American Physical Therapy AssociationGuide for Professional ConductPurposeThis Guide for Professional Conduct (Guide) conduct. The Guide provides guidelines by the Guide apply to all physical therapists.is intended to serve physical therapists in which physical therapists may determine the These guidelines are subject to change asinterpreting the Code of Ethics (Code) of propriety of their conduct. It is also intended the dynamics of the profession change andthe American Physical Therapy Association to guide the professional development of as new patterns of health care delivery are(Association), in matters of professional physical therapist students. The Code and developed and accepted by the professional community and the public. This Guide is subject to monitoring and timely revision Code of Ethics by the Ethics and Judicial Committee of the Preamble Association. The Code of Ethics of the American Physical Therapy Association sets forth principles Interpreting Ethical Principles for the ethical practices of physical therapy. All physical therapists are responsible for The interpretations expressed in this Guide maintaining and promoting ethical practice. To this end, the physical therapist shall act in the best interest of the patient/client. This Code of Ethics shall be binding on all reflect the opinions, decisions, and the physical therapists. advice of the Ethics and Judicial Committee. These interpretations are intended to assist a Principle 1 physical therapist in applying general ethical A physical therapist shall respect the rights and dignity of all individuals and shall principles to specific situations. They should provide compassionate care. not be considered inclusive of all situations Principle 2 that could evolve. A physical therapist shall act in a trustworthy manner toward patients/clients and in all PRINCIPLE 1 other aspects of physical therapy practice. A physical therapist shall respect the rights Principle 3 and dignity of all individuals and shall provide A physical therapist shall comply with laws and regulations governing physical therapy compassionate care. and shall strive to effect changes that benefit patients/clients. 1.1 Attitudes of a Physical Therapist Principle 4 A. A physical therapist shall recognize, A physical therapist shall exercise sound professional judgment. respect, and respond to individual Principle 5 and cultural differences with compassion and sensitivity. A physical therapist shall achieve and maintain professional competence. B. A physical therapist shall be guided at Principle 6 all times by concern for the physical, A physical therapist shall maintain and promote high standards for physical therapy psychological, and socioeconomic practice, education, and research. welfare of patients/clients. Principle 7 C. A physical therapist shall not harass, abuse, or discriminate against A physical therapist shall seek only such remuneration as is deserved and reasonable for others. physical therapy services. PRINCIPLE 2 Principle 8 A physical therapist shall act in a trustworthy A physical therapist shall provide and make available accurate and relevant information manner toward patients/clients, and in all other to patients/clients about their care and to the public about physical therapy services. aspects of physical therapy practice. Principle 9 2.1 Patient/Physical Therapist A physical therapist shall protect the public and the profession from unethical, Relationship incompetent, and illegal acts. A. A physical therapist shall place the Principle 10 patient’s/client’s interest(s) above those of the physical therapist. A physical therapist shall endeavor to address the health needs of society. Working in the patient/client’s Principle 11 best interest requires knowledge A physical therapist shall respect the rights, knowledge, and skills of colleagues and of the patient’s/client’s needs from other health care professionals. the patient’s/client’s perspective. Patients/Clients often come to the Adopted by the House of Delegates physical therapist in a vulnerable June 1981 state and normally will rely on the Last amended June 2000 physical therapist’s advice, which they perceive to be based on superior
knowledge, skill, and experience. The make decisions regarding the while his/her ability to do so safely trustworthy physical therapist acts recommended plan of care, including is impaired. to ameliorate the patient’s/client’s consent, modification, or refusal. D. A physical therapist shall exercise vulnerability, not to exploit it. B. A physical therapist shall sound professional judgment based B. A physical therapist shall not exploit communicate to the patient/client upon his/her knowledge, skill, any aspect of the physical therapist/ the findings of his/her examination, education, training, and experience. patient relationship. evaluation, diagnosis, and prognosis. E. Upon accepting a patient/client for C. A physical therapist shall not C. A physical therapist shall collaborate physical therapy services, a physical engage in any sexual relationship with the patient/client to establish therapist shall be responsible for: or activity, whether consensual or the goals of treatment and the plan the examination, evaluation, and nonconsensual, with any patient of care. diagnosis of that individual; the while a physical therapist/patient prognosis and intervention; re- D. A physical therapist shall use sound relationship exists. Termination examination and modification of the professional judgment in informing of the physical therapist/patient plan of care; and the maintenance of relationship does not eliminate the patient/client of any substantial risks of the recommended examina- adequate records, including progress the possibility that a sexual or reports. A physical therapist shall intimate relationship may exploit the tion and intervention. establish the plan of care and shall vulnerability of the former patient/ E. A physical therapist shall not restrict provide and/or supervise and direct client. patients’ freedom to select their the appropriate interventions. See D. A physical therapist shall encourage provider of physical therapy. Section 2.4. an open and collaborative dialogue PRINCIPLE 3 F. If the diagnosis process reveals with the patient/client. A physical therapist shall comply with laws and findings that are outside the scope of E. In the event the physical therapist regulations governing physical therapy and shall the physical therapist’s knowledge, or patient terminates the physical strive to effect changes that benefit patients/clients. experience, or expertise, the physical therapist/patient relationship while therapist shall so inform the patient/ the patient continues to need 3.1 Professional Practice client and refer to an appropriate physical therapy services, the A physical therapist shall comply with laws practitioner. physical therapist should take steps governing the qualifications, functions, G. When the patient has been to transfer the care of the patient to and duties of a physical therapist. referred from another practitioner, another provider. 3.2 Just Laws and Regulations the physical therapist shall2.2 Truthfulness A Physical therapist shall advocate communicate pertinent findings A physical therapist has an obligation the adoption of laws, regulations, and and/or information to the referring to provide accurate and truthful policies by providers, employers, third- practitioner. information. A physical therapist shall party payers, legislatures, and regulatory H. A physical therapist shall determine not make statements that he/she knows agencies to provide and improve access when a patient/client will no longer or should know are false, deceptive, to necessary health care services for all benefit from physical therapy fraudulent, or misleading. See Section individuals. services. See Section 7.1.D. 8.2.C and D. 3.3 Unjust Laws and Regulations 4.2 Direction and Supervision2.3 Confidential Information A physical therapist shall endeavor to A. The supervising physical therapist A. Information relating to the physical change unjust laws, regulations, and has primary responsibility for the therapist/patient relationship is con- policies that govern the practice of physical therapy care rendered to a fidential and may not be communi- physical therapy. See Section 10.2. patient/client. cated to a third party not involved in that patient’s care without the prior PRINCIPLE 4 B. A physical therapist shall not delegate consent of the patient, subject to ap- A physical therapist shall exercise sound professional to a less qualified person any activity plicable law. that requires the professional skill, judgment. knowledge, and judgment of the B. Information derived from peer 4.1 Professional Responsibility physical therapist. review shall be held confidential by the reviewer unless the physical A. A physical therapist shall make 4.3 Practice Arrangements therapist who was reviewed consents professional judgments that are in A. Participation in a business, to the release of the information. the patient’s/client’s best interests. partnership, corporation, or other C. A physical therapist may disclose B. Regardless of practice setting, entity does not exempt physical information to appropriate a physical therapist has primary therapists, whether employers, authorities when it is necessary to responsibility for the physical therapy partners, or stockholders, either protect the welfare of an individual care of a patient and shall make individually or collectively, from the or the community or when required independent judgments regarding obligation to promote, maintain, and by law. Such disclosure shall be in that care consistent with accepted comply with the ethical principles of accordance with applicable law. professional standards. See Sections the Association. 2.4 and 18.104.22.168 Patient Autonomy and Consent B. A physical therapist shall advise his/ C. A physical therapist shall not provide her employer(s) of any employer A. A physical therapist shall respect physical therapy to a patient/client the patient’s/client’s right to practice that causes a physical
therapist to be in conflict with the 6.3 Professional Education B. A physical therapist shall never place ethical principles of the Association. A. A physical therapist shall support her/his own financial interest above A physical therapist shall seek high-quality education in academic the welfare of individuals under his/ to eliminate aspects of his/her and clinical settings. her care. employment that are in conflict C. A physical therapist shall recognize with the ethical principles of the B. A physical therapist participating in the educational process is responsible that third-party payer contracts Association. may limit, in one form or another, to the students, the academic4.4 Gifts and Other Consideration(s) institutions, and the clinical settings the provision of physical therapy A. A physical therapist shall not invite, for promoting ethical conduct. A services. Third-party limitations do accept, or offer gifts, monetary physical therapist shall model ethical not absolve the physical therapist incentives, or other considerations behavior and provide the student from making sound professional that affect or give an appearance with information about the Code judgments that are in the patient’s of affecting his/her professional of Ethics, opportunities to discuss best interest. A physical therapist judgment. ethical conflicts, and procedures shall avoid underutilization of for reporting unresolved ethical physical therapy services. B. A physical therapist shall not offer or accept kickbacks in exchange for conflicts. See Section 9. D. When a physical therapist’s judgment patient referrals. See Sections 7.1.F is that a patient will receive negligible 6.4 Continuing Education and G and 9.1.D. benefit from physical therapy A. A physical therapist providing services, the physical therapist shallPRINCIPLE 5 continuing education must be not provide or continue to provide competent in the content area. such services if the primary reasonA physical therapist shall achieve and maintainprofessional competence. B. When a physical therapist provides for doing so is to further financial continuing education, he/she self-interest of the physical therapist5.1 Scope of Competence shall ensure that course content, or his/her employer. A physical A physical therapist shall practice within objectives, faculty credentials, and therapist shall avoid overutilization the scope of his/her competence and responsibilities of the instructional of physical therapy services. See commensurate with his/her level of staff are accurately stated in the Section 4.1.H. education, training, and experience. promotional and instructional E. Fees for physical therapy services5.2 Self-Assessment course materials. should be reasonable for the A physical therapist has a lifelong C. A physical therapist shall evaluate services performed, considering professional responsibility for maintaining the efficacy and effectiveness the setting in which it is provided, competence through on-going self- of information and techniques practice costs in the geographic area, assessment, education, and enhancement presented in continuing education judgment of other organizations, of knowledge and skills. programs before integrating them and other relevant factors. into his/her practice. F. A physical therapist shall not5.3 Professional Development 6.5 Research directly or indirectly request, receive, A physical therapist shall participate or participate in the dividing, in educational activities that enhance A. A physical therapist participating in research shall abide by ethical transferring, assigning, or rebating his/her basic knowledge and skills. See of an unearned fee. See Sections Section 6.1. standards governing protection of human subjects and dissemination 4.4.A and B.PRINCIPLE 6 of results. G. A physical therapist shall not profitA physical therapist shall maintain and promote B. A physical therapist shall support by means of a credit or other valuablehigh standards for physical therapy practice, research activities that contribute consideration, such as an unearnededucation, and research. knowledge for improved patient commission, discount, or gratuity, care. in connection with the furnishing6.1 Professional Standards of physical therapy services. See A physical therapist’s practice shall be C. A physical therapist shall report Sections 4.4.A and B. consistent with accepted professional to appropriate authorities any acts in the conduct or presentation of H. Unless laws impose restrictions to standards. A physical therapist shall research that appear unethical or the contrary, physical therapists who continuously engage in assessment illegal. See Section 9. provide physical therapy services activities to determine compliance with within a business entity may pool these standards. PRINCIPLE 7 fees and monies received. Physical6.2 Practice A physical therapist shall seek only such therapists may divide or apportion A. A physical therapist shall achieve and remuneration as is deserved and reasonable for these fees and monies in accordance maintain professional competence. physical therapy services. with the business agreement. See Section 5. I. A physical therapist may enter into 7.1 Business and Employment B. A physical therapist shall agreements with organizations to Practices provide physical therapy services if demonstrate his/her commitment A. A physical therapist’s business/ such agreements do not violate the to quality improvement by engaging employment practices shall be ethical principles of the Association in peer and utilization review and consistent with the ethical principles or applicable laws. other self-assessment activities. of the Association.