Nancy R. Kirsch, PT, DPT, PhD, FAPTA
From the outset, the role of each member board and FSBPT has always been to protect the public. Ideas concerning the best way to do this—the best regulatory guidelines, the best disciplinary protocols, and the best assessment tools—are ever changing. We are always confronting new challenges and opportunities. However, perhaps that truth has never been more evident than in the year 2020.
I do not need to be the one to tell you that 2020 has been extraordinary in manifold ways. As with many institutions, FSBPT and our member boards have needed to be nimble and responsive in trying and turbulent times. Additionally, throughout this disruptive year, we have needed to keep at the forefront the importance of our mission—public protection—while balancing the needs of multiple stakeholders in unfamiliar and demanding circumstances.
FSBPT had disruptions for the April exams that were unparalleled with 5,922 displaced candidates. For context, consider this, over the last eight years, in total, we have had forty-three candidates displaced in April. Because of this, and the frustration candidates faced in taking the exam, there were calls to move the NPTE to remote-proctoring services and even some calls to omit licensure exams entirely.
FSBPT is an evidence-based, fact-driven organization, and our policy decisions reflect this. While we are very concerned about accommodating candidates’ needs and avoiding unreasonable barriers to taking the exam, ultimately, test security is our primary goal. Unfortunately, enhancing test security often comes with a tradeoff in terms of candidate convenience. When considering our options, we also always account for fairness and legal issues. Additionally, remote proctoring was never a “flip-the-switch” solution, and it would not have addressed the immediate issues candidates faced in the spring.
Therefore, we needed to respond in other ways. We realized the value of clear and accessible information and we increased our communications via multiple channels: emails, our website, social media, and webinars. We knew educators and students had many questions. Therefore, we created robust FAQ pages and provided webinars to both educators and candidates. We walked through their myriad issues and concerns and directed them to appropriate resources to address those issues. We also frequently talked with Prometric; similar health care testing organizations; international counterparts; and our partners, APTA, CAPTE, ACAPT, PTA SIG, ELP. We were committed to ensuring all stakeholders were in the loop.
Fortunately, with increased communication with our stakeholders and frequent collaboration with Prometric, spaces opened up and 99.99% of April exam candidates were able to complete the test in May. Additionally, candidates had a much better experience with the summer and fall exams.
Percent of respondents who were able to take the exam at a center that was convenient to them
Percent of respondents who were very satisfied or satisfied with the online registration system
Percent of respondents who contacted customer service via the phone and were satisfied with their experience
Percent of respondents who contacted customer service via email and were satisfied with their experience
Needless to say, we are relieved we were able to maintain strong security for the exam while making it accessible for candidates even with the unique hurdles COVID-19 added.
I cannot miss the opportunity to highlight a few of our COVID rainbows, the positives that are the result of COVID. We had and continue to offer, robust educational offerings in place of our in-person annual meeting. In this format we are able to reach and engage many more people than we could hope to do in person. Another COVID rainbow has been the opportunity for Board and Staff to attend jurisdiction meetings, a much more difficult geographic and financial challenge in non-COVID times.
In these unprecedented times, I also continue to think about the impact of the PT Compact. Several years ago, FSBPT recognized that one solution to address the barriers to accessing physical therapy providers in the United States was to establish the PT Compact. States often use an exemption from licensure to facilitate portability in very specific cases, and indeed this also occurred in 2020 to address COVID-19. However, the Compact Privilege is a sustainable alternative to the licensure exemption. Although the waiting time for a Compact Privilege is minimal, states can be confident knowing that a licensee has met all the required criteria prior to that Compact Privilege being granted. By minimizing this licensure barrier in a permanent and reliable way, the PT community could more easily and efficiently arise to the emergency needs placed on jurisdictions.
The PT Compact is a lesson in how important it is to be forward-looking and to be aware of opportunities even before their necessity becomes apparent. I know as a regulatory community we have been and will continue to come together to foresee and address the many challenges we face, while also finding new avenues and opportunities to continue to advance our important shared goal—public protection.
President Nancy R. Kirsch, PT, DPT, PhD, FAPTA received her PT degree from Temple University, her Masters in Health Education from Montclair University, Certificate in Health Administration from Seton Hall University, her PhD concentration in ethics from Rutgers University (formerly UMDNJ), and a Doctor of Physical Therapy from MGH Institute of Health Professions. She practiced in a variety of settings including in-patient rehabilitation, acute care, long term care, and home care. She owned a private practice for twenty years and currently practices in a school based setting. In addition, she is the Director of the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Nancy has been a member of the New Jersey Board of Physical Therapy Examiners since 1990 and was chairperson of the board for twelve years. She served as an evaluator for FCCPT. Nancy has been involved with the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy in the following capacities: she served two terms on the Finance committee and also served on several task forces, in addition to the Board of Directors. Nancy has been active in the American Physical Therapy Association since she was a student. She served the New Jersey Chapter as Secretary and President, and as a delegate and chief delegate to the House of Delegates. She served the national association as a member of the ethics document revision task force. She also served a five year term on the APTA Ethics and Judicial Committee and the APTA Reference Committee. She received the Lucy Blair Service Award and was elected a Catherine Worthingham Fellow from National APTA and received an Outstanding Service Award and the President's Award from the FSBPT.
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