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Continuing Competence Model

A model for jurisdictions

In many jurisdictions, requiring licensees to take continuing education (CE) courses has sufficed as a demonstration of competence. However, the literature around the topic of continuing competence (CC) does not support continuing education as the sole determinant of ongoing competence.

There are many ways to maintain and acquire skills that are as effective, if not more effective than attending a continuing education course. Advocacy groups, such as the PEW Commission and the Citizen’s Advocacy Center (CAC) support greater efforts to address competence, not just continuing education.


Key differences

Two key differences between continuing education and continuing competence are the way value is measured and the breadth of activities that qualify.

  • Value

    In a traditional continuing education model value is measured by the time spent attending the course. A continuing competence model calls for valuing activities on a variety of factors beyond time.

  • Breadth of activities

    In a traditional continuing education model the only activities that are approved are those that follow standard classroom or online classroom structures. A continuing competence model allows for a number of activities including residencies, fellowships, assessment tools, specialty exams, and research, as well as traditional continuing education opportunities.

The FSBPT continuing competence committee developed a model based on current evidence and addresses issues raised by the consumer groups around this complex subject. Since the model was developed, many jurisdictions have used the model as a resource and adopted components of the model.

Because uniformity has benefits for clinicians and licensing boards and because this was an attempt to develop an “ideal” model, the continuing competence committee sought input into the model from a broad stakeholder group including jurisdiction licensing authorities. This was to ensure that the model represents the FSBPT’s best collective knowledge versus the knowledge of one state or committee.


The continuing competence model

There are only two requirements for the model:

  • Each licensee must obtain a minimum of 30 CCUs from either certified or approved activities in a 2 year renewal period.
  • At least 15 CCUs must be obtained by taking certified activities.

The model also has some guiding principles that will need to be communicated to licensees:

  • Continuing competence should be self-directed by the physical therapist (PT) or physical therapist assistant (PTA).
  • Evaluation/assessment of current competence is critical for the PT or PTA. The results of an evaluation or assessment should be used by the PT or PTA to then select appropriate development activities.
  • PTs and PTAs should have a wide variety of activities available to demonstrate their competence; there is not one “right” way to demonstrate competence.

In order to understand the model, it is important to define some terms and concepts.


Concepts and definitions:

  1. Competence

    The application of knowledge, skills and behaviors required to function effectively, safely, ethically and legally within the context of the individual’s role and environment.

  2. Continuing Competence

    The lifelong process of maintaining and documenting competence through ongoing self-assessment, development and implementation of a personal learning plan, and subsequent reassessment.

  3. Activities

    Activities that a licensee participates in to either assess his/her competence or to develop competency. An activity is assigned a value toward meeting continuing competence requirements.

  4. Certified Activities

    Activities that go through a certification process to determine if the activity meets a minimal threshold of required criteria and how well the activity meets additional “desirable” criteria.

  5. Approved Activities

    Activities that are approved but do not go through a formal certification process due to the fact that these activities would be difficult to certify (see examples below). Approved activities are assigned a set value as a group, based on the criteria, versus each individual activity being assigned a value.

  6. Continuing Competence Unit (CCU)

    The relative value assigned to continuing competence activities; the value of the unit is based on meeting established criteria.

  7. Continuing Education Unit (CEU)

    One CEU is generally ten contact hours of participation in organized continuing education/training experience under responsible, qualified direction and instruction.

  8. The Model

    Continuing competence requirements for re-licensure.

  9. Standards

    Agreed upon principles for developing and evaluating continuing competence activities.

  10. Criteria

    The indicator or measure that is used to determine how well the standards are adhered to. Criteria are used to assign the CCU value to an activity.

  11. Certification

    The process of evaluating an activity against the standards to determine if the activity is acceptable and using the criteria to assign the CCU value.


FSBPT Continuing Competence Model

Activity Type
Activity Type
Conferences As awarded Conferences ≥ 32 hours
Conferences 8 to 31 hours
Conferences 1 to 7 hours
Continuing Education As awarded Continuing Education ≥ 64 hours
Continuing Education 32 to 63 hours
Continuing Education 8 to 31 hours
Continuing Education 1 to 7 hours
Exams & Assessments As awarded Exams & Assessments 11
Residencies/fellowships As awarded Residencies/fellowships 15
Degree Coursework (per semester credit hour) 11
Board & Committee Work ≥ 33 hours/year
Board & Committee Work 16 to 32 hours/year
Structured Interactive Activities (e.g. group study) 3
In-service 1
Mentorship - mentor or protégé 5
Publication – peer- reviewed
Publication – non peer-reviewed
Research 10
Self Study – preparation for teaching
Self Study
Clinical Instructorship 3
Self Assessment 5
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