One constant in the medical world is change and those changes are coming for physical therapists across the United States. The Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy is preparing to launch their 2018 (first time ever) Licensure Compact. This is a way for those licensed in physical therapy, such as physical therapists or pt assistants, to be able to practice across state lines by making the licensure process much easier.
So what does this mean for you as a licensed PT or PTA? and how will this impact your patients and the services you offer them? These are some of the concerns many physical therapists are dealing with as the new licensure compact becomes reality for 2018.
The Difficulty of Applying for Multiple State Licenses
As the licensure for physical therapists and PTA’s stood prior to the new licensure compact it was necessary for those licensed in physical therapy to obtain a license that was only viable in the state in which they were practicing. Should you relocate, the entire exhausting licensing process began all over again. You needed to apply for your license by filling out an extensive application and providing background information. It was necessary for you to provide the licensing board with references, proof that you took and passed the National Physical Therapy Exam, and submit to background checks. Some states even required you to take their own version of an examination for which you needed to prepare.
All of that is pretty grueling but necessary for each state in which you wished to practice your patient care. Because state licensing boards were required to review all of this information prior to issuing a license applicants were asked to wait an exceedingly long time for a decision. Typically licensing boards and staff members were overworked and short-staffed which only added to the very long wait time.
How Compact Licensure Differs
For those physical therapists who find it necessary to relocate, for example, if your spouse is in the military, it can become an arduous undertaking forcing you to take yourself away from your practice until your licensure comes through, only to face the process all over again the next time you move. In the case of physical therapists who retain multiple state licenses it was necessary to keep up with renewals and additional requirements of each state who’s license you held.
An additional issue with the previous requirement of licensure was the impact it placed on the public. Patients desperate for PT were denied access to professional physical therapists doe to the rigorous demands of the licensure process. This was unacceptable and the FSBPT recognized that fact.
There are regular and ongoing attempts to address these concerns in congress, however the wheels of government often move very slowly and the FSBPT sought to find a way around the state-by-state licensure affording better services to those who need PT. Enter the PTLC, or Physical Therapy Licensure Compact. Through this new streamlined interstate licensing process physical therapists and PTA’s are allowed to work in any of the states which have adopted the licensure compact.
How It Works
In order for PTLC to become a reality a minimum of 10 states needed to adopt the licensure compact as legislation. At that point a compact commission is established comprised of a regulatory representative from each of the states participating. This group is now the go-to for all things administrative and as a source of information for physical therapists and PTA’s. T date there are 14 states participating in the licensure compact. They are: Arizona, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, Washington, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Texas and Colorado.
A PT or PTA with an active license and clean disciplinary record (for at least 2 years) in their state of primary residence, providing that state is indeed a compact state, can pay a fee and apply to the commission. Once the application has been reviewed and accepted a compact privilege is granted to the applicant and is allowed to practice in any of the compact states selected by the PT or PTA. The commission alerts the state licensing boards in the states selected by the PT/PTA.
Benefits for Physical Therapists and Their Patients
For physical therapists the benefits go beyond extending their license to practice. Compliance with continued education is limited to that required by the home state only. Licensure compact privilege renewal is set to coincide with the home state’s renewal schedules and physical therapists and PTA’s no longer have to be concerned about the added cost of more than one state’s license.
Patients are sure to benefit as more services become available to them. The new compact licensure for physical therapists opens the door for quality services in perhaps underserved communities such as inner cities and rural locales. It’s a win-win for everyone.
Compact licensure isn’t a “walk in the park”. You will still need to be aware of the laws concerning physical therapists in each state where you wish to practice, not just your home state. Disciplinary actions can result in the loss of ALL licensure in compact states. Make sure you have a solid understanding of the compact licensure program and it’s potential limitations by finding out more from your home state.