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APA calls for protection of the term 'physio'.

Photo: Australian Physiotherapy Assocation
The Australian Physiotherapy Association has called on the Government to protect the term ‘physio’, in the same way ‘Physiotherapist’ and ‘Physiotherapy’ are already protected, ensuring that  practitioners using these titles are qualified and registered.

In recent years, the APA has noted an increase in cases where practitioners have used the term ‘physio’, despite not holding a recognised physiotherapy qualification, presenting a safety and quality risk to the public, as well as a reputational risk to the profession.

“It makes sense to extend the National Law protection beyond ‘physiotherapist’ and ‘physiotherapy’ to include ‘physio’, which is a term all Australians commonly use to reference the safe, trusted work of members of our profession,” says APA National President Phil Calvert.
“Physio is a term deeply ingrained in the Australian manner of speech and is used very broadly throughout the community, including in family conversations, at sports clubs, in GP discussions, in hospitals and private health insurance settings.

“Many health insurance advertisements feature the term ‘physio’ in place of physiotherapy or physiotherapist because it is such a widely known and understood term.”

However Mr Calvert said there had been instances where non-physiotherapists had used the term physio in discussions or advertisements within hospital and community settings, misleading the public and trading on the trust and reputation of the physiotherapy profession.

One case involved a person employed as a physiotherapist to provide physiotherapy services to a state sporting team, who was in fact, a high performance coach only. He used the title Professional Sports Trainer/Sports Physio.

In another situation, a patient had a discussion with her local physiotherapist who was helping her learn a set of exercises she could do at home.

The patient mentioned to her physiotherapist that her hospital physio helped her exercise while she was in hospital.

Through subsequent discussions, it became apparent that the hospital worker had introduced himself to the patient as her ‘exercise physio’ and so the patient assumed he was a physiotherapist. In fact he was an exercise physiologist.

Mr Calvert said there were also cases of advertising that used the term ‘physio’ that had nothing to do with physiotherapy at all.

“One example is a ‘hair physio’ who offers services by a person with a certificate in trichology, with no physiotherapy qualification at all,” he said.

“It’s not OK for another practitioner, whether registered by AHPRA or not, to knowingly or recklessly use the term ‘physio’ in a way that makes the public think he or she is a qualified physiotherapist.

“It puts the safety of the patient at risk and the credibility of the profession is compromised.

“The law must change to accommodate protecting all variations of the words ’physiotherapist’ and ‘physiotherapy’.”

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Nicole Madigan

Nicole Madigan is a widely published journalist with more than 15 years experience in the media and communications industries.

Specialising in health, business, property and finance, Nicole writes regularly for numerous high-profile newspapers, magazines and online publications.

Before moving into freelance writing almost a decade ago, Nicole was an on-air reporter with Channel Nine and a newspaper journalist with News Limited.

Nicole is also the Director of content and communications agency Stella Communications (www.stellacomms.com) and a children's author.