APTA Responds to The New York Times on Physical Therapists Using the Term 'Doctor'

October 5, 2011

Dear Editor,

In the October 1 article "When the Nurse Wants to Be Called 'Doctor'" by Gardiner Harris, physicians claim that using the term "doctor" by physical therapists could lead to patient confusion.

To provide accurate information to consumers, the American Physical Therapy Association has taken a proactive approach and provides clear guidelines for physical therapists regarding the use of the title "Doctor." These guidelines state that physical therapists, in all clinical settings, who hold a doctor of Physical Therapy Degree (DPT) shall indicate they are physical therapists when using the title "Doctor" or "Dr," and shall use the titles in accord with jurisdictional law.

By 2015 the DPT degree will be the minimum educational requirement for the accreditation of physical therapist professional programs. The reasons for this are higher employer expectations, expanding needs for our services, expectations of patients and clients for these services across various aspects of health care, greater evidence supporting physical therapist examinations and interventions, increased competition among programs for quality applicants, greater foundational and clinical science coursework requirements, and lengthening of clinical internships.

Currently 46 states and the District of Columbia allow patients to be evaluated and treated by physical therapists without first obtaining a physician referral. Patients must be able to have access to quality, affordable health care. With the DPT comes our responsibility to engage in lifelong learning and evidence based practice.

Your readers may find a physical therapist at www.moveforwardpt.com.


R. Scott Ward, PT, PhD
American Physical Therapy Association