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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.


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