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Standards of Practice, Physiotherapy Alberta: Q & A For Patients

The College of Physiotherapists of Alberta is a regulatory organization which operates under the legislated authority of the Health Professions Act, the Physical Therapy Profession Regulation and the College’s bylaws.

The main roles the College fulfills are to:

  • Safeguard the public’s interest
  • Set practice and professional standards
  • Register qualified and competent physiotherapists
  • Administer a continuing competence program
  • Respond to complaints about physiotherapy services received

The Standards of Practice identify for both physiotherapists and the public what is acceptable professional practice and creates a benchmark against which a physiotherapist’s professional practice can be assessed. This article will go through a series of questions concerning the Standards of Practice and how they relate to the public.

What is the purpose of having Standards of Practice?

As mentioned above, the Standards of Practice are used to guide a physiotherapist’s practice. The Standards define the minimum performance expectations that physiotherapists must meet. The provincial government requires health profession regulators (like the College of Physiotherapists of Alberta) to establish the Standards of Practice as part of fulfilling the regulatory mandate. The Standards also provide the public with information about what they can expect when receiving physiotherapy services.

What does a Standard of Practice mean to me as a member of the public or a patient?

Each Standard of Practice gives direction to the physiotherapist’s practice in a way that creates safe, quality and effective physiotherapy care. Standards of Practice encompass all areas of practice that involve physiotherapy service delivery. The Standards cover provision of clinical care, expectations around documentation and record keeping, privacy, and more. Standards of Practice may also address instances where physiotherapy services are directed to the public at large. The most common example of this is the Advertising Standard. You may not be an active patient in the clinic, but you would still be potentially exposed to a clinic’s advertising.

What is an Expected Outcome?

Each Standard is consistently formatted throughout the Standard of Practice document. It begins by listing out the Standard Statement which identifies what the performance expectations are for the physiotherapist. Under the Standard Statement comes the Expected Outcome, which states what the patient or member of the public can expect from physiotherapists. This would pertain directly to you as a member of the public as this speaks directly to you regarding each Standard.

For example, under the Assessment, Diagnosis, Treatment Standard the expected outcome is “Clients can expect the physiotherapist to select appropriate assessment tools, make an informed diagnosis, and apply treatment procedures proficiently for quality delivery of safe, effective physiotherapy services.”

Your physiotherapist should assess your injury appropriately with the right tools and procedures. After the assessment your physiotherapist should discuss a diagnosis or if they are unable to diagnose your injury, they should at least discuss what the assessment findings were and how that may impact your condition or care. Then the physiotherapist should discuss and apply your treatment plan which results in you receiving quality, safe and effective physiotherapy services.

Underneath the Expected Outcome are the Performance Expectations that provide the details in how a physiotherapist would meet the Standards Statement and the Expected Outcome.

How do the Standards relate to the Code of Ethical Conduct?

Standards of Practice and the Code of Ethical Conduct directly relate to how a physiotherapist is expected to carry out their duties in a professional and ethical manner. There is often overlap between the Standards and the Code as they are both centered around the patient’s and the public’s interest. Whereas practice guidelines and other documents direct physiotherapy practice from a more clinical standpoint, the Code of Ethical Conduct serves as a moral anchor for the profession related to ethical conduct, highlighting the values that underpin the profession. Similar to the Standards of Practice, the Code of Ethical Conduct applies to physiotherapist in all contexts of practice and through all stages of their careers.1

What do I do if I am unsure my physiotherapist is meeting the expectations listed in the Standards of Practice?

If you have questions about the physiotherapy care you received, you can refer to the Standards to understand the requirements the physiotherapist must meet. Concerns should first be brought to the attention of the physiotherapist or manager when appropriate. If you don’t feel comfortable or are unsure how to proceed, you can always phone the College’s Practice Advisor to find out more. If you think the physiotherapist has not met the requirements set out by the College or legislation you can also reach out to the College’s Conduct Coordinator to discuss your concern. You can access more information on how to file a complaint here.

Do the Standards of Practice change over time?

Like most things in life, physiotherapy changes and evolves over time. As regulators it is our responsibility to keep up with the evolution of the profession and how physiotherapy is practiced. The College of Physiotherapists of Alberta must also keep up to date with ongoing changes to legislation. Standards of Practice are living documents and they are updated at regular intervals.

It is important to recognize that physiotherapists in Alberta have a regulatory framework that they must abide by. Part of that framework are the Standards of Practice and included in those standards are client expectations. These expectations give the public a better idea of what they can expect when receiving physiotherapy services in Alberta. The Standards cover all areas of practice from Advertising to Use of Title and each one is created with protection of the public as its primary objective. Please read the Standards of Practice to get a better understanding of what you can expect when receiving physiotherapy services.

Sources

  1. https://www.cpta.ab.ca/for-physiotherapists/regulatory-expectations/code-of-ethics/
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