What to Know Before You Call
I’m popping into AMT Head Office today to find out what everyone is up to and to learn a little bit more about the questions we members are asking.
I volunteered to pick up coffees for my visit. Of course, this is not an ordinary visit to Ultimo (the inner Sydney suburb where the AMT office is located). We’ve gone virtual.
“We have all been working at home now for 6 months and I think it’s safe to say we are all feeling rather exhausted,” Office Manager and all-round good egg, Katie Snell tells me. “Amidst the height of the pandemic, AMT staff and Board members were working well beyond what was required to make sure the organisation kept running and to get members through the other side of this horrible pandemic.”
Katie’s on the cappuccino today but admits that she has regularly turned to the energy boosting short black while working from home.
Katie fills me in on who’s who in AMT Head Office:
“It’s very exciting to say we now have 7 employees at AMT. I remember when there was only 3 of us, which is great as that means the AMT community is growing. I’m sure most members have encountered all of us at some point in time but just to remind everyone the names of the amazing team at AMT Head Office are Rebecca Barnett, Rema, Belinda (B), Shady (rhymes with daddy), Scott Lloyd-Owen, our newest recruit Declan and of course myself, Katie Snell.”
AMT was established in 1966 and is the oldest association in Australia to represent massage therapy in its own right. Originally a NSW based organisation, AMT went national in 2004.
AMT currently has 3425 members, with members from every state and territory of Australia, and 1 member in the USA.
That’s a lot of members to guide, assist and provide information to. Do you want to know a bit more about what happens at AMT Head Office? I did, so I asked Head Office staff a few questions.
BLOG: I bet AMT’s phones ring and email alerts ping all the time. This is only members wanting help, right?
CEO Rebecca Barnett (cappuccino for staff meetings, mainline tea during WFH):
“We pretty much had to throw the rule book out the window when COVID hit and things are not completely back to normal yet.
“We always dealt with a small volume of calls and emails from non-members but this reached a whopping one-third of our contacts when COVID arrived. Many of these calls were from angry business owners demanding that we tell our members to go back to work. There was also a fairly large element of listening and counselling type support going on for members. Overall, both call volume and call complexity has substantially increased over the past 6 months.
“There was also a fair volume of calls from non-member therapists who were seeking guidance and help in the areas that AMT excels at (for example, the COVID back-to-work risk assessment stuff). It’s surprising how many therapists call AMT because they can’t get through to their own association. It’s quite a tricky balancing act for us to negotiate because our first priority is always our own members and COVID made it challenging for us to filter out the needs of non-AMT members. When people are desperate for information, you really don’t want to turn them away.
“In “normal” times we do receive quite a lot of calls from employers and practice managers demanding information about provider numbers. This is probably the most frustrating type of call because it’s actually not possible for us to give out that information (there are privacy issues) and we don’t have any kind of binding relationship with – or obligation to – employers. It’s amazing how quickly some employers forget that provider numbers actually belong to the therapist – our member – and not to the practice. Amazing and supremely aggranoying.”
BLOG: I don’t think that’s a word.
“Of course it is. It’s a recognised portmanteau.”
BLOG: What are members asking for help with?
“The majority are about routine stuff such as renewals of insurance and first aid or professional development requirements. And then there’s the change of practice detail requests – did you know that AMT head office staff have processed 1360 practice address changes so far in 2020?”
BLOG: I did not know that. Wow. Why do you think that is?
“To me, this is a worrying statistic because it speaks volumes about the lack of stable employment opportunities in the industry. It’s a serious workforce development issue that needs to be addressed. And it really doesn’t help that there are dozens of places across social media where positions can be advertised not only for free but with no screening or oversight. In my view, this leaves therapists extremely vulnerable to exploitation under truly crappy contracts.
“Hmmm. I may have taken that answer in an unintended direction …”
BLOG: AMT’s website is packed with resources. So we don’t inundate AMT’s staff with phone calls, tell us what parts of the website we should read before we call.
“I am personally very invested in the members/practice resources section of the website. I have lost count of the number of times members have made helpful suggestions for resources that AMT should produce, only for me to gleefully inform them of the exact location said resource can be downloaded from the AMT website.
