'Hopping' On Board

Networking and professional discourse are amped up in Oregon through 'PT Pub Nights'

There's something exciting happening in physical therapy. It started in Oregon. Now it's starting to go viral. Oregon offers a challenging geographic layout to meet the Oregon Physical Therapy Association's strategic goals surrounding member engagement and new member recruitment. Our largest city, Portland, sits in the upper northwest corner of our state. Portland is four times larger than our next largest city of Eugene, and the Portland metro area represents nearly one-third of our state's entire population.

OPTA members (and prospective members) outside of Portland no doubt appreciate the efforts of their large constituency of colleagues to the Northwest. But that hasn't stopped the formation of a nickname laced with fun and frustration, as they often feel represented by the "Portland Physical Therapy Association."
Oregon has come close before to overcoming our distance and geography challenges. Five years ago, OPTA established bylaws to allow districts after a group in southern Oregon organized to request a process. By the time the bylaws were changed, however, the leadership of that group had moved on to other projects. Despite subsequent efforts to encourage district formation, no group has ever formed to petition for a district.

We decided our next statewide engagement effort needed to be different. At our January 2012 Annual OPTA Retreat, the afternoon's theme was set as "Emerging OPTA Priorities and Passions." In other words - why does the Oregon Physical Therapy Association exist? A particularly timely and vibrant conversation emerged, and the ideas created in that conversation now appear to be sprouting right in front of us, in an experience called PT Pub Night.

The "first" PT Pub Night started off innocently enough, guided by the spirit of the retreat conversation, and a long-held desire to better explore personal connection as a benefit of OPTA membership. Eight therapists with no relationship but their common profession gathered last March to discuss one simple question: What brought you here?

The conversation was electric. Every person shared a unique story about why they came. No two stories were alike, although interesting similarities existed. The conversation moved to imagining the possibilities that could emerge from regular interactions among professionals. A date for the next conversation was set, and the monthly event was born.

Professional relationships are now being taken to new levels at each PT Pub Night. Networking has been described as the top reason individuals are attracted to attend. The ears of Pub Night leaders have also picked up on new business opportunities, conversation about career advancement, and planning for individual follow-up meetings.  

So, is this working? It's too early to know for sure, but something sure seems right. Through October, our data revealed:

- 20 straight months of candid conversation -- including a special CSM San Diego Pub Night & an APTA Education Leadership Conference Pub Night.

- One site has become two, then three, and now nine sites -- Portland, Eugene, Hillsboro, Salem, Medford, Corvallis, Astoria, Bend and La Grande -- all occurring at the same day and same time each month.

- 317 different individuals have connected at Pub Night.

- More than 150 people have come once -- and already decided to come back again.

- New PT Pub Night events have started in Massachusetts, California, New York and New Jersey. Others are starting to consider new events in Oklahoma, Ohio and Georgia.

 As PT Pub Night continues to grow and spread across the nation, one fact has become very clear: We can do more together than any of us could ever do alone.

You can learn much more about PT Pub Night at bit.ly/PTPubNight. Join the conversation on Twitter! @OregonPTs #PTPubNight #ThirdThursday

Derek Fenwick is vice president of the Oregon Physical Therapy Association and lead organizer of PT Pub Night. Follow him on Twitter @DerekFenwickPT

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