Examining the competence and clinical specialization of Canadian physical therapists Journal Articles uri icon

  • Overview


  • Evaluation of professional competence can occur at various times throughout the career of health professionals. Three studies were undertaken to gain information about the competence of Canadian physical therapists (PTs) using tools designed to: (i) assess entry-level competence, (ii) assess continuing competence, and (iii) differentiate among PTs seeking post-graduate certification as a clinical specialist. ⌃ (i) The written component of the Physiotherapy Competency Examination is a multiple choice examination designed to assess the entry-level competence of PTs. In a sample of 2867 examinations, higher mean scores were seen in Canadian educated PTs and those writing in their year of graduation, compared to scores of PTs educated outside of Canada and those writing beyond their graduation year, respectively. (ii) In the Onsite Assessment of the College of Physiotherapists of Ontario, the competence of 106 PTs was evaluated in their workplace by peer assessors who utilized multiple assessment tools. The majority of PTs in this sample (88%) were found to be providing competent care. The reliability of the various assessment tools ranged from moderate to good. (iii) The Canadian Physiotherapy Association is developing a process to identify PT clinical specialists. A portfolio review of 29 portfolios from PTs across Canada, undertaken by 3 raters, indicated high inter-rater reliability and that differentiation among candidates should be possible. ⌃ Furthermore, the results of two of these studies indicated that the competence of the PTs did not appear to decline as years post graduation increased, in contrast to a finding that has been reported in studies with physicians. These studies provide encouraging results regarding the competence of Canadian PTs, and about the reliability and validity of the different assessment tools utilized. These studies provide an important starting point to the examination of the competence of Canadian PTs, and the development of reliable and valid processes whereby clinical specialists can be identified.⌃

publication date

  • January 2010