“When members first join AMT, they’re often understandably pretty focused on getting set up with provider numbers. If they put half that amount of focus into tooling around on the AMT website, I feel like they would be richly rewarded in lots of practice-building resources.”
“This is where the AMT portal can make a big difference. Knowing you can check your membership status 24/7, make changes plus renew membership brings a whole new level of control members did not have before.”
Rema suggested the following AMT resources that may replace any need to call/email:
Login to your member portal to add/check/change:
- Professional development activities/reflections
- First aid renewal
- Police check
- Health funds you’re a provider for
- Clinic address
- Personal contact details.
BLOG: Health funds. Provider numbers are a constant topic of discussion. Why does it take such a long time to get provider numbers? Why can’t AMT fix this?
Shady (half strength flat white):
“Because we only send a report to health funds once or twice a month.” This is as per the funds’ designated schedule.
The rest of the time (6-8 weeks) to get provider numbers is taken up by the health funds, over which AMT has no control.
BLOG: Over at Blog HQ, we get a few questions about joining AMT, either from about-to-graduate students or from members of other associations. What’s the process for new/transferring members?
B (prefers tea … oops) joined Scott (latte) for a webinar on transferring membership from another association to AMT. Together they provided a comprehensive overview – WATCH HERE.
No time to watch? No worries, B summarised how to join AMT:
New (practitioner) memberships
Must have National Police Check and Proof of Enrolment (PoE) to apply. The PoE must state applicant’s name, course name/code, and course start/end dates.
Upgrading from Student Membership
Login to your portal, upload qualification certificate, first aid and complete ‘Student Upgrade’ under your ‘Renewals’ tab.
Transferring from another Association
To enable a smooth transfer process, we need to confirm the applicant’s Provider Numbers with the Health Funds before anything else. This process can take some time, depending on how quickly each fund responds. The applicant will then need to email a copy of their qualification along with a competed Transfer Provider Numbers form.
Once confirmed (and all is ok) we then guide the member to complete the application form online and it follows the same process as a new member.
We advise all transfers to have at least 6 weeks left with their current association to minimise any issues with claiming.
Applications take up to 10 working days to process (be viewed and approved for AMT membership). This is simply due to the volume we get and the small team we have. Please note this doesn’t include the process of applying for Provider Numbers; this takes between 4-6wks to complete. Transfers can take a little longer due to the process.
BLOG: Wasn’t there an article on the blog about what happened to a few members when they made the switch to AMT?
BLOG: Yes, there is. To read it, click on the ladybugs below. It’s been a popular article on social media. We at Blog HQ are quite proud of it.
BLOG: AMT can provide legal advice to members, right?
“No. We don’t have any lawyers on staff. However, we pride ourselves in being able to assist members to locate the advice that they need.”
BLOG: AMT can step in with contract negotiations, right?
“Again, we can definitely provide a lot of guidance on this front but we always recommend that members get a lawyer to look over a contract before signing it. It might seem like a big upfront cost but it is worth the investment and can avoid a lot of stress and heartache.
“And if more contracts were subject to the scrutiny of qualified lawyers, it would start to show in better industry contracts overall, as business owners worked out that they couldn’t get away with writing contracts from google searches.”
BLOG: Most members have shifted over to the new professional development model. What’s the most commonly asked question about professional development?
“I think the most commonly asked questions are essentially pretty administrative so I would prefer to reassure members that the new system is far kinder and easier than they think and far kinder than the previous system. I honestly believe people will be pleasantly surprised if the reflections I am seeing in the member database are anything to go by. I am seeing some truly kickarse, inspiring stuff. It makes me teary every time.”
Also, check out the information about professional development on AMT’s website – it has links to more information too and will answer a lot of questions.
BLOG: Thanks for your time today team. Sorry that the coffees have gone cold. Also sorry B, I’ll remember to bring you tea next time.
Oh, and before I go back to Blog HQ, thank you all for your hard work and dedication, especially under such trying circumstances. AMT members are beyond grateful.