Physiotherapy specialities

Specialisation in Physiotherapy - Conceptual framework

Physiotherapists' specialization aims to improve the quality standards of physical therapy practice and to promote continuous professional evolution.

The following are considered essential as a reference guidelines of the World Confederation for Physical Therapy (WCPT) on this issue, 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;
  • The demonstration of competences (skills) clinical and proven experience, in the area of specialisation;
  • The development of competences in the area of research (critical analysis of published research, as a support to a practice based on scientific evidence, with a published contribution to the development of knowledge in the area of specialisation).

The Board of the Order of Physiotherapists considers that the profile of the specialist fits clearly within the descriptors of the master's academic degree, this being a potential route, but not the only one, in the formal process of recognition of specialist status.

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.

Creation of the Quadro de Especialidades Profissionais de Fisioterapia in Portugal

One of the attributions of the Order, set out in Article 4 of its StatutesThe aim of the title of specialist is to "confer the title of specialist on physiotherapists who meet the requirements laid down by the competent bodies".

According to paragraph j) of article 26 of the Statute of the Order of Physiotherapists, it is the responsibility of the Board of the Order to propose to the General Council, the creation of the list of professional specialties in physiotherapy.

The preparation of the proposal for this framework is included in the 2022 activity plan and continues the work already started in the framework of the Installing Commission.

Achieving the goal of creating the Specialties presupposes a set of internal stages and will necessarily culminate in a period of public discussion of the project before its final approval.

The working documents will progressively be made available to the members of the Order in a special tab on reserved area

Pedro Maciel Barbosa

Specialist physiotherapist at the Matosinhos Local Health Unit Sub-coordinator for Primary Health Care, Matosinhos Local Health Unit Visiting Assistant Professor at the Porto School of Health Member of the Board of Directors of the Foundation for Health - SNS Member of the General Council of the Order of Physiotherapists

Carlos Sand

Carlos Areia has been a physiotherapist since 2013, and has worked in various hospitals, clinics and clubs in both Portugal and the UK. He began his academic career at Oxford University in 2016, where he led a clinical trial comparing physiotherapy vs surgery in anterior cruciate injuries in 32 hospitals in England. In 2018 she moved to the neurosciences department, where she developed her own studies on remote monitoring of vital signs, which were implemented during the pandemic. Here he discovered his passion for data, and in 2022, he joined Digital Science as a Data Scientist. He completed his PhD earlier this year, and has more than 60 publications in journals such as The Lancet, BMJ, Cochrane, among others. He is also an honorary lecturer at Oxford Brookes University and a consultant in clinical research.

Eduardo José Brazete Carvalho Cruz

PhD in Physiotherapy from the University of Brighton, UK. Post-Doctorate in Epidemiology from the National School of Public Health at the New University of Lisbon.
Coordinator of the Studies and Planning Office of the Order of Physiotherapists. Coordinating Professor of the Physiotherapy Department of the School of Health of the Polytechnic Institute of Setúbal (ESS-IPS). President of the ESS-IPS Technical-Scientific Council. Coordinator of the Physiotherapy Department at ESS-IPS. Integrated Researcher at the Comprehensive Health Research Centre (CHRC) (a partnership between FCM-UNL, the National School of Public Health, the University of Évora, the Lisbon Institute of Global Mental Health and Santo Espírito Hospital, Terceira Island, Azores).

Sara Souto Miranda

Sara Souto Miranda has a bachelor's and master's degree in physiotherapy from the University of Aveiro, and a postgraduate qualification in adult respiratory physiotherapy from the same institution. In 2023 she completed her double doctorate in Rehabilitation Sciences/Health, Medicine and Life Sciences at the Universities of Aveiro and Maastricht (Netherlands) and is currently working as a technical-scientific advisor to the Studies and Planning Office (GEP) of the Order of Physiotherapists, and as a guest lecturer at the Piaget Institute in Vila Nova de Gaia. As a member of the Respiratory Research and Rehabilitation Laboratory at the University of Aveiro (Lab3R), she has carried out applied research in which she has assessed and treated patients with respiratory pathology, having taken part in 6 research projects. Throughout her career she has published 19 scientific articles in international peer-reviewed journals with an impact factor, 1 book chapter and more than 50 abstracts in conference proceedings. She was a research volunteer at the Ciro rehabilitation centre (Centre for expertise in chronic organ failure) in the Netherlands, and is currently a member of the Guideline Methodology Network of European Respiratory Society. She was honoured by European Lung Foundation e European Respiratory Society for carrying out patient-centred research, by the Directorate General for Higher Education with a merit grant for his master's degree, and by the Ciro Centre with a grant to support research abroad.

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