Is It Really About Autonomous PT Practice?
My post last month, "The DPT: How Did They Miss This?" has generated numerous comments on the ADVANCE website, almost entirely from readers who agreed with its content. One exception, however, was an assistant professor of physical therapy who stated that making the DPT a mandatory entry-level degree was necessary for the pursuit of autonomous practice.
Our friend Dean Metz, a former ADVANCE blogger who now lives in the United Kingdom, responded better than I ever could have. The following is a partial quote from his posted comment: "As for the assistant professor from Nevada, if it was all about autonomous practice, then why has the UK had direct access for nearly four decades while graduates still have bachelor's degrees? Membership in the CSP (the UK version of the APTA) is at 98% and is non-mandatory."
He makes valid points that no one seems to be addressing. I have one to add. Why are we so focused on autonomous practice, when even if we got it today nothing would change? The general public doesn't know what PTs do and payers wouldn't reimburse us.
Obviously there is something else going on. I have never understood why we put all our efforts into direct access. Wouldn't it be better to work on the payers to secure payment for direct access? We should also be putting more effort into educating the public. If the public demands direct access, lawmakers will notice.
Every Texas Physical Therapy Association meeting that I attend includes encouragement to get our patients to contact lawmakers. We're told one of the reasons we don't get traction from lawmakers is lack of public support.
If autonomous practice is really the goal, then our strategic planners got things backward. The UK is a good example. Why do we need doctorate degrees to obtain something they have achieved with bachelor's degrees? Someone needs to step back and ask what the real issues are. Autonomous practice is a nice idea but probably not what your average PT and PTA care about.