Good Practice: Using Your Professional Title Appropriately
What’s in a name? Over the years there has been considerable confusion within the physiotherapy profession about the difference between professional title and academic credentials.
What is the difference between a professional title and an academic credential?
There is a significant difference between the two! While your academic credential creates the possibility for you to be licensed to practice, it is not a license. Although no one can take away your duly earned academic credentials, to earn and retain the right to call yourself a physiotherapist or physical therapist, you must be a regulated member of the college. In addition to your academic credentials, you must meet other requirements to be licensed to practice in Alberta such as:
- Pass the Physiotherapy Competency Examination (PCE) or meet the practice hours requirement
- Demonstrate English language proficiency
- Be of good character and reputation
- Have liability insurance
Members on the provisional register have an additional requirement to indicate their status through use of the title physiotherapist intern.
Why is that the case?
Under the Health Professions Act, the titles physiotherapist and physical therapist are protected. According to the act:
A regulated member of the College of Physical Therapists of Alberta may use any of the following titles and abbreviations: physiotherapist, physical therapist, physiotherapist intern, physical therapist intern, or PT. (Health Professions Act, Schedule 20 (2))
No person or group of persons shall represent or imply that they are a regulated member or that the group consists of regulated members unless they are a regulated member or the group consists of regulated members. (Physiotherapist Health Professions Act, Part 7, Section 128(1))
Taken together these sections of the act clearly require that only physiotherapists who are registered members of Physiotherapy Alberta (the College of Physical Therapists of Alberta) may use the titles physiotherapist or physical therapist.
What is the big deal?
Your professional title is the proof that you have met the requirements to practice.
One of Physiotherapy Alberta’s roles is to establish which individuals have met the requirements for licensure. Both academic standards for entry to practice and license requirements have changed over time. Patients may not be aware of these changes, nor will they necessarily understand what credentials such as BScPT, MScPT or DPT mean, but they understand what a physiotherapist is. Your professional title is their protection and assurance that what they are buying is quality care from a regulated professional.
Jane P. Jones PT, MScPT
Clinical Specialist in Women’s Health
XYZ Physiotherapy Clinic
PT is always the first designation listed.
Credentials that are unfamiliar and unrecognizable to the public do not increase confidence in the profession. If you have multiple credentials, such as academic credentials, clinical specialist designations or other credentials, you can include them on your business card, but they need to be represented in a manner that is meaningful for the patient, and physiotherapist must always be the first designation listed.
By using your professional title you help to educate patients, the public and others about what the title means and why it is important:
- Only licensed, titled physiotherapists have the education, training, experience, and authority to practice as a physiotherapist and perform a physiotherapy assessment, make a diagnosis and manage a patient’s health using physiotherapy techniques and modalities.
- You can and should expect safe, quality, competent physiotherapy care from a licensed physiotherapist.
- Title also indicates that you are licensed by a regulatory college that has practice and ethical standards that you must comply with. This is what protects the public interest.
This slang term has made its way into media and general use, including the everyday speech of some physiotherapists. Although in Alberta the term is considered an abbreviation, it doesn’t represent or convey respect, credibility, professionalism or the earned trust that the terms physiotherapist or physical therapist does. As such, physiotherapists are strongly discouraged from using this slang to describe themselves or their practice.
Official marks are words that have been registered with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office through the Federal Trademarks Act. Physiotherapist titles are official marks. The Canadian Alliance of Physiotherapy Regulators (The Alliance) has the authority for the use of official marks in Canada and those marks include title (physiotherapist, physical therapist, PT) and practice words (physiotherapy, physical therapy). The Alliance delegates authority to use these words to licensed physiotherapists via their provincial regulatory bodies and to related physiotherapy organizations.
So, what’s in a name?
While “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”, when it comes to professional title we must disagree with Mr. Shakespeare. In the end, what we call ourselves is indeed very important!