Background and Purpose: Direct access, or physical therapy evaluation and treatment without physician referral, has been and continues to be the next crucial step in defining physical therapists (PT's) as autonomous practitioners. As of October 29,2003 there were 2716 licensed physical therapists in the state of Oregon, and only 685 were certified in direct access care. The question remaining is why are 2031 therapists non-certified? The purpose of this study was to investigate and analyze the opinions of physical therapists licensed by the State of Oregon, but not certified under the direct access provision. The first hypothesis for this study is that most physical therapists feel confident enough to practice under direct access, but because of reimbursement issues, they are reluctant to pursue certification. The second hypothesis is that new graduates, therapists with 5 years or less experience, would feel more confident in attaining their certification and practicing under direct access in Oregon. The third and final hypothesis is that therapists who were uncertain in working under direct access felt that their education had not adequately prepared them to practice direct access in Oregon.
Method: Five-hundred questionnaires were sent to a random sample of 2031 Oregon licensed physical therapists that were not certified in direct access. The survey consisted of twenty-three questions asking therapist's opinions on their education, general questions on direct access and its influence on the physical therapy profession, and describing why they were not direct access certified. Demographic information was also identified, including their opinions on career satisfaction and professional autonomy.
Results and Discussion: Two hundred-five surveys out of 500 were returned. Using chi-square analysis and Ryan's post hoc maneuver, there was statistical significance showing that most physical therapist surveyed felt confident to practice direct access but because of reimbursement issues, they were reluctant to pursue certification. There was no statistical significance supporting the hypothesis that therapists with 5 years or less experience would feel more confident in attaining their certification and practicing under direct access in Oregon. There was statistical significance showing that therapists who were uncertain in working under direct access felt that their education had not adequately prepared them to practice direct access in Oregon. In addition to the answers given for the questions on the survey, physical therapists surveyed also expressed varying opinions about direct access, physical therapy education, and on the health care profession.
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