Volunteer Spotlight: Janet Peterson

Janet Peterson, PT, DPT, of Shoreline, WA

Janet, please share a description of your volunteer experience within APTA. How has this experience affected your perspective on leadership and volunteerism within physical therapy?

My volunteer experience within APTA includes a local special interest group, my chapter editorial board, many positions within my state chapter including chapter president, over 20 years as a delegate to the House of Delegates, and 5 years on the APTA Board of Directors. My many experiences have enriched my life, improved my public speaking and mentoring skills, increased my knowledge of our profession, and given me lifelong friends from across the country.

How did you first learn about becoming involved with APTA and what made you decide to volunteer?

My first experience was participating in a local administrative special interest group in the Seattle area, encouraged by my supervisor at the hospital where I was working. Many of us rotated into leadership positions within that group. I learned about the House of Delegates from colleagues and was encouraged to run for a position from my chapter. I was so nervous the first time I had to stand up at our state chapter meeting and talk about myself for 3 minutes! After my first experience at the House of Delegates I was hooked, and my other volunteer positions all flowed from that.

What have you gained from the experience that you would share with others considering volunteering?

Too many things to count! I have gained skills in public speaking, organizing, mentoring, and communicating, among others. I have gained lifelong friends from around the country. I have gained a better appreciation of different practice settings and clinical specialties within our profession as well as how to best advocate for our patients and our profession.

Please describe any obstacles that made you hesitate or prevented you from volunteering in the past.

Time is always an issue, isn't it? I was fortunate in that my first volunteer experience [the administrative special interest group] was held during the workday so it didn't take any time away from my family, with two small children. Once I experienced the value of volunteering, it became easier for me to prioritize the time I spent on behalf of my profession. The other obstacle I felt was not being qualified enough or experienced enough for a given position. It took a colleague to call me and encourage me to run for my chapter president position before I was willing to take that risk. Because of that experience, I have tried to be an encourager to others for various APTA volunteer positions.

Have you participated in any leadership development programs within APTA? If so, please describe the program and how it made an impact on your personal or professional growth.

Yes, I took a LAMP seminar that was very helpful. Also, the APTA Component Leadership Meetings for component presidents occasionally include leadership development presentations. I would not have had the confidence to start my own business [in ergonomic consulting] without the many skills I have gained from my various volunteer experiences within APTA.

Note: The term "APTA" used here is inclusive of all levels of the organization, including national, chapters, sections, academies, councils, special interest groups, etc.

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