California

California Physical Therapy Practice Act

The majority of information below is taken from California's Physical Therapy Practice Act [1].  Please refer to California's Physical Therapy Regulations for further interpretation and specifications.  Direct links to pertinent regulations have been made within each section as appropriate.

Requirements for License[2]

Applicants for licensure must:

  • Be over 18 years of age
  • Not be addicted to alcohol or any controlled substance
  • Have successfully completed the education and training required by Section 2650
  • Not have committed acts or crimes constituting grounds for denial of licensure under Section 480
  • Pass an examination under the direction of the board demonstrating the applicant's knowledge of the laws and regulations related to the practice of physical therapy in California
  • Pass the NPTE for the applicant's licensure category
  • Take the examination within 90 days of application

Temporary License Requirements/Availability[3]

The state of California allows for temporary licensure pending a passing score on the NPTE.  The graduate of an approved PT education program may file a complete application for licensure with the board for the first time and then, after receiving a letter of authorization from the board, practice as a "physical therapist license applicant" under direct supervision of a PT who is licensed in the state of California.

  • If the applicant passes the examination, s/he may continue to practice as a "physical therapist license applicant" until a regular renewable license is issued, or until licensure is denied by the board.
  • If the applicant fails the examination, or if s/he passes the examination but licensure is denied by the board, the applicant will be prohibited from peforming as a physical therapist license applicant at any time in the future.

Requirements: A person shall not be considered a graduate unless he or she has successfully completed all the clinical training and internships required for graduation from the program.  An applicant may only qualify once to perform as a physical therapist license applicant.

Supervision

PTAs—A licensed physical therapist is able to supervise a maximum of 2 PTAs; however, the board may permit an increase in this limit if it determines that adequate supervision can be provided and that the public's health and safety would be maintained.  This number, in any case, cannot be more than twice the number of PTs regularly employed by the facility at any one time.[4]  A PTA shall not supervise a physical therapy aide performing patient-related tasks.[5]

Aide—A licensed physical therapist may utilize the services of one aide to provide assistance in patient-related tasks.  The PT is required to be in the same facility and within proximity to the location where the aide is performing patient-related tasks; the PT is also required to be readily available at all times to provide advice or instruction to the aide.[6]  

Student PTs—A licensed physical therapist must provide direct and immediate supervision of the student PT.[7] 

Physical Therapy Students

The curriculum approved by the Physical Therapy Board of California for physical therapy students is in accordance with CAPTE standards and shall include didactic, clinical, and research experiences in physical therapy that utilize critical thinking and weighing of evidence.[8]

  • A total of 18 weeks of full-time clinical experience is required.[8]
  • During clinical experiences, the physical therapy student may be known only as "physical therapy student" or "physical therapy intern".[9]
  • The Board reserves the right to disapprove any foreign physical therapist education program and/or deny the foreign applicant if the board's opinion is that the instruction that the applicant received was not equivalent to that which the Board requires.  If the applicant does not qualify to take the physical therapist examination, s/he may eligible to take the physical therapist assistant examination upon evaluation of his/her education.[7]


More information regarding supervision requirements for the physical therapy student and how a student physical therapist may identify him or herself in written communication can be found here.

Continued Competence[10]

Continued competence must be reviewed every two years at the time of license renewal, at which time the person renewing his/her license must submit proof satisfactory to the Board that s/he has completed the required number of continuing education hours.

  • Required continuing education shall not exceed 30 hours every two years
  • The Board reserves the right to establish differences in the amount of continuing education between the physical therapist and the physical therapist assistant.

Does the Act appear restrictive? Why/Why not?

The California practice act does not appear necessarily restrictive as it gives a fairly broad description of what is within the scope of the physical therapist.

However, the restrictions on physical therapists appear to be largely centered around the Medical Practice Act.  For instance, PTs can only perform techniques that require tissue penetration, such as EMG/NCS, with the "specified authorization" of a physician and surgeon, and are unable to develop diagnostic or prognostic interpretations of the data obtained from such tests.  Violation of this provision is a violation of the Medical Practice Act of California.[11]

Is there anything unusual about this Act?

I'm not sure if this is necessarily unusual, but I thought that it had an interesting definition of what is within the scope of the physical therapist.

"Physical therapy means the art and science of physical or corrective rehabilitation or of physical or corrective treatment of any bodily or mental condition of any person by the use of the physical, chemical, and other properties of heat, light, water, electricity, sound, massage, and active, passive, and resistive exercise..."

Also, I'm not sure what this statement means in regard to the definition of physical therapy.  It almost seems like anybody can practice "physical therapy" if it's within their scope of practice to do the things listed in the previous quote.

"Nothing in this section shall be construed to restrict or prohibit other healing arts practitioners licensed or registered under this division from practice within the scope of their license or registration."

Both quotes are part of Section 2620 from Article 2.

Recent Related Research (from Pubmed)

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References

References will automatically be added here, see adding references tutorial.

  1. Physical Therapy Board of California. Business and Professions Code: Physical Therapy Practice Act. http://www.ptbc.ca.gov/laws_regs/laws.shtml (Accessed 17 Apr 2012).
  2. Article 3, Section 2630-2640
  3. Article 3, Section 2639
  4. Article 4.5, Section 2655.2
  5. Physical Therapy Board of California. Physical Therapy Regulations: Article 4, Section 1398.44. http://www.ptbc.ca.gov/laws_regs/regulations.shtml#a139840. (Accessed 19 Apr 2012)
  6. Article 3, Section 2630
  7. 7.0 7.1 Article 4, Section 2653
  8. 8.0 8.1 Article 4, Section 2650
  9. Article 4, Section 2650.1
  10. Article 6.5, Section 2676
  11. Article 2, Section 2620.5

Disclaimer:   Informational Content is assimilated from the state practice act is a resource only and should not be considered a  substitute for the content within the state practice act.  All state practice acts can change and it is recommended that you refer to the original resource in the link above.