Irish Times Mon 02 June 2014
Here, unlike in other other EU states, anyone can set up as an engineer, the accountancy sector is largely unregulated, and you can become a physical therapist in 16 weekendsConsumers may believe they understand the qualifications of someone they are hiring simply by their title, but this is not always the case.
Physio or a physical therapist?
You’ve got a sore leg or a bad back and you’re looking for someone to treat your symptoms. Who do you go see – a physiotherapist or a physical therapist? And are you aware of the differing levels of qualifications these professions might have?
Confusion has arisen largely because the two titles are interchangeable in over 110 countries around the world. In Ireland, however, they mean different things, which is why the Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists (ISCP) has been lobbying the Department of Health to introduce legislation to distinguish between the two.
In the public sector, only chartered physiotherapists are entitled to work. Typically, a physiotherapist has completed a four-year full-time degree. They will have expertise in skeletal, as well as cardio/respiratory and neurological areas and may be a member of the ISCP.
A physical therapist, on the other hand, will have training in more soft-tissue issues, with little in cardio/respiratory and neurological knowledge. Physiotherapists argue that there can be a huge disparity in terms of training and qualifications between the two. Indeed, while physical therapists accredited with the Irish Association of Physical Therapists (IAPT) are required to have a three- or four-year level 7 degree, others can attend a 16-weekend course and still call themselves a physical therapist.
Ruaidhri O’Connor, chief executive of the ISCP, says this recognition would protect the title of physiotherapist and physical therapist in one register and would eliminate the potential for confusion.
“This would ensure that all those providing physiotherapy/physical therapy in Ireland are working to the same standards of care,” he says.
The IAPT would also like the title of its members to be protected. “We’d like to be included in that,” says Terry Christie, professional adviser for the IAPT.
The register – as provided for by the Health and Social Care Professionals Act of 2005 – will be opened shortly, following the appointment of the Physiotherapists Registration Board on May 20th. It will likely take two or three years before it becomes fully operational. At this point, consumers will be able to check the register to understand the qualifications of the person they are being treated by.