Physiotherapy practice thresholds in Australia & Aotearoa New Zealand


Physiotherapy practice thresholds in Australia & Aotearoa New Zealand (PDF)

Recertification Guidelines 4th edition (PDF)

Guidance for overseas applicants. Please note the Board will NOT accept applications that use a mixture of old and new documentation.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the Physiotherapy Practice Thresholds?

What are the Physiotherapy Practice Thresholds?

One of the accountabilities of the Physiotherapy Board is to set the required standards of competence for physiotherapists, under the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act. In New Zealand, from 31 May 2016 the Physiotherapy Competencies document (2009) will be replaced by the Physiotherapy practice thresholds in Australia & Aotearoa New Zealand. The new Physiotherapy Practice Thresholds were launched by the Australian and New Zealand Physiotherapy Boards in May 2015 following extensive consultation over two years, which many physiotherapists participated in. The Physiotherapy Practice Thresholds set out the entry-level requirements for initial and continuing registration as a physiotherapist in both Australia and New Zealand.


How will the new Thresholds affect you?

The thresholds are a used as reference point by the Physiotherapy Board for registration, competence review and the accreditation of physiotherapy undergraduate programmes, so they’ll be of interest to New Zealand’s physiotherapists as they are a new reference point for the profession and describe contemporary physiotherapy practice. Overseas physiotherapists applying for registration in New Zealand will also need to refer to the new Thresholds.

What do the Thresholds consist of?

Firstly you need to be aware of the ‘Essential Components’ [p.8]. These are holistic requirements that apply to all areas of physiotherapy practice – including the other components of the new Physiotherapy Thresholds addressed below. The Essential Components cover areas like professional and ethical behaviours, cultural competence, and reflective practice – they’re the bedrock of safe, modern physiotherapy practice.

The main part of the new Physiotherapy Practice Thresholds are the 21 ‘Key Competencies’, which are grouped into seven ‘Thematic Roles’ with detailed ‘Enabling Components’ that give ‘the essential and measurable characteristics of threshold competence’. In other words the Key Competencies set out the benchmarks for assessing whether someone is competent and fit to practice.

The third part of the new Physiotherapy Practice Thresholds are the ‘Foundational Abilities’. The learning and assessment of these abilities will have been covered in the physiotherapist’s studies leading to their primary physiotherapy qualification. [pp.12-13]

Can you give me an example of how the thresholds work?

The ‘Physiotherapy Practitioner’ is the first of the seven roles. The definition sets out the intent of the role but the Key Competencies give the specific requirements of the Board.

The first of these Key Competencies requires:

Registered physiotherapists in Australia and New Zealand are able to plan and implement an efficient, effective, culturally responsive and client-centred physiotherapy assessment.

This Key Competency has nine Enabling Components – for example, 1.1D requires that physiotherapists are able to:

‘Incorporate relevant diagnostic tests, assessment tools and outcome measures during the physiotherapy assessment.'

What are the key differences between the new practice thresholds and the old competencies?

  • With the new Physiotherapy Practice Thresholdsthere is a shift in emphasis rather than any major change in how physiotherapists treat patients.
  • The thresholds are more inclusive of the different types of physiotherapy practitioner, such as managers and leaders (Role 7).
  • They emphasise the ‘professional and ethical practitioner’ (Role 2) – one of the requirements is for practitioners to look after their ‘physical and mental health’ (2.3).
  • The thresholds include advocacy for patients and their rights to healthcare, as well as advocacy for the profession.
  • There is greater emphasis on the collaborative practitioner (Role 5) such as working inter-professionally in a culturally responsive, client centred model of practice.
  • One of the biggest changes, particularly for overseas applicants, is the acknowledgement that physiotherapists usually focus on particular areas of expertise during their careers. There’s been a shift away from demonstrating recent clinical practice in musculoskeletal, cardiopulmonary / respiratory and neurology to a focus on the person. Knowledge and understanding of the three core areas and other body systems is still included in the underlying foundational abilities, however the requirement to demonstrate autonomous practice in all these areas (as was the case in the old Competency 9.4) has been removed.
  • Other areas of greater emphasis include risk management, recognising inappropriate or unethical practice, and ensuring physiotherapists work within their scope of practice and expertise.

Is there anything else New Zealand registered physiotherapists should be aware of?

The implementation of the Physiotherapy Practice Thresholds will not have a great impact on physiotherapists in NZ other than as a new reference for their competence. Nearly all of the current Physiotherapy Competencies are included within the new thresholds.

Recertification audit - There is no change to the requirements for the recertification audit this year other than the Guidance notes making reference to the Physiotherapy practice thresholds instead of the Competencies. The Recertification Guidelines (2016 – 4th edition) have been updated to reflect these changes.

Competence review - The Board sometimes undertakes a competence review of practitioners who have not met their recertification requirements, have had a complaint about their competence, or have been referred for a competence review by a Professional Conduct Committee (PCC). Fortunately these are quite seldom. With the implementation of the new thresholds the Competence Reviewers will use the Bi-national Practice Thresholds as their reference for competence instead of the nine Physiotherapy Competencies.

New Zealand physiotherapists returning to practice after three or more years - There will be no major change to this process for most physiotherapists returning to practice after a period of three or more years. The only minor impact will be for those who require a period of supervision whereby the supervision report will refer to the Bi-national Practice Thresholds rather than the Physiotherapy competencies.

What is the impact on accreditation of the New Zealand’s schools of physiotherapy?

The Physiotherapy Board accredits undergraduate programmes at New Zealand’s schools of physiotherapy – this allows New Zealand graduates to be eligible for registration under the HPCA Act (2003). We audit the schools every five years to ensure their programmes meet the Physiotherapy Competencies and other required standards. With the implementation of the Physiotherapy Practice Thresholds there will be a transition period of five years leading up to and including the next audit. This period of transition will allow the schools to make any changes to the curriculum if required and also avoid disrupting current students. The Board is working with the Schools to make this transition as smooth as possible.

Where can I find out more?

The Physiotherapy practice thresholds in Australia & Aotearoa New Zealand document has a full explanation of the new thresholds. For any further information please contact the Physiotherapy Board's Professional Advisor.