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PTA Blog Talk

Mandatory Retirement

Published August 27, 2013 7:08 PM by Jason Marketti

To drive an automobile, you must pass several tests before you're issued a license. There is the eye test, the written test, and then the practical driving test. In some states, young drivers are encouraged to take a driving course while in high school to get a learner's permit. As one ages, states may require an older driver to take another eye exam and sometimes a practical exam to maintain licensure, and a doctor can recommend that an elderly driver not be issued a license.

As a therapist ages, there is no mandated eye exam, written or practical testing and mental capacity exam to maintain licensure. All a therapist has to do to keep his license current is take the mandatory CEUs every year dictated by the state and he could theoretically practice until he dies. Why don't state boards have a retirement age for "old" therapists? Police officers and those in the armed services have a retirement cut-off and for some positions a person isn't eligible to apply if he's more than 35 years of age. Technically, a person who is 75 years old could become a new grad PT or PTA.

As we get older, we may not recognize the limitations we have, whether they are mental or physical. A 98-year-old therapist may not be the best person to treat a heavily involved CVA patient but since he has a license to practice, he can legally provide care for that patient even if that treatment would put the patient in harm's way. And who am I to tell the elderly therapist not to see certain patients since the state board is who issued the license to practice therapy in the first place?

I won't get into the legal complications state boards will have to justify issuing licenses to therapists who score less on a Tinetti and Berg than their patients and get the Mini Mental exam completely wrong. But all it would take is one good lawsuit and an internal investigation to ask pertinent questions like, "Why did the state issue a therapy license to a therapist who has dementia?" and "Who allowed a therapist to treat patients when he is barely functional trying to instruct others in ADLs and safety?"

Since there's no current oversight on when a therapist has to retire and no doctor can recommend that our therapy license be suspended, we could treat patients forever and ever. Imagine if your loved one is safer, more limber, and has a better gait pattern than your therapist while in the nursing home -- maybe then changes will occur.

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6 comments

Jason is just saying what he sees. I saw my sister-in-law in a nursing home because she had brain cancer-we took her out in 3 days. Everybody can say what ever you want-how to take care of patients-it all comes down to this is there last days for some of them. For all of you to attack Jason is stupid. his father is retired military and they have lived all over the world. Jason is not racist or ageist,he just calls it like he sees it.He is the person that will be taking care of our parents or us,and that's what I want.

terry tesch September 12, 2013 3:20 AM
menasha WI

Funny, I was just tallking about this today as I watch PT, PTA, OT and COTAs put our older patients on the treadmill, omnicycle, or nustep for 15 mins and keep pushing these patients to keep moving for the whole 15 mins. I haven't seen any of these therapists get on those units and go the whole 15 minutes. Why because most of them can't, because 15 mins straight kicks their butts. None of them are older than 40. So, you want me to get an eye test, I have them checked every year, I also get a physical every year, that says I am able to perform my job by a real DOCTOR. Have you had your annual physical yet, Big Guy??? Also, my common saying is..., I am going to work until they have to pick me up off the floor and just put me in a room. Yeah, I am overweight, but I call it "in shape fat" because I can out lift anyone in my facility, its called technique. Yeah, I'm a demented old senior citizen and Retired US Army, so I have a system to remind me of upcoming events. I've already renewed my license for this year and my CEUs were all approved. Check the blogs on that one. Speaking of lawyers, there is a law against age discrimination. Think about that one YOUNG MAN.

Don Meadows September 2, 2013 11:48 PM

Jason - what the heck did you have in your coffee? First, let's get it out of the way that I am 66 years old, have been practicing for 42+ years, and will say I am more committed to being a good therapist than many that graduated before me in 1971 or have come since. I must say that your post did get my "old" ticker beating a little quicker, but I've calmed down some. You have really crossed some mighty thin ice with your comments on discriminating PT's based on age alone. What a totally one-sided, and sad, view you have of the world around you buddy. Yeah, I'm 4 years from three score and ten, but I actively work with athletes, workers comp, and Medicare patients younger than me! And in my spare time, I'm an avid ultra marathon runner, so please don't put me in the Rest Home yet. Take off your blinders Jason. A person is not defined by age, race, religion, or any other parameters placed by biased thinking. Remember, what you put out there may come back to bite you on day in the not too distant future.

Al DiMicco, Ortho - Director, Orthosports Assoc. August 28, 2013 10:58 PM
Bessemer AL

Would somebody take Jason's spoon away? He's stirring the pot again! As an "old guy" I wanted to react to this post, I'll respond instead. Jason, you focus on age alone as a reason for impaired PT performance. One of the most remarkable PTs I learned from was wheelchair bound. No, she couldn't do some things, but she was amazing at others. As Toni states, age alone is not a reason to be put out to pasture, there are some therapists who, although not officially diagnosed with dementia, lack judgement. How do you weed out the ones to move on? We have left that to 50 different licensing boards.

The old saying, "Those who can't do, teach" has always had a derogatory implication. There are many older therapists who may not have the physical capabilities to do SNF work anymore, but who could serve a valuable role as mentors, teachers, developers of staff and other  roles. One of the reasons I got a non-PT advanced degree is that I have looked into my future and become aware of potential limitations you describe. I'll impact the world in other ways, but with a PT point of view.

All that being said, your post feels rather ageist and potentially discriminatory.

Dean Metz August 28, 2013 8:59 AM

Age discrimination lawsuit ring a bell? Older therapists should be hired and kept on staff relative to their ability to do the job they are hired to do. If they are unable to perform their job, they are let go or not hired in the first place,no? Many therapists go in to research and clinical studies after years of practice. Should they be denied their license? Perhaps you need to be more forward thinking because some day (and those days come faster than you would think), you too will be an old PTA.

Jeanne August 27, 2013 8:04 PM

If state boards could refuse to renew licenses based on skills and knowledge there would be a much small pool of PTs available.  You make a good point.   I would add that age isn't the only factor that effects ability to do the job.  Last weekend I worked with a COTA who was so obese she couldn't push her patients in a w/c.  If I had my way I would add lack of common sense to the reasons one could lose a license.

Toni August 27, 2013 6:18 PM

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About this Blog


    Jason J. Marketti
    Occupation: Physical Therapist Assistant
    Setting: San Jacinto, CA
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