The first update to the practice act in more than a decade

On Friday, July 21, Governor Chris Christie signed into law S1315 which “Revises statutes regarding practice of physical therapy.”  This is the first update to the Practice Act since 2004.

There are numerous updates to the law:

  • By expanding the scope of practice of physical therapists to include: identification of balance disorders; wound debridement and care; utilization review; screening, examination, evaluation, and application of interventions for the promotion, improvement, and maintenance of fitness, health, wellness, and prevention services in populations of all ages exclusively related to physical therapy practice.
  • Identifies wound debridement by a physical therapist, to promote healing, done in conjunction with a physician or podiatric physician.
  • Allow for the direct or general supervision of a physical therapist assistant by a physical therapist. When treatment is being rendered by a physical therapist assistant consistent with the role of a physical therapist assistant, require the licensed physical therapist supervising that assistant to make an onsite visit and actively participate in the treatment of the patient at least every six patient visits or every 14 days, whichever occurs first . . .

— Clarify that when supervising a physical therapist assistant in any off-site setting, there must be regularly scheduled and documented conferences or communications between the physical therapist and the physical therapist assistant regarding patients.

  • This bill provides that a person is guilty of a crime of the third degree if the person knowingly does not possess a license to practice physical therapy or knowingly has had such license suspended, revoked or otherwise limited by an order entered by the State Board of Physical Therapy Examiners, and he:

— engages in the practice of physical therapy;

— exceeds the scope of practice permitted by the board order;

— holds himself out to the public or any person as being eligible to engage in the practice of physical therapy;

— engages in any activity for which a license to practice physical therapy is a necessary prerequisite; or

— practices physical therapy under a false or assumed name or falsely impersonates another person licensed by the board. Under the bill, however, these provisions would not apply to a person practicing physical therapy without a license if that person’s activities are permitted under section 9 of P.L.1983, c.296 (C.45:9-37.19).

  • Establish continuing professional education and competency requirements for physical therapists and physical therapist assistants meanings “the lifelong process of maintaining and documenting the application of knowledge, skills and behaviors required to function effectively, safely, ethically and legally, through ongoing self-assessment, development, and implementation of a personal learning plan and subsequent reassessment”.
  • Grants student physical therapists and student physical therapist assistants to sit for the National Physical Therapy Examination up to 120 days in advance of their graduation date.
  • Provides title protection for “student physical therapist”, “Student physical therapist assistant”, “DPT”, “SPT,” “SPTA,” and the terms “physical therapy,” and “physiotherapy”.
  • 30 days, the length of time certain persons licensed in another jurisdiction, under certain circumstances, may temporarily perform physical therapy or act as a physical therapist assistant in New Jersey.

APTANJ wishes to thank the Governor for his signature on S1315 as well as all of the sponsors who supported our efforts as we brought this bill from concept to reality over the past few years.  Those sponsors include:

Primary Sponsors

Senator Joseph F. Vitale

Assemblyman Thomas P. Giblin

Assemblyman Benjie E. Wimberly

Assemblyman John F. McKeon

Assemblyman Raj Mukherji

Assemblywoman Shavonda E. Sumter

Co-Sponsors

Senator Jennifer Beck

Assemblywoman Mila M. Jasey

Assemblyman Declan J. O’Scanlon, Jr.

Assemblyman Jack M. Ciattarelli

Senator Patrick J. Diegnan, Jr.

Assemblyman David P. Rible

Assemblywoman Angelica M. Jimenez

The APTANJ also wishes to thank the tireless efforts put in by our General Counsel, Vincent Buttaci, Esq. and lobbyist, Dennis Marco of Hamilton Public Affairs as well as the many members who supported our advocacy efforts by contacting legislators, rallying support and contributing to our political action committee, the PT PLAN.

APTANJ is committed to advocating on behalf of its members, their patients and the PT profession as a whole for the betterment of healthier New Jersey.  We will continue to be the voice of the profession in Trenton and around the state.

This law goes into effect 180 days from the date the bill was signed by the Governor (July 21, 2017).