Physical therapists and physical therapist assistants are licensed for the purpose of protecting the public’s health, safety, and welfare. Although licensees are legally and ethically responsible for updating their skills to contemporary practice, regulators have the ultimate responsibility to assure the public that those persons who are licensed are worthy of those licenses.
Regulators need to implement strategies to ensure licensed physical therapists and physical therapist assistants are safe, effective, and ethical practitioners not only at the point of entry to the profession, but throughout their careers. In the current paradigm, regulators primarily focus on making sure that licensees meet minimum legal standards. Historically, the completion of continuing education has been a proxy for ensuring the “continuing competence” of licensees. The problem is that research suggests continuing education alone does not ensure competence and prevent harm to clients.
The term, “continuing competence,” is often used to describe a cyclical process for meeting jurisdictional-prescribed requirements. In the continually changing health care environment, simply meeting these requirements is not sufficient.