Titles and scope of practice
Frequently asked questions
What titles can a physiotherapist use?
I’m a physiotherapist. What’s in my scope of practice?
The national law regulates the use of certain titles. Misuse of a protected title is an offence under this law.
Only registered physiotherapists may use the title ‘physiotherapist’ or ‘physical therapist’. No advertising may cause a reasonable person to infer that someone is a physiotherapist if they are not.
Please also refer to the answer given in the Complaints and Notifications section: “Someone is using a title they are not entitled to use – use and protection of title.”
The national law does not allow the use of the word ‘specialist’ and associated words (e.g. specialising) to refer to a registered practitioner, unless they are a ‘specialist’ recognised by the national law - It’s a protected title. Other titles, such as ‘sports physiotherapist’ are also not allowed under the national law. Click here for more information about the national law and the use of specialist titles.
However, the Physiotherapy Board of Australia (PhysioBA ) recognises the established history of physiotherapy practice, achieved through recognised higher education through the Australian College of Physiotherapists.
By exception, the APA secured the agreement of the PhysioBA to allow the following tier 2 or tier 3 titles awarded only by the APA and the Australian College of Physiotherapists to APA members who meet the requirements.
Tier 2 titling:
The titles awarded by groups are:
- APA Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist
- APA Sports Physiotherapist
- APA Animal Physiotherapist
- APA Gerontological Physiotherapist
- APA Neurological Physiotherapist
- APA Occupational Health Physiotherapist
- APA Cardiorespiratory Physiotherapist
- APA Continence and Women's Health Physiotherapist
- APA Paediatric Physiotherapist
Those awarded these titles may only use the following format: “Mr J Brown, APA Sports Physiotherapist”
Tier 3 titling:
Australian College of Physiotherapists confers Fellowship by Specialisation in the following disciplines:
- Continence and women’s health
- Occupational Health
By exception, the APA secured the agreement of the Physiotherapy Board of Australia to allow those awarded the above to use the following format:
“Mrs P. Smith, Specialist cardiorespiratory physiotherapist (as awarded by the Australian College of Physiotherapists in 20YY)”
Physiotherapists who do not have this title may not use the word specialist or associated words.
The word “expert” isn’t protected. The APA does not believe that using the word ‘expert’ implies the person holds the protected “specialist” title.
We remind all members that you must not use the word “specialist” or its derivatives. You risk enforcement action from AHPRA if you use a protected title. We strongly advise members to comply with the national law and remove the word “specialist” and its derivatives from notices and advertising.
We also advise members who have not completed tier 2 titling to do so, or remove any reference to a particular field of physiotherapy e.g. ‘sports physiotherapy’.
To find out if a member has opted in to the “Find a Physio” service, click here or call us on 1300 306 622 for information about what qualifications and APA titles a physiotherapist has.
If a member is not using the correct titles, the APA can contact a member to remind them of their obligations. If this is not corrected we advise you to notify AHPRA , or the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) if you are in NSW or the Office of the Health Ombudsman (OHO) if you are in Queensland to discuss whether it is a matter they should investigate.
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If you are unsure whether the work you are undertaking is within the scope of physiotherapy practice, we ask our members to consider the following:
- Have you learned to do the task? That is to say is the task within your competence (skills, knowledge, qualifications, position description)
- Is it within the law?
- Are there appropriate safeguards in place in your work environment?
- Would your professional colleagues agree that you are competent?
If you answer no any of these questions you may be outside of scope of practice. Members have a professional obligation for ensuring that they work within scope of practice – so members may need to take some time to investigate further.
Scope of practice is dynamic, and differs from practitioner to practitioner depending on training and experience. Some physios work at the cutting edge of physiotherapy practice and therefore need to utilise the collective knowledge of the profession when assessing the safety of their practice.
A regular assessment of your competence, an awareness of the laws, and a regular check of the safeguards are crucial to assessing scope of practice. Scope of practice is dynamic, and to reflect this we use a dynamic approach in describing scope of practice to highlight the opportunities and innovation available for individuals, the profession, and the health system.
Members may want to consider utilising the resources we have developed, such as our position on scope of practice, the self-assessment toolkit, and the case-studies.
Please refer to the APA scope of practice webpage for full resources:
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