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Use of physiotherapy titles standard

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Introduction

The purpose of this standard is to assist consumers to make informed choices and to avoid confusion in relation to titles used by registered physiotherapists.

Clarity on the use of the titles for physiotherapists is essential to avoid misunderstandings by consumers about the qualifications and registration status of persons using such titles.

New Zealand law

In New Zealand titles of regulated health practitioners are protected by the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003. In particular, section 7 HPCAA states:

Unqualified person must not claim to be a health practitioner

  • A person may only use names, words, titles, initials, abbreviations, or descriptions stating or implying that the person is a health practitioner of a particular kind if the person is registered, and is qualified to be registered, as a health practitioner of that kind.
  • No person may claim to be practising a profession as a health practitioner of a particular kind or state or do anything that is calculated to suggest that the person practises or is willing to practise a profession as a health practitioner of that kind unless the person— (a) is a health practitioner of that kind; and (b) holds a current practising certificate as a health practitioner of that kind.
  • Every person commits an offence punishable on summary conviction by a fine not exceeding $10,000 who contravenes this section.

 

1.  Physiotherapist title

  • ‘Physiotherapist’ is a regulated (protected) title. The scope of practice of a physiotherapist is prescribed in the “Notice of Amendment to Scopes of Practice and Related Qualifications prescribed by the Physiotherapy Board” (Gazetted 11 December 2008).

In New Zealand the titles:

  • Physiotherapist
  • Physical Therapist
  • Physio

along with associated abbreviations and descriptions of physiotherapy, may only be used by persons who are registered, and qualified to be registered, in the Scope of Practice – Physiotherapist.

  • A person who is registered as a physiotherapist but does not have a current annual practising certificate can use the title physiotherapist but must not in any manner state or imply they are able to practice

2. Physiotherapy Specialist title

  • ‘Physiotherapy Specialist’ is a regulated (protected) title. Physiotherapy specialists are expert physiotherapists who have advanced education, knowledge and skills to practise within a specific area of clinical practice. The scope of practice of a physiotherapy specialist is prescribed in the “Notice of New Scope of Practice (Physiotherapy Specialist) and Related Qualifications Prescribed by the Physiotherapy Board” (Gazetted 1 November 2012).
  • Only registered Physiotherapy Specialists can use descriptors that state or imply this status, including derivations of the term specialist, such as specialising or specialty.
  • A physiotherapist registered in the Physiotherapy Specialist scope of practice and holding a current annual practising certificate may call themselves a Physiotherapy Specialist in one of the approved defined fields of practice. The approved defined fields of practice for registration under this scope are:
  • Cardiorespiratory
  • Pelvic Health
  • Hand Therapy
  • Musculoskeletal
  • Neurology
  • Occupational Health
  • Older adults
  • Paediatrics
  • Pain
  • Sports

The Board can use its discretion on a case-by-case basis if an applicant wants to apply to be a physiotherapy specialist in a defined field of practice that is not on this list.

 

Related resources

Aotearoa New Zealand Physiotherapy Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct (2018) 10.5 Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003 s 7 and s 8

 

Notice of Amendment to Scopes of Practice and related Qualifications Prescribed by the Physiotherapy Board (11 December 2008)

Notice of New Scope Practice (Physiotherapy Specialist) and Related Qualifications. NZ Government Gazette

 

New Zealand registered physiotherapists practising in a defined field standard (proposed)

 

Issued: 26 July 2021

This statement is scheduled for review in 2026. Legislative changes may make this statement obsolete before this review date.