Case of the Month

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Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Sep 17, 2018

The Case

The College received a complaint about the practice of a physiotherapist working in a long-term care facility. The daughter of a patient raised three concerns including that the physiotherapist was identifying herself as a doctor, not providing accurate employment information and history, and acting in an unprofessional manner. 

The patient’s daughter found the LinkedIn profile for the PT and noted that she was identifying herself as “Dr.” and including employment information that didn’t match the College’s Public Register. 

As well, the complainant noted that the PT behaved unprofessionally — particularly with one physiotherapist assistant at the long-term care facility, to the point where it was referenced in the complaint as “harassment and bullying.”
On one occasion, the physiotherapist yelled at the PTA in a common area, prompting a director to intervene and remind the PT to be respectful.
Both the physiotherapist and the physiotherapist assistant were asked to leave work for the remainder of the afternoon. 

A College investigator interviewed several staff members at the long-term care facility and while approximately half identified personal concerns with the professionalism of the physiotherapist, all of them acknowledged palpable tension and ongoing disagreement between the PT and the physiotherapist assistant. 

The Standards

The Regulated Health Professions Act stipulates that only chiropractors, dentists, optometrists, physicians and psychologists are permitted to use the title “doctor” or “Dr.” in the course of providing or offering to provide health care. This is further enforced by the College’s Restricted Titles, Credentials and Specialty Designations Standard.
The College’s By-Laws require that members notify the College of any changes to their personal information including: place of employment, home address, telephone number and email address within 30 days. 

The Collaborative Care Standard recognizes that in a collaborative care situation problems or conflicts may arise that could interfere with the delivery of safe quality care. It’s the responsibility of the physiotherapist to recognize the problems or conflicts and take reasonable steps to resolve them with the patient or the other care provider. 

The Decision

The physiotherapist indicated that in her home country the use of the title “Dr.” is appropriate for physiotherapists and assumed the same would be true in Canada. Upon being informed of the regulations she removed the title from her LinkedIn account, as verified by the College investigator. As such, the Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee elected to take no action related to this issue. 

Similarly, the Committee elected to take no action concerning the incorrect employment information of the physiotherapist as she indicated that she was unaware of the long-term care facility changing ownership and immediately corrected her information when it was brought to her attention. 

However, regarding the management of challenging interpersonal relationships, the Committee felt that the interaction between the PT and the assistant undermined the principles of professionalism and mutual respect. The incident had the potential to disrupt the delivery of quality care as outlined in the Collaborative Care Standard.
The physiotherapist was required to meet with a coach assigned by the College and successfully complete an educational course approved by the Registrar as part of a Specified Continuing Education and Remediation Program (SCERP), which will appear on the Public Register. All costs of the SCERP will be paid by the physiotherapist and she is required to complete a reflective paper at the end of remediation. 

Restricted Titles, Credentials and Specialty Designations Standard

Collaborative Care Standard 

Comments about this Case? Please share below. 
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  1. Lauralee Merkley | Sep 24, 2018

    It would appear that more stress on newly immigrated physiotherapists needs to be placed on familiarizing themselves with the College standards and regulation of their newly adopted country. They obviously passed the written and practical standardized exam process but their seems to be a gap after that.


  2. Philip Naiman | Sep 21, 2018
    If this physiotherapist referred to herself as Dr. would this not have been picked up by her employer and discussed so that it would not become an issue?

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