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Each physical therapy direct patient care experience entries must include:

  1. Each facility in which you have accumulated experience as a physical therapist to be counted toward the minimum eligibility requirement.
  2. Each position in which you have accumulated experience to be counted toward the minimum eligibility.

Direct patient care must include activities in each of the elements of patient/client management applicable to the specialty area and included in the appropriate "Description of Specialty Practice." These elements, as defined in the "Guide to Physical Therapist Practice," are examination, evaluation, diagnosis, prognosis, and intervention.

Initial Certification Requirements

Applicants must submit evidence of 2,000 hours of direct patient care in the specialty area within the last 10 years, 25% (500) of which must have occurred within the last three years. Applicants may not include experience in the specialty area that will occur after the application deadline (July 1 for Cardiovascular & Pulmