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At the completion of this chapter, the reader will be able to:

  1. Define physical therapy and the role it plays within the healthcare system

  2. Give a historical perspective of how the role of the physical therapist has changed over the years

  3. Name some of the pioneers who played a significant role in the development of today’s physical therapy profession

  4. Describe how the name of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) was derived

  5. Describe how social change affected the growth of physical therapy in the United States

  6. Discuss the purposes of having a professional code of ethics

  7. Describe the differences between morals and ethics

  8. Have a good understanding of the APTA policies that address practice standards, ethical conduct, and professionalism

  9. Describe the various practice settings that employ physical therapists

  10. Describe the various members of the healthcare team

  11. Describe the knowledge and skills needed by physical therapists entering practice in the areas of leadership, administration, management, and professionalism (LAMP)


On a daily basis, for more than 750,000 people in the United States, physical therapists diagnose and manage movement dysfunction and enhance physical and functional abilities; restore, maintain, and promote not only optimal physical function but optimal wellness and fitness and optimal quality of life as it relates to movement and health; and prevent the onset, symptoms, and progression of impairments, functional limitations, and disabilities that may result from diseases, disorders, conditions, or injuries.1 The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) is the national organization that represents the physical therapist (PT) and the physical therapist assistant (PTA). The APTA currently has a national office in Alexandria, Virginia, as well as a chapter office in every state. APTA membership for PTs, PTAs, and their respective student categories is voluntary and not mandatory for licensure. Several APTA publications, including The Guide to Physical Therapist Practice 3.0 (“the Guide”)2 and a monthly journal aptly named Physical Therapy, help steer the physical therapy profession.

The House of Delegates (HOD), which is composed of voting delegates from all chapters and nonvoting delegates from each section, is the policymaking body of the APTA. The HOD works closely with the Board of Directors (BOD), which consists of six officers of the APTA and nine directors, to establish policies and directives of the APTA.


The organizational structure of the APTA consists of four main levels:

  • District: Although not located in all jurisdictions, a district represents the APTA at the local level.

  • Chapter: There is a chapter in each state and the District of Columbia, and each has proportional representation at the national level. Each chapter requires dues from PT and PTA members.

  • Section: Each of the 18 sections provides members who have similar areas of interest to interact with each other. The various sections meet annually at the Combined Sections Meeting (CSM) in early February.

  • Assembly: Members of an assembly ...

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