Advice from the Physiotherapy Board of Australia
The Physiotherapy Board of Australia provides this advice to practitioners about the use of titles.
Under the National Law, there is no specialist registration for physiotherapy. It is therefore not legal for a physiotherapist to call themself a specialist, out of the context of recognised qualifications.
It is acceptable to use qualifications, including in advertising, when accompanied by wording that includes those credentials or recognised qualifications.
The Board recognises the established history of specialised physiotherapy practice, achieved through recognised higher education through the Australian College of Physiotherapy.
This recognised higher education relies on two sequential tiers of titling.
Tier 2 titling:
- the physiotherapist must meet the Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) requirements for inclusion in an APA clinical group (Tier 2)
- leads to the right to use an APA Physiotherapist title (e.g. APA Sports Physiotherapist).
Tier 3 titling:
- can only be achieved after first attaining tier 2 titling through the APA
- is granted through the Australian College of Physiotherapy (Tier 3 Titling).
- leads to a description of an area of expertise, in the context of a recognised qualification.
The use of Tier 2 titles (e.g. APA Sports Physiotherapist) is exempt from prosecution under section 118 of the National Law (claims about specialist registration), only when used to highlight an area of practice for which the physiotherapist has received this qualification from the APA.
Acceptable tier 2 example: Mr J Brown, APA Sports Physiotherapist
Acceptable tier 3 example: Ms P Smith, Specialist Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist (as awarded by the Australian College of Physiotherapists in 2008)
It is not acceptable to take or use Tier 2 titles when the physiotherapist knowingly or recklessly uses or takes the title in a way that indicates they are a specialist health practitioner, or authorised or qualified to practise in a recognised speciality. For example, when the physiotherapist also indicates that they “specialise” in the area of practice or a specific aspect. See the Advertising Guidelines (7.4) for more information.
Example: Mr R Jones, specialist sports physiotherapist.
The law on the use of titles
The National Law regulates the use of certain titles. Misuse of a protected title is an offence under this law.
The National Law allows for and protects specialist titles and endorsements (an endorsement on a practitioner’s registration indicates that the practitioner is qualified to engage, for example, in a wider scope of practice than other registrants).
A registered health practitioner who does not hold specialist registration may not use the title ‘specialist’, or through advertising or other means, present themselves to the public as holding specialist registration in a health profession.
More on the use of titles is detailed in the Board’s Advertising Guidelines. There is specific advice for physiotherapists about the use of qualifications in advertising. See Appendix 5 of the guidelines.