• News New Blog Banner

  • From PT in Motion: Walking Away From the PT Designation

    Fed up with all the paperwork? Tired of the hassles? Want to focus on all the good you can do for people without the burden of having that "PT" designation after your name? How about just dropping the title and calling yourself something else?

    Simple answer: it doesn't work that way. Less simple answer: doing so could put you in ethical and legal jeopardy.

    This month's "Ethics in Practice" column in PT in Motion magazine tells the story of "Tina," a physical therapist (PT) who was drawn to the profession by way of her love for athletics, and who found her true professional niche as a PT running a cash-based practice, primarily treating already-active clients seeking to boost their athletic performance.

    Tina loves the work, but hates the documentation, which she sees as required only as a way to receive reimbursement. Since her business is cash-based, she decides to forget the standard documentation procedures in favor of her own far less rigorous approach. When Tina asks a fellow PT to fill in for her while on a trip, the substitute is unnerved by the lack of proper documentation, and warns Tina that she could be in trouble if faced with an audit.

    Tina understands the point, but comes up with what she thinks is a clever solution: she'll just stop referring to herself as a PT, removing the designation from her business cards, taking down framed licenses and diplomas, and explaining to clients that she has evolved into a "wellness expert

    Simple, right? Wrong, writes column author Nancy Kirsch, PT, DPT, PhD. Tina's actions call issues of professional responsibility into question. The idea of voluntarily surrendering a PT credential clearly poses legal issues, but it also presents ethical challenges should the practitioner in question continue to rely on knowledge and skills acquired through her or his training and professional development as a PT. As Kirsch writes, "Does Tina's desire to avoid documentation obviate her responsibility to tap the full extent of her abilities on behalf of her clients?" Check out this month's PT in Motion to learn more.

    "Name Game" is included in the December issue of PT in Motion. Hard copy versions of the magazine are mailed to all members who have not opted out; digital versions are available online to members. Know a nonmember PT or PTA? Invite them to read “What to Expect When They’re Expecting,” the issue’s cover feature that’s open to the public. Then invite them to join APTA to take advantage of all the association’s member benefits.


    • This in an interesting issue and obviously becoming more prevalent if it is brought up here as an ethical issue. More PTs are becoming aware of the fact that their license can be as much of a burden as it is a benefit. A whole host of practitioners have arisen who don't have recognized professional licenses but who interact with the public on various health issues quite successfully, both from a clinical standpoint and from a financial standpoint. And they are not burdened with the paperwork or other bureaucratic hassles that face PTs in ever growing amounts nor constricted by the "evidence based" mania that was initially well intended but unfortunately, with overzealous application, evolved into a professional mindset that has all too often served to stifle creativity and innovation within the profession, all in the supposed name of "science". If organizations or governments do not go after these practitioners for practicing physical therapy (or some other health practice) without a license, why would it be any surprise when these practitioners flourish and multiply and begin to be joined by PTs who have become disenchanted with their license and profession. I've approached various authorities on just this issue and the response that I got was essentially ... crickets. They don't seem interested in doing anything substantial about it and are not actively defending the rights, privileges, and responsibilities that come with the license. Furthermore, with insurance companies being allowed to run roughshod over the profession and some PTs even becoming collaborators with the insurance companies (to the detriment of both patients and providers), why is it any surprise that some PTs would wish to distance themselves from this situation? So the question bears asking, if the PT voluntarily surrenders their license, does not claim to be a PT, does not file for insurance as a PT, etc., why wouldn't they be able to function as a "trainer", "coach", "health coach", "wellness expert", "body worker", etc? Whether they acquired their knowledge through formal PT training or through other avenues, in the real world, it really hasn't mattered. Personally, the vast majority of things I do as a PT, I learned AFTER I graduated from school and many of those things I learned from non-PT sources. If we see PTs drifting away from their licensure, we should certainly open our eyes and begin questioning why and seek to remedy the situation. In the same vein, some of the very best PTs that I know have left the APTA and, if it were not for the reduction in my license fees after being a member for 40 years, I may very well have joined them. I think that, unless things change, we will see an increasing exodus of PTs from licensure and from membership. Human beings instinctively seek freedom and self-determination over subjugation and oppression and also instinctively seek value. For better or for worse, that is the phenomenon we are witnessing here. The trend in our society (not just in our profession) has been that, "Little by little, more and more is being controlled by fewer and fewer". We are seeing this on a national and global scale, politically, economically, financially, and in other ways. The above situation actually constitutes a revolutionary act of sorts opposing this trend. It's a predictable and rational behavior, given the circumstances. A parallel example would be the emergence of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies in opposition to fiat money excesses and abuses. The question we need to ask ourselves is, what are we going to do about it?

      Posted by Brian Miller on 12/16/2017 11:19 AM

    Leave a comment
    Name *
    Email *