Specialized Physiotherapy Areas

The Ordem dos Fisioterapeutas is at an early stage and although its attributions and competences include definition of Physiotherapy Specialties, and requirements for their recognition, at the present time this isn´t a priority for the Comissão Instaladora (CI).
There is, however, a process of reflection on this matter, particularly based on the experience already developed by APFisio Interest Groups, international examples, and at national level, the experience with other health professions.
Physiotherapists' specialization aims to improve the quality standards of physical therapy practice and to promote continuous professional evolution.
The WCPT Guidelines on this matter are considered essential (https://www.wcpt.org/policy/ps-specialisation), namely the following assumptions:

  • Physiotherapy specialisation are areas of study and practice in a specific area, within the scope of practice recognized as physical therapy, which allows physical therapists to acquire and demonstrate additional in-depth clinical knowledge and skills, in relation to those necessary for access to the profession and professional title.
  • There should be a fully documented formal process for specialization, acknowledging the skills, especially clinical.
  • Specialization shouldn’t be considered a practice limitation. The field of activity recognized as physical therapy will remain open to all appropriately qualified physical therapists.
  • A specialist physical therapist is expected to practice and/or teach in his clinical specialization area of practice, and also to contribute to education and evaluation of professional practice, with a view to improve the services provided. They are also expected to conduct research projects and contribute to the development and dissemination of knowledge in the respective area.

In essence, three substantial elements should be considered in specialization process:

  • Possession of an advanced graduate course, with academic recognition;
  • Demonstration of clinical skills and proven experience in the area of specialization;
  • Development of skills in scientific research. (Critical analysis of published research, supporting practice based on scientific evidence, with published contribute to the body of knowledge relevant in the area of specialization.

The Comissão Instaladora of the Ordem dos Fisioterapeutas considers that the physical therapist profile specialist fits the descriptors of master's academic degree, and is a potential path, not the only one, in the formal process of physical therapist specialist recognition.
The granting of specialist status assumes that his holder regularly demonstrates that he continues to deserve this status, through a formal process of renewing his clinical knowledge and skills.
It is considered prudent to recognise only a small number of fields of specialization, in line with international practice or countries of reference, if possible. Whenever there’s no justification for an autonomous field of specialisation, an alternative skills certification system should be created.
In APFisio Interest Groups context, it will be necessary to study those that may become embryos of specialisation areas.
The Ordem dos Fisioterapeutas is committed to the APFisio, even when it replaces APFISIO IN WCPT, to ensure necessary “endorsement” of Interest Groups that have affiliation in subgroups recognized by WCPT, so that continuity of representations already acquired is guaranteed, until the development of specialisation or advanced physical therapy practice skills are recognised.

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