New York State regulations that govern PT practice on this issue are quite clear. They state:
- New York State law restricts the practice of physical therapy to licensed physical therapists or certified physical therapist assistants. Individuals who are not licensed or certified may not provide physical therapy services. Aides may perform non-patient related activities such as secretarial, clerical and housekeeping tasks. Additionally, aides may act as an extra set of hands for the physical therapist or physical therapist assistant who is actually providing the treatment.
My working assumption is that so many people calling for the job are not lying - and they must have been used in illegal capacities in previous jobs. That is concerning for the PT profession.
I went to the Bureau of Labor Statistics site to do a little research on this issue and found contributing confusion. BOTH the pages for OT Assistants and PT Assistants are entitled "XXX Assistant and Aides." I was a little shocked at some of the salary and work site data that was listed for 'aides' and it makes me wonder. Either people confuse the terms 'aides' and 'assistants' when they are reporting their job titles, or there are an awful lot of unlicensed people doing the jobs of assistants and making a pretty reasonable salary. That is unfortunate for the true assistants who are licensed.
So what is the truth - as it is not discernible in the statistics??? Is there a lot of illegal use of aides to do assistant work? Do regulatory bodies care about the confusion and are they 'looking the other way' and allowing non-licensed people to do work that was previously protected for licensed professionals? And as there is no similar confusion at the occupational therapist and physical therapist levels is this a sign that the public does not believe that the assistant level is important to certify or regulate?
I believe that as long as we have educational programs, certifications, and laws that we should follow them. But if there is a latent disinterest in upholding the laws - isn't it appropriate to throw this issue on the table for discussion?