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What I Learned from the College: Top Tips for New Physiotherapists

Sep 17, 2018
By: Ian Winningham, PT Student 

I’ve spent the past five weeks at the College of Physiotherapists of Ontario doing my final clinical placement where I’ve had the opportunity to learn more about regulation and complete several projects related to the College’s involvement with students across the province. I found this placement very helpful in starting my journey as a newly graduated PT.

Based on what I’ve learned, here are some tips for students, new graduates and new physiotherapists in Ontario. (They’re a great refresher for experienced physios too!)

1. Be careful about accepting that first job—there are some employers out there who try to take advantage of physiotherapy residents and physiotherapists. They make it difficult to follow the rules and maintain good business practices.

It might be a bit awkward but make sure you have a discussion about billing with your employer. You can even refer to the Rules and Resources on the College website to highlight some of your key responsibilities. Here’s an example of how you might start things off: 

“My College requires me to have a written process for routinely reviewing my fees, billings and accounts. As part of this, I will need a printout every month of what was billed to my number.”

If they give you pushback this may be a red flag and indication that this might not be the best place to work.

You could get into serious trouble if you don’t follow the Fees, Billing and Accounts Standard. Trust me, I had the chance to observe an Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee meeting and learned that the College has zero tolerance for bad business practices. I also learned about how insurance companies are delisting clinics and physiotherapists for fraud or abuse of benefits.

2. Want to avoid complaints? Of course you do! Communication is an important clinical skill. 

After reading through many Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee case files and observing a committee meeting, it struck me that a common underlying issue in complaints is lack of communication by the PT.

Here are some simple tips for improving your communication skills and preventing complaints. Yes, this seems like common sense but if all PTs followed these tips, the College would receive fewer complaints.

  • Greet your patients professionally, introduce yourself, and tell them what to expect. This helps them feel comfortable.
  • Listen to your patients. Give them your attention. Put your cell phone away.
  • Use language that the patient will understand. If they look confused with your explanations they probably are. Explain again and encourage them to ask questions.
  • Everyone is unique. Learn more about your patients’ experiences and circumstances as well as their goals. What do they hope to get out of treatment?
  • Watch your non-verbal communication. Bad posture, slumped shoulders, crossed arms, frowns, and rolling your eyes can all send the wrong message to the patient. 
  • Act professionally and show care for your patients.
3. Document everything.

Truthfully, I learned most of my documentation skills on my clinical placements and was lucky to have great clinical instructors to guide me. But, reading through the complaints cases and attending an Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee meeting further stressed the importance of record keeping. Good documentation can keep you out of trouble if you’re ever involved in the complaints process while lack of documentation can get you in trouble. Remember if you didn’t write it down, it never happened!

I would suggest a quick refresh of the Record Keeping Standard—it takes less than five minutes to read through. You can also complete the College’s new Record Keeping E-Learning Module including four scenarios and a quiz to test your knowledge. 

4. Don’t be afraid of the College, especially as a student!

“The College is coming in to give a presentation today. I’m skipping it.”-anonymous PT student

As students, we may not be interested in the College coming to talk to us. We’re not concerned about practice assessments or registration…yet. But, the College is trying to help students better understand the role of regulation, the standards of practice, your responsibilities as a PT, and the registration process. All of this is important information in our journeys to become licensed. 

So, listen up at the next College presentation or community event. I have given College staff my input on what students are interested in learning, so I promise it will be useful.

And finally, be open to opportunities to get more involved with regulation. Consider a placement at the College if you are a student and consider running for a Council position if you are a member. I can confidently say that the College is committed to helping all physiotherapists understand their responsibilities, including new members and students. 

If you have any questions about the rules or you’re dealing with a tough ethical dilemma feel free to contact a Practice Advisor at 647-484-8800 or 1-800-583-5885, or by email at The Practice Advisors are ready to take your calls and enjoy talking through the issues with you.

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