The Evolving Scope of Physiotherapist Practice –

The Evolving Scope of Physiotherapist Practice:

May 2nd, 2014

Nowadays, a visit to the physiotherapist is becoming just as common as a visit to the Doctor’s office. With our aging population, many baby boomers are putting greater emphasis on the value of physical health and mobility. Physiotherapists are here to respond to these growing needs and are providing Ontarians with diagnostic and physical rehabilitation services. May is National Physiotherapy Month and with that we celebrate the high quality care that is delivered to our patients everyday.

The practice of physiotherapy has evolved significantly over the years. Today, physiotherapy is a rehabilitation profession with a presence in all health care delivery streams in Ontario: hospitals, long-term care facilities, home care, community-based clinics, schools, private practice clinics, and primary care networks. There are approximately 7,800 physiotherapists in Ontario, regulated by the College of Physiotherapists of Ontario.

A physiotherapist is a university educated health professional and recognized member of our health care teams. Physiotherapists work in many areas, including: cardiorespiratory, orthopaedics, neurology, paediatrics, women’s health, seniors’ health and sports. Physiotherapy treatment can include therapeutic exercises, manual therapy, acupuncture, electrical modalities, and work hardening.

In 2011, the Ontario Government passed important legislation aiming to make better use of physiotherapists in serving patients and improving our health care system. All these changes help Ontarians get the right care, at the right place and at the right time.

When fully implemented, these changes will allow physiotherapists to work to their full scope of practice in serving Ontarians and improving our health care system through:

Increasing access to needed health services when and where Ontarians need it most.
Reducing wait times for specialized care.
Removing barriers to implementing innovative roles and programs that meet the needs of Ontarians today and tomorrow.

Many of the changes and additions to the physiotherapy profession’s scope of practice and authorized acts contained in the Bill 179 have already come into effect. The changes include a new scope of practice statement that allows physiotherapists to communicate diseases, disorders, and dysfunctions within their area of expertise. Physiotherapists who meet the appropriate standards of practice of College of Physiotherapists of Ontario may perform the following acts:

1. Communicating a diagnosis identifying a disease, disorder or dysfunction as the cause of a person’s symptoms.
2. Treating a wound below the dermis by cleansing, soaking, irrigating, probing, debriding, packing, or dressing.
3. Placing an instrument, hand or finger, beyond the labia majora, or beyond the anal verge for the purpose of assessing or rehabilitating pelvic musculature relating to incontinence or pain disorders.
4. Administering a substance by inhalation, when ordered by a member of another profession authorized to perform the procedure.

Other authorized activities such as ordering xrays, MRI’s, CT scans, blood work and other tests are in the next stages of legislative passing. In the interim, many physiotherapists are already ordering diagnostic imaging through the use of medical directives. Physiotherapists are now participating in primary health care models that focus on health promotion, disease prevention, and interventions that improve or maintain the health of Canadians.

Physiotherapists have a long history of delivering high quality care to Canadians and their communities and we look forward to keeping up with that great tradition.

John Spirou, BSc, DPT, MBA
Windsor, Ontario

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