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Scopes of Practice

The Scopes of Physiotherapy

To practice physiotherapy in New Zealand, you must be registered and hold a current Annual Practising Certificate (APC) with the Physiotherapy Board (the Board).

Physiotherapists can obtain registration under the four following scopes of practice:

  • General Scope of Practice: Physiotherapist
  • Specialist Scope of Practice:  Physiotherapist
  • Special Purpose Scope of Practice: Postgraduate Physiotherapy Student
  • Special Purpose Scope of Practice: Visiting Presenter/Educator

General Scope of Practice: Physiotherapist

Physiotherapy provides services to individuals and populations to develop, maintain, restore and optimise health and function throughout the lifespan. This includes providing services to people compromised by ageing, injury, disease or environmental factors. Physiotherapy identifies and maximises quality of life and movement potential by using the principles of promotion, prevention, treatment/intervention, habilitation and rehabilitation. This encompasses physical, psychological, emotional, and social well being.

Physiotherapy involves the interaction between physiotherapists, patients/clients, other health professionals, families/whanau, care givers, and communities. This is a people-centred process where needs are assessed and goals are agreed using the knowledge and skills of physiotherapists.

Physiotherapists are registered health practitioners who are educated to practise autonomously by applying scientific knowledge and clinical reasoning to assess, diagnose and manage human function.
The practice of physiotherapy is not confined to clinical practice, and encompasses all roles that a physiotherapist may assume such as patient/client care, health management, research, policy making, educating and consulting, wherever there may be an issue of public health and safety.

Gazette Notice dated 11 December 2008

Specialist Scope of Practice: Physiotherapy Specialist

Physiotherapy specialists are expert physiotherapists who have advanced education, knowledge and skills to practise within a specific area of clinical practice;

  • as specialist clinicians, they demonstrate leadership in consultancy, education and research;
  • they work collaboratively with the physiotherapy profession and within the wider health team across a range of health and disability settings;
  • physiotherapy specialists actively participate and take a leadership role in professional activities, including local and national strategy and policy development; and
  • they work in partnership with individuals, whanau, families and communities to optimise health outcomes.

Gazette Notice dated 1 November 2012

Special Purpose Scope of Practice: Postgraduate Physiotherapy Student

Persons who have gained their physiotherapy qualifications and are registered or recognised elsewhere than in New Zealand and visit New Zealand for the purpose of participating in physiotherapy postgraduate study at an educational institution/organisation approved by the Physiotherapy Board must be registered in New Zealand. One option is to register within the special purpose scope of practice for postgraduate physiotherapy students.

The special purpose scope of practice for postgraduate physiotherapy students comprises of physiotherapy services undertaken as part of the postgraduate study on which the application is based. It does not extend to clinical practice or any other activity outside the postgraduate study.

Registration within the special purpose scope of practice will be authorised for the duration of the postgraduate study and apply only to that postgraduate study.

Gazette Notice dated 27 August 2009

The Board has further clarified (19 February 2016)  the activities covered by the Postgraduate Physiotherapy Student scope of practice.

Activities included within this scope are:

  • Demonstration to students under supervision
  • Teaching under supervision
  • Marking of student written examinations and assignments
  • Undertaking supervised clinical practice only specifically related to the purpose of their postgraduate study
  • Undertaking supervised research that utilises prior learning as a physiotherapist in a related field and related to their post graduate study.

and that the definition of supervised for the purpose of this scope is a University appointed supervisor.

Activities excluded from the Postgraduate Scope are:

  • Planning of university papers
  • Clinical student examinations (any form) that involves a member of the public.

The current recertification requirement includes confirmation of enrolment in a postgraduate physiotherapy programme at either the University of Otago or Auckland University of Technology.

Other Obligations

Students who are registered under the SP – PG scope are subject to all the requirements of the HPCA Act include notifying the Board of any health, competence or conduct issue that indicates they are unable to perform the functions of the profession. Postgraduate students must be aware of the Board’s standards and requirements.

Special Purpose Scope of Practice: Visiting Physiotherapy Presenter/Educator

Persons who visit New Zealand for the purpose of presenting or educating in physiotherapy may be registered in New Zealand within the special purpose scope of practice for Visiting Physiotherapy Presenters/Educators, if:

  • they have physiotherapy experience relevant to the subject of the presentation/education; and
  • they are registered or recognised as being in good standing with an overseas organisation whose functions in principle correspond to those of the Physiotherapy Board; and
  • they are invited for the purpose of presenting or educating by a New Zealand organisation/institution.

The special purpose scope restricts physiotherapy activities to the presenting and/or educating activities described in the application. It does not include any clinical practice involving the public or any activity that may pose a risk to public health and safety. Registration within the special purpose scope of practice: Visiting Presenter/Educator will be for a limited time (usually for one month) from the requested commencement date.

Gazette Notice dated 27 August 2009