Leadership comes in many different forms, most of which are not always obvious.  Often times the most obvious leader appears to be the person in charge, however there are several opportunities to serve as a leader from the middle.  This is particularly true in the physician practice setting where athletic trainers are mid-level healthcare providers, but play a very vital role in patient care and the functioning of the clinic.  

Athletic trainers in physicians’ practices are placed perfectly in the center of care.  They are the liaison between all healthcare providers and patients and their network.  In this position, athletic trainers are able to be leaders.  More specifically, athletic trainers are able to be facilitators.  A facilitator is someone who has the concern of everyone in mind and is able to play to the situation at hand to guide others in the right direction.  They know what the vision is and work with people up the chain of command and down the chain of command to communicate that vision.  This is how facilitation from the middle is a form of leadership.   

When the main goal of a healthcare team is the patient’s health, satisfaction, and outcomes, the athletic trainer becomes a leader in their care.  The athletic trainer is able to communicate the patient’s situation to the healthcare team and then relay patient education to the patient upon diagnosis and treatment decisions.  In this, the athletic trainer is serving as an advocate for the patient and displaying a high quality of care as a leader from the middle.  When we consider the value model of athletic trainers in the physicians practice setting put together by the NATA COPA committee, these points are emphasized.  They also offer other points of distinction that make athletic trainers leaders in the physician practice setting.  Some of these include time management, clinic efficiency, and ideas for quality improvement.  See the link for more examples: 


Athletic trainer facilitation of leadership in the physician practice is not always easy however.  Personality plays a large role, particularly in how athletic trainers approach their leadership position.  The other factor that has a major influence over facilitation ability is relationships with the other healthcare providers at your place of work.  There is definitely a learning curve when you first join a team of other providers, as well as a period of building relationships.  Once relationships are built, leadership becomes easier because you have a better idea of what the shared vision is and what your place can be as a leader amongst other providers. 

As you approach your setting and decide how you’re going to become a facilitator of leadership, I want you to first stop and think: How can I go about laying the foundations of a good relationship with patients and other healthcare providers so that I can serve my best as a facilitator of leadership?