Kinesiology Grads Are Not Ready For Professional Practice

Kin grads are not ready for professional practice!

I know this first hand after teaching in a college program here in Ontario in the fall and winter of 2018. It was not an easy experience! The fourth year kin students in that program were not ready to start seeing clients after graduation. There was SO much they didn't yet know about professional practice!

The students were pretty upset when they realized this. There were quite a few heated discussions during that class! It wasn't their fault that they were in this position, and we cannot place any blame on the college’s curricula design either. And that's ok.

I was in the very same position over 25 years ago!. My co-op terms at the University of Waterloo helped me realize not only what areas of kinesiology I was interested in, but also how poorly I was being prepared for the professional world while at school.

In my co-op terms I worked in as wide a range of positions as I could find. I started in a residential centre for the developmentally delayed. It was soul crushing.

In my next experience I did mind-numbing fitness assessment after fitness assessment in a large commercial gym. I showed new fitness club members the very same introductory fitness routine day after day. I scrubbed exercise equipment like Martha Stewart was going to do the rounds with white gloves.

Then I tested executives from around the world in an executive wellness centre attaching ECG leads and using treadmills for cardiovascular testing. I performed very limited fitness tests with no prescription for follow-up exercise programs. There was no accountability for our clients until we saw them the following year.

Next I counselled corporate execs about trying to navigate the Canada’s Food Guide not only at high-end restaurants but also in airplanes. I didn't feel challenged at all.

And then I worked at a sports medicine rehabilitation facility and stayed for eight months. I had found my happy place!

Together with other kinesiology and physiotherapy students, I was mentored by athletic therapists and physiotherapists. I made hot packs and ice packs, used the ultrasound, IFC, TENS, EMS, and cold laser machines. I taught therapeutic exercises to elderly tennis players, to tiny figure skaters, and to massive rugby players. I realized that some sort of rehab work was where I wanted to focus my career.

But every time I finished a co-op term, and there were five of these decently paying opportunities throughout my program, I went back to school angry, frustrated, and disillusioned. Why were my employers and their staff teaching me things I had never seen at school? How come I didn’t know what ATs and physios even did?

I remember confronting one of my professors about this in my fourth year after moving back to Waterloo after yet another co-op term, and he simply shrugged his shoulders and said, “Well, we don’t know about those things, so we don’t teach about them.” WHAT?!!?

It took me many years to get over my frustration and understand my undergraduate experience. It took starting my own fitness and rehabilitation centre and hiring full and part-time employees in Bancroft, Ontario.

It took starting another four different businesses with fellow kins working as consultants with me in Toronto. It took teaching classes and courses at a variety of colleges and universities. It took talking to a LOT of students, new grads, professors, college and university administrators, and established health care providers from every discipline. 

It took attempts to start up post grad professional programs in partnership discussions with the University of Toronto, the University of Waterloo, Conestoga College, Lakehead University, Sheridan College, the University of Guelph Humber and others for me to realize that professional training was not their focus!

Kin grads are not ready for professional practice. And that’s ok.

Today I would argue that undergrad degrees are not intended to be professional degrees. We can't find fault with kin undergrad programs for not training health care professionals. I like the perspective that kin degrees are like liberal arts degrees in the movement sciences.

It takes time to recover from an intense undergrad program and lift your head up to consider next steps. There is never just one path to practice in any profession!

Many kins change direction year to year to align themselves with their ideal clients - once they've had time to figure out whose these are, that is! Kins may practice for a number of years, return to school, and then change career directions completely. And that's ok.

Grads are realizing that there are many options for post grad training that are highly practical and focused on the type of client they are interested in working with. Online and in person courses offered around the world are easily accessible and can be much less expensive than a one or two year college or university post grad diploma, degree, or certificate.

The more kins realize who they are (by themselves and in concert with other providers), what skills they own, what skills they need, and the compensation they can command in their area of interest, the better our profession will be.

This takes time - and that's ok. 



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