Meet Jodee Roberts: AT in the Secondary School Setting | “All patients deserve quality healthcare”

Roberts described the athletic trainer’s job as detective work.

“The AT in my high school was talking about how much you can learn from a patient without asking
them any questions,” she said, remembering watching the athletic trainer do an entire gait analysis on a
patient as they walked toward the athletic training clinic. This type of interaction with her high school’s
athletic trainer combined with an accidental enrollment in a sports medicine class was what inspired
Jodee Roberts, DAT, LAT, ATC.

However, despite the high school roots to her inspiration, Roberts had no interest in working in a high
school setting at the beginning of her career. After graduating with her bachelor’s degree in athletic
training, Roberts was applying for jobs and, like a typical new grad, wasn’t having any luck. Soon she
found herself going against her initial plans.

“There was a little high school that was four hours away from my hometown in Washington,” she
explained. “They were offering a high school teaching position alongside an athletic training position.”

She decided to apply for the job in hopes “they’ll get desperate.” Next thing she knew, they had offered
her the job and to pay for her to go back to school and get her teaching certificate.

“I will teach, and while teaching I will go to college again, and while doing that I will be an athletic trainer
for the sports teams,” she remembered trying to wrap her head around all the responsibilities. “I did not
know a single thing about teaching, I did not know a single thing about classroom management.”

So much so, in fact, that she threatened to put one of her high school students in the corner for talking.

“I was four years older than the oldest senior that I had,” she said. “It was really hard to establish a
sense of authority in the classroom. I knew that in the meantime I was going to have to have some fun
with the students to get my point across–luckily for me, they had a great sense of humor. ”

But that was the first of several learning curves.

“I think it was the first time that I realized I’ve got to start playing my own game, doing my own thing, in
order to be successful in this role,” she explained. “Stop emulating what I’ve seen from other Athletic
Trainers, and start being my own person.”

She finished her teaching certificate within two years of starting the position and fell in love with

“It’s about bringing job experiences to the high school level and exploring different aspects of various
healthcare professions,” Roberts said. “With a program like this in the high school, students can get a
good idea of what they want to be and what they do not want to be without losing money. Then, in
college, they can focus on excelling in their field rather than exploring a field.”

Graduate school only solidified her love for working in the high school setting. “Being a teacher gave me
the opportunity to see the ways in which this vulnerable population is often underserved, and attending
Indiana State’s doctoral program (in athletic training) helped hone my skills in better patient care. In my
experience, the ‘make or break’ of a good patient-healthcare professional interaction largely relies on
the healthcare professional’s ability to educate, explain, and empower each patient. Unfortunately, I’ve had many students and patients remark that I was the first healthcare professional that had provided
any of those things to them.” Speculating that the lack of “best practice” for teenagers could be
attributed to perceived maturity level, nuances in working with minors and their guardians, or possibly
plain agism, Roberts’ affinity for getting involved kicked in. “I can’t stand to see a problem and not be a
part of the solution. And it’s important to me to see things through until I know I’ve either resolved the
problem or–at the very least–made the situation better.” Attending Indiana State University’s Doctorate
of Athletic Training program, in combination with her being a full-time teacher, helped refine her ability
to educate and empower patients. Earning her doctorate from this program also gave her the
confidence to apply and work for her dream job at a larger high school–over two times the size of where
she first began nine years ago.

Roberts is now the head athletic trainer of her alma mater’s rival school, Wenatchee High School. “Okay,
maybe it was my next-to-dream job,” she laughed with chagrin, reflecting on her loyalty to her former
high school, “but they have treated me so well here, and I finally got to move back ‘home,’ which is all I
ever wanted.” She works with two other athletic trainers and is still getting to teach classes such as
Beginners and Advanced Sports Medicine, as well as Medical Terminology.

A typical day involves getting to work around 8 a.m. and teach classes until 3:30 p.m. As soon as she’s
done teaching, she goes next door to do the athletic training clinic and begins her day as the Head
Athletic Trainer. She said one of the great things about her situation, and having multiple athletic
trainers on staff, is the work-life balance it affords all of them. “The amount of hours–as well as the
timing of those hours– that are required for an athletic trainer to work in order to be a good healthcare
professional can be cumbersome when done alone,” she said. “ For example, in the first half hour before
practice, you might see as many as 30 patients. Wrapping up a school day and then shifting gears to do
patient care is difficult when you have a student needing to retake a test and a patient needing you to
re-tape a toe.” Rarely do the two jobs not overlap. Roberts explains that working with two other
athletic trainers has allowed her to separate the two jobs, and to share the responsibilities with others
so that she can not only be a good teacher and athletic trainer, but a great mom, wife, and family
member. Roberts is responsible for supervising practicum students, where her sports medicine students
essentially job shadow and learn how the skills learned in class are applied to patients and patient care.
“It’s important that the up-and-coming healthcare professionals see that this setting– atop many of the
aforementioned difficulties, was also once grossly unbalanced in patient-to-clinician ratios– can achieve
a good work-life balance; that there are many benefits to working in a team; and that all patients
deserve quality healthcare.”

“Because I share the responsibilities with two other people, we operate on a rotation,” she explained.

“While one of us is covering practices, another might be covering a game, and maybe–hopefully–one of
us has the day off.” Athletic Training goes far beyond game and practice coverage. Annually, and season
to season, emergency action plans must be created, updated, and practiced; injury tracking software
must be reviewed, and new systems to mitigate recurring injuries must be incorporated. “There is
always something to do–whether it’s hydration testing, coordinating/administering/comparing baseline
brain tests to post-injury tests, completing patient intake forms, connecting with patient guardians, or
supporting a patient through a rehabilitation protocol you’ve made– this job keeps you busy.“ Now
being the head athletic trainer, Roberts is also responsible for traveling with sports teams, being a job
shadow instructor for high school students, and creating coverage schedules with her athletic training
staff as well as physicians. “Being both the sports medicine teacher and the head athletic trainer, it is my job to make sure our students are exposed to current industry standards. Annually, I have to prove that
we are using the newest technology and incorporating best practice within the clinical facility.
Thankfully, I am working for a school that full-heartedly supports those efforts, and a team that
underscores those values with high expectations and individual leadership engagement at the state,
district, and national level.” One of her coworkers is the executive director for the Washington Career
and Technical Sports Medicine Association, an organization dedicated to exposing youth to the various
fields within sports medicine–namely athletic training. Roberts herself has served on the state board as
a region representative, and is currently serving as the District 10 LGBTQ+ committee chair. “There is a
great responsibility that comes with the power of visibility when you are both a teacher and an athletic
trainer, and showing our students the importance of being involved beyond the demands of both
jobs–albeit challenging–is a great way to produce leaders within the athletic training profession. Our
students are the next generation of healthcare workers, and I want them exposed to the outstanding
and essential healthcare that athletic trainers provide.”