How are FSBPT and APTA different?
The Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy and the American Physical Therapy Association each have unique missions, purposes, and roles to play in the physical therapy profession. The Federation is a membership organization of 53 jurisdiction physical therapy licensing authorities striving for excellence in its mission of public protection.
Per their website, the APTA is an individual membership professional organization representing more than 80,000 member physical therapists, physical therapist assistants, and students.
Unlike APTA, individual PTs and PTAs are not the primary members of the FSBPT. FSBPT members are the 53 jurisdiction licensing boards. Each jurisdiction sends a voting and alternate delegate to the annual Delegate Assembly which is held during the Federation’s annual meeting.
Whereas most physical therapist and physical therapist assistant licensing board members are also American Physical Therapy Association members, the typical APTA member has had little or no opportunity for interaction with the Federation outside of the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE). It is important that PTs and PTAs understand the unique roles of the APTA and FSBPT: where they may overlap and where they may diverge.
Historically, the NPTE has been the primary focus of FSBPT. Prior to 1986, however, the NPTE was developed by the APTA. Visionaries within the then APTA Section on Health Policy saw the potential for problems with the professional organization developing the entrance exam to the profession. What were some of these concerns? These visionaries identified that there was a potential for a lack of credibility of the examination process if developed by the professional organization. Additionally, the potential for conflict of interest was very real. In 1986, FSBPT was formed in response to these concerns.
In 1993, the transfer agreement between APTA and FSBPT brought the responsibility and ownership of the exam under the Federation. Under the agreement there are certain terms and obligations that must be met by FSBPT until 2014. Since the Federation took over the examination, it has worked hard to assure the defensibility of the NPTE and assure that it meets current standards for the development of a licensure exam. Today the NPTE has high credibility as a high stakes, secure examination which meets rigorous professional standards and earned external accreditation.
The NPTE, however, is not the only thing happening at the Federation. It is a dynamic organization developed to support the jurisdiction members and promote best practices in regulation. The FSBPT actively communicates and collaborates with the member jurisdictions and other stakeholders in the areas of discipline and ethics, legislation and professional standards, continuing competence, and standards for foreign educated physical therapists and physical therapist assistants.
APTA membership is completely voluntary for physical therapy professionals. Some PTs and PTAs go their entire career without APTA involvement. However, every licensed /certified PT or PTA has had to interact with a licensing board, usually during initial licensure and then upon each renewal. Licensing is mandated for physical therapists in all jurisdictions, and in most jurisdictions for physical therapist assistants.
Licensing boards must comply with the individual statutes and regulations in their jurisdictions. The Federation has no authority to mandate anything to its member licensing boards; all products and services developed are completely voluntary. They always have the option of opting in or opting out. APTA National also has its components which include the State Chapters and the Sections. These components are required to follow the same policies as set forth by the national organization, but the components remain independent organizations.
Just as individuals and APTA chapters look to APTA for resources, jurisdictions often come to FSBPT for resources and support when going through the process of updating the practice act or regulations or making scope of practice decisions. FSBPT tracks state and national legislation of interest to the physical therapy community and communicates that information to the jurisdictions.
Typically the legislative changes, introduction of bills, and lobbying are performed by APTA. The APTA has utilized the Federation’s Model Practice Act as the best practice for legislative language regarding physical therapy. Unlike the FSBPT, APTA also maintains a Political Action Committee, the PT-PAC which accepts monetary contributions to further the professional association’s goals.
Both APTA and FSBPT support that it is the responsibility of the individual PT and PTA to maintain competence throughout a lifetime of practice. Jurisdictions can only mandate a minimal competence level to protect the public from incompetent providers. FSBPT has developed a continuing competence program to meet the goal of ensuring minimal competence and safety. Professional development is beyond the purview of the licensing authorities but well within the scope of the professional association. Professional development is an ongoing process of assessment and planned actions that provide the opportunity for the acquisition and application of knowledge, skills, and abilities that meet or exceed contemporary performance standards.
It is completely appropriate and encouraged that state boards and state chapters interact and collaborate towards a common goal. State APTA chapters and state licensing boards have often found ways to work together. In some instances, state boards are legally prohibited from lobbying or initiating changes to the practice act. The boards find it necessary to engage the chapter for help in these matters and work together to promote the changes.
APTA and FSBPT both play vital, but different roles in the world of physical therapy. The organizations have different missions and therefore, different goals. Understanding that each organization represents a different point of view with a different primary focus, while fostering relationships and communication between them allows for a stronger PT profession.