July 15, 2023

Working with Patients from the Police Force

As many Certified Athletic Therapists will tell you, finding passion in what you do isn’t difficult; they do important and rewarding work, improving the lives of Canadians every day. Some Certified ATs, however, find their passion in a niche area of the field, areas that we might not know even exist.

Last year in our webinar Niching Down to Target a Specific Client Base, we heard from panellist Becky Swan, a Certified Athletic Therapist who specializes in treating the tactical athletes of the Vancouver Police Department. Becky shared her journey to where she is today, along with advice for present and future Certified ATs looking to niche in this area.

Like many Certified ATs working in a niche, Becky didn’t plan on going into policing; she wanted to work in sports. After graduating from UBC with a degree in Human Kinetics, Becky enrolled in an athletic therapy program at Sheridan College before landing a student placement with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

After graduating and becoming certified, Becky moved to Vancouver and began personal training and working for a kinesiology clinic. Eventually, Becky also went on to work with the Women’s National Soccer Team. While she enjoyed working with these athletes, Becky felt that she wasn’t working within her passion.

In 2010, Becky saw a job ad for a fitness coordinator with the Vancouver Police Department. As the daughter of a retired RCMP officer, Becky had spent many years in the company of officers and their families and saw this as a great opportunity to go back to her roots and take on a new challenge. She applied and got the job.

Once in the role, Becky met with a sergeant to discuss providing therapy for officers. After waiting on this to be approved, Becky came up with a plan to motivate officers, who had never received athletic therapy, to come receive treatment. Every week, Becky would write up an article about various injuries officers face. This was a huge success, building the program very quickly.

One of the challenges that Becky faced in her role was the bureaucracy of working in the police department. They rely heavily on their chains of command, and if you don’t know where to go, you’ll end up having problems finding solutions. By finding the appropriate channels, Becky was able to add people to her team and decrease burnout.

After years of growth and further education, today Becky is the Physical Health and Performance Management Specialist with the Vancouver Police Department. She works with a team of service providers, giving treatment to police officers.

Working with tactical athletes poses a unique set of challenges. Tactical athletes have highly demanding jobs that require many elements to assist in their wellbeing. For example, police officers are often on duty throughout the night, work in high-stress environments, experience emotional strain, have exposure to traumatic events, and more. Providing care for police officers requires a more holistic approach to their well-being, focussing on both their physical and mental fitness.

For anyone looking to go into this field, Becky’s first piece of advice is to do your research and determine where and how athletic therapy is needed. One way to do this is to find your target organization's strategic plan and come up with your own plan to demonstrate how you can help achieve their existing goals. This is crucial for organizations such as police departments as they have specific timelines set in place; if you don’t fit into their timeline, they won’t see your value-add.

For new grads, Becky encourages an open mind to opportunities that they might not have thought of. For Becky, she hadn’t initially contemplated police work, but now she finds herself working in the midst of her passion.

To find an athletic therapist to help you as a tactical athlete, visit the CATA website. Stay up to date with CATA by following us on Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn!