BC Physiotherapists Rally Together to Have a Voice

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Head in Hands

UPDATE 2018: It Happened AGAIN!

After all I/we went through to voice our concern about the RCA exam in 2015, they stuck to their guns and made a new group of BC physios write the exam three years later with the same result of technology failure causing the whole thing to be canceled.  I received countless emails, phone calls and even hand written letters from all over the province thanking me for trying to stand up for us in 2015 and now it is starting all over again.  Physios are mad about the inconvenience, but still madder at the underlying principle that this test is not a valid or appropriate measure of our competency.  I hope the College of Physiotherapists of BC starts taking the feedback of its members more seriously...lets see what happens!

Original Article Below

I am writing this article tonight because I am mad, I am offended and I  want to help create change and I know that I am not alone.  I have been a physiotherapist in British Columbia for twelve years, a path that required me to attain two university degrees and pass a written and practical certification exam.  I have taken over twenty five post-graduate courses, run a private clinic and work closely with countless other healthcare professionals and was just recently required to write a three hour exam to prove my 'competency' as part of our college's Quality Assurance Program.

Physiotherapy is a regulated profession in British Columbia, meaning that we have a regulatory body called the College of Physical Therapists of BC (CPTBC) that creates standards and provides licenses for therapists to work as certified health care professionals in the province.  Apparently in 2007 the BC government passed a law called the Health Professions Amendment Act that requires regulatory bodies to monitor our 'continuing competency' defined as: the ongoing ability of a practitioner to integrate and apply the knowledge, skills, judgments and interpersonal attributes required to practice safely and ethically in a designated role and setting.  The principle of it makes sense, but the practical application of it is actively falling on its face right now and making a lot of physiotherapists in BC angry...especially me, but I want to hear from everybody!

Since the bill was passed the CPTBC has systematically developed their Quality Assurance Program as a two step process.  Step one was an annual self report that required every physio to take an online quiz to familiarize themselves with some of the college bylaws and ethical standards before a new license was issued in the new year.  A completely reasonable and smart way to make sure that we all brush up on important regulations.  Step two started on Tuesday November 3rd, 2015 where a portion of us were required to write a three hour online test to 'demonstrate our competence' as physiotherapists.  They gave us ample warning with eight updates emails between March and November with details of all the hoops we had to jump through.  We all booked time off, each found a proctor to supervise us and irritatedly prepared to prove our worth online somehow.

The results couldn't have gone worse.  The CPTBC's five years of planning ended up with their servers crashing, half the people not being able to connect while the other half could about a half an hour late.  Of the people that connected and wrote the test for three hours only a portion of them were able to save and submit their answers and then found out afterwards that the test was cancelled due to technical difficulties.  I was one of the lucky few that got the pleasure of writing the insulting test to have my answers go nowhere.  Two and a half hours of staring at a screen with my double vision after a long work day....I am still bitter.

My bitterness of the unfortunate situation has grown into an anger about the principle of the test itself more than the fact that I was inconvenienced for a day.  I learn by doing and what I learned from writing the CPTBC's competency test was that the Registrant Competence Assessment will have zero positive impact on physiotherapy as a profession and in no way provides any quality assurance for the public.  The test is appropriate as part of a licensing exam for a new graduate, but checking every six years if we remember some basics from school neither establishes competence nor provides any insight on the quality of a physiotherapist.  Instead it implies that our knowledge base deteriorates over time and we need to brush up on the basics in order to ensure public safety.

Quality, competent physiotherapists are developed over years of experience and continuing education.  We all start with the same fundamentals, but quickly start taking different specialized paths that should not be broadly categorized into four groups for the purposes of a competency test.  We should be using this Quality Assurance Program to be raising the bar for individuals in the profession not dragging them down to the bare standard every six years.  We should put more emphasis on post-graduate training as a requirement in order to improve the professional service that we provide the public and not demand a test that is built to have a 1-2% fail rate.  The current plan is expensive, time consuming, ineffective and offensive to experienced physiotherapists.  The only thing that it has accomplished is to irritate a group of busy professionals.

I understand the the CPTBC has worked hard and spent a lot of the registrants money in developing this test over the past five years, but I formally request that they go back to the drawing board and create a program that pushes the registrants that wouldn't have otherwise taken more courses and continued to learn to do so, instead of picking on the 1-2% of physios that are probably just bad at taking online tests.  A simple system that requires continuing education credits will do more for the profession and may create an opportunity to showcase to the public just how much post-graduate training our therapists go through.

I have posted this letter in BLOG format so that all physios and occupational therapists (you have the same test coming up!) can leave their thoughts in the comments section below.  Please make your voice heard on this page and I will make sure the CPTBC sees it.  Go ahead and rant if you want, but if you have constructive ideas to improve the system please share them too.  Please indicate if you are a PT, OT or have any other background in your comment.  ***I should have done this initially but please sign up for the mailing list below and I will email everyone if I have any news on the status of the future of the RCA exam***

Thank you for your time!

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