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Contact:; Last Updated: 08/30/18

DIRECTION AND SUPERVISION OF THE PHYSICAL THERAPIST ASSISTANT HOD P06-18-28-35 [Amended: HOD P06-05-18- 26; HOD 06-00-16-27; HOD 06-99-07-11; HOD 06-96-30-42; HOD 06-95-11-06; HOD 06-93-08-09; HOD 06-85-20-41; Initial: HOD 06-84-16-72/HOD 06-78-22-61/HOD 06-77-19-37] [Position]

Physical therapist practice and the practice of physical therapy are synonymous. Both phrases are inclusive of patient and client management, and direction and supervision. Direction and supervision apply to the physical therapist assistant, who is the only individual who assists a physical therapist in practice. The utilization of other support personnel, whether in the performance of tasks or clerical activities, relates to the efficient operation of the physical therapy service.

Physical therapists are responsible for providing safe, accessible, cost-effective, and evidence-based services. Services are rendered directly by the physical therapist and with responsible utilization of physical therapist assistants. The physical therapist’s practice responsibility for patient and client management includes examination, evaluation, diagnosis, prognosis, intervention, and outcomes. Physical therapist assistants may be appropriately utilized in components of intervention and in collection of selected examination and outcomes data.

Direction and supervision are essential in the provision of quality physical therapist services. The degree of direction and supervision necessary for ensuring quality physical therapist services is dependent upon many factors, including the education, experiences, and responsibilities of the parties involved, as well as the organizational structure where physical therapist services are provided.

Regardless of the setting in which the physical therapist service is provided, the following responsibilities must be borne solely by the physical therapist:

  1. Interpretation of referrals when available

  2. Evaluation, diagnosis, and prognosis

  3. Development or modification of a plan of care, which is based on the initial examination or reexamination, and includes the physical therapy goals and outcomes

  4. Determination of when the expertise and decision-making capability of the physical therapist requires the physical therapist to personally render services and, when it may be appropriate, to utilize the physical therapist assistant

  5. Revision of the plan of care when indicated

  6. Conclusion of an episode of care

  7. Responsibility for any “hand off” communication

  8. Oversight of all documentation for services rendered to each patient or client

Only the physical therapist performs the initial examination and reexamination of the patient and may utilize the physical therapist assistant in collection of selected examination and outcomes data.

The physical therapist is responsible for services provided when the physical therapist’s plan of care involves the physical therapist assistant. Regardless of the setting in which the service is provided, the determination to utilize physical therapist assistants requires the education, expertise, and professional judgment of a physical therapist as described by the Standards of Practice for Physical Therapy, the Code of Ethics for the Physical Therapist, and the APTA Guide for Professional Conduct.

In determining the appropriate extent of assistance from the physical therapist assistant, the physical therapist considers:


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