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In Depth Look: Head Athletic Trainer for Performing Arts Center

Jacklyn Bascomb-Harrison, MS, ATC is the Head Athletic Trainer for SoutheastHEALTH supporting Southeast Missouri State’s performing arts campus. She has been practicing as a Certified Athletic Trainer (AT) for nearly five years.

Describe your employment setting.

I work for a local hospital (SoutheastHEALTH) at Missouri’s only dedicated performing arts campus, Southeast Missouri State (SEMO) University- River Campus as the head AT. Athletic training services are provided for all students attending the SEMO Holland College of the Arts and Media (River Campus) which is comprised of roughly 300 students. However, our services are focused mainly on dance, theatre, musical theatre and music majors/minors, as well as the university’s marching band. All productions are medically covered as well as running a daily treatment/rehab clinic from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

What do you like about your position? What motivates you?

That’s easy! I love my performers and patients. They motivate me. They put in the work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. during class, and then keep doing work from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. at rehearsals. They push themselves so much to get better and expand their talents, which in return gives me the motivation and desire to be there, assisting them to be the best they can be. Also, the performing arts is such a unique setting that creates an always evolving environment to learn and become a better AT as well as be an advocate for performing arts medicine.

Describe the challenges and positive aspects of your new role.

One of the main challenges comes from a lack of awareness within the performing arts setting. Many performers don’t know what an AT does, or what we can do for them. Another challenge is the unique setting itself compared to the athletics setting. The differences in dance terminology versus exercise terminology (i.e., plié versus squat) and how their body moves can make this setting difficult. For example, in dance to perform pointe they need more range of motion in plantar flexion than an average athlete would need. However, those challenges I believe make me a better AT. I have to push myself outside of the basics and educate myself on specifics. A typical challenge in athletic training is the hours spent traveling, which can make home life hard. Luckily for me, in my specific situation there is no traveling which makes my home life easier.

What do you feel the impact, personally and professionally, has been on you within this role?

The biggest impact for me is my patients stating how much they appreciate the services I have provided them. They speak about how they never knew ATs worked with the performing arts. They always say they wish they had access to these services sooner in their performing arts experience, and hope to have it after college as well. To see my patients want the same quality of service once their college career is done and as they begin their true careers makes me feel like I have done my job well. It also motivates me to advocate for more ATs in this setting. There is a growing need for them and they could really make a difference.

What is your greatest achievement as an Athletic Trainer?

Becoming an AT in the performing arts has been my biggest achievement so far. Ever since applying for my undergraduate athletic training program at Fort Hays State University I dreamed of being an AT in the performing arts setting. I started working towards that goal by becoming a graduate assistant at Marshall University, working in the performing arts setting while obtaining my master’s degree. However, the ultimate career goal just seemed so far away because the setting was so new and rare. It is because of the rarity of this setting that when I started my current position it felt like I accomplished my biggest career goal and dream all at once so early on in my career. Now I strive to make the health of a performer an ideal and a primary focus in the performing arts world.

What advice do you have for other Athletic Trainers?

Network, network, network! It is very important to network. You never know who you might meet that could change your life forever. Find your niche. This career setting is expanding so much that there are so many more opportunities for ATs. If you love what you are doing it doesn’t always feel like work, but it’s so easy to let work absorb you. Make sure to set boundaries and create time for yourself and for the ones you love. It makes work and “regular” life more enjoyable.

Has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your role or work at all? If so, how?

COVID-19 has played a huge role in advocating our services. Performing arts is still such a new realm to athletic training that there still is some unknowns from that world that make it a challenge to do our job to the best of our abilities. We can see a lot of pushback and a lack of knowledge. However, with COVID-19 we provided a great deal, from education to production screenings, to a place to ask questions or get assistance with symptoms, tests and isolation/quarantine guidelines. They found a safe haven with us. Overall, COVID-19 has opened a door to be able to educate more about our services, which results in more students/patients using our services for things other than COVID-19 monitoring.

This article was originally published in the 2022 summer “Cert Update” newsletter.

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