It could be asked, “are all ‘physios’ the same”? Unfortunately the answer is no. Unlike other medical professionals such as doctors, nurses, midwives and pharmacists, there is no protection in Irish legislation for the title of physiotherapist or physical therapist in Ireland. This means that in essence, anyone can not only assume such a title, but also practice under it.
There are currently many therapists practicing in the Republic of Ireland in many different settings including sports and leisure using the term “physiotherapists”/ “physio”/”physical therapist” but who have not completed the required courses recognised by the only governing body in the Republic of Ireland called the Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists (ISCP). There is currently legislation being drafted by the Government which when finalised into law in the Dail will help clarify this situation for the public. In the meantime, you can protect yourself by ensuring when you require treatment with a physiotherapist; you always check that the person pertaining to be a physiotherapist is a Chartered Physiotherapist. A Chartered Physiotherapist will have the letters MISCP after their name. This is your protection that you are being treated by a qualified practitioner.
Ensuring your physiotherapist is a chartered physiotherapist is the only way of ensuring you have the most professionally trained physical health expert. By choosing a chartered physiotherapist, you are in the care of a healthcare professional with a university degree who has demonstrated the highest standard of excellence in clinical care. Chartered Physiotherapists are committed to continual professional development and education ensuring the most up to date knowledge and evidence for your care.
Why confusion can sometimes arise?The confusion arises because in many countries including the UK and the US, the titles “physiotherapist” and “physical therapist” are protected, and may be used only by therapists with the appropriate qualifications such as four-year full-time degrees. In Ireland, however, physical therapists or sports therapists generally do not have the same qualifications as a physiotherapist, and often gain their qualifications through part-time programmes. To protect these titles and to protect the public, registration with the ISCP has become compulsory for physiotherapists with the appropriate qualification in recent years. This now means it is easier for patients seeking treatment to check if their physiotherapist has appropriate qualifications by simply checking if their physiotherapist is a Chartered Physiotherapist. A simple way of doing this is by going to the ISCP website (www.iscp.ie); by clicking on the section, “Is your physiotherapist chartered?” and when you type in the name of your Physiotherapist, if he/she is a Chartered Physiotherapist, it will confirm this as well as their county of practice.
What are the differences?
A physical therapist, on the other hand, can complete a course on a part-time basis, from 15 months to a three- year term, so the levels of experience and qualifications do differ. Moreover, training for a physical therapist typically only focuses on muscular-skeletal areas and does not take into account other body functions and processes. While the work undertaken by a physical therapist may be legitimate, the ISCP argues that it is essential that the patient should understand exactly what experience and training the person treating them has obtained. Most physical therapists are very aware that they must communicate the difference between their qualifications and that of a Chartered Physiotherapist to patients.
Only Chartered Physiotherapists are entitled to work in the public sector such as hospitals and health centres, thus it is in the private practice that confusion can arise. According to the ISCP, this grey area is leading to many problems, and it receives many complaints from members of the public who thought they were seeing a trained physiotherapist. Another issue is that there is less comeback when it comes to physical therapists. For example, if a chartered physiotherapist acts in an inappropriate manner or offers inadequate treatment, a complaint can be made to the society.