatment before heading to practice that started 5 minutes ago.
3:05pm my 13 year old arrives from the middle school so that he can run balls for JV soccer. He hides in a corner until time to get to work. This is his chance for homework, etc. He loves hanging out in my athletic training room.
3:15 arrives- another volleyball player sneaks in. Nobody has left. There’s probably still 10 athletes getting treatment/rehab/tape or waiting on me.
3:30 arrives- I kick out the volleyball players still in the room to head to practice. I still have 4 kids in my room that are not practicing doing rehab. Today there are no concussion evaluations, thank goodness.
At 3:45 the soccer team runs in the door and says there’s lightening outside. New hat gets put on. Weatherbug gets pulled up and now I’m running outside to check the lightening distance. It’s moving in and unavoidable to miss us. I yell for the coaches on the field to come in. It’s now raining. So thankfully my WCU students are great at following my plans, I give them things to do as I keep monitoring the weather while continuing rehab. This goes for an hour. At 5pm we clear sports to head back outside. I clear my room. All the rehabbers are done now. We fill the gator and drive out to the football practice field while soccer warms up for a game.
5pm – jv Volleyball game starts upstairs. But I have no time to get upstairs to watch. I’m pretty disappointed about this.
5:30pm- jv soccer starts their game late. As I’m driving down through the soccer field, a kid runs up to me just before the game complaining of a hamstring strain. I have to do a quick evaluation and give him restrictions to not make himself worse.
I also have to do the pre-game EAP meeting that is new for the state this year. I message to my game admin to run down to soccer and catch up with the coaches for both teams and refs for this. This is still new to everyone so they are all waiting for my spiel. I take 5 minutes there and head on. Wet bulb globe thermometer is opened up an set out per state mandate. Temps are around 78.6.
I leave soccer with a radio while I drive to the other field to watch football.While I’m at the football field, 1-2 kids have medical needs while I’m there. Thankfully minor. We try to keep water bottles full while there as well. I get a call from my husband around 5:45 wanting to know when to pick up our 13 year old.
At 6pm- my middle school ATC comes to watch and cover the volleyball game for me. She is freaking amazing. I quickly text my admin and VB coach to let them know she’s coming.
We are at football until 6:15pm when we drive back to watch the remainder of the soccer game. I’m always nervous on return that I’ll find new injuries that are waiting on me.
6:45pm short break between jv and varsity soccer- enough time to work on taping with my WCU students. Something we desperately need to do so that I can rely on them to tape.
7:10pm Varsity soccer starts late due to the weather from earlier. One of my rehabbing athletes comes over and does rehab for the first 30 minutes of the soccer game followed by on-field treatment.
Food- I have some snacks, but I never had time to run upstairs to get my dinner shake. But I do have an apple and baggie of carrots and grapes on the field. My son eats my grapes. So my dinner consisted of that apple and carrots only.
After half time, its all game coverage duties now. I run on the field for a cramping player. I follow another one to the opposing sideline for a quad pain. As soon as I resettle to my sideline, a player is knocked down to the ground and we run out again. This time a more significant injury that has to be evaluated and monitored.
At 8:50pm the game is over. I send an email to teachers from my IPAD regarding an injury from the night.
We head upstairs to clean up, ice down any injuries, talk through the week schedule with my students, and get out the door. I walked out at 9:20pm.
At this point, I have not had a moment to do any documentation of any injuries or treatments that occurred today. I don’t have WIFI in the AT room without using my hotspot (meaning I can’t walk away with my phone and leave someone to do it) and there is no space to set up a computer.
When I got home, I made half a protein shake, and got ready for bed. I laid down at 10pm. I feel like there were a lot of loose ends from the day, but they’ll just have to wait until the next day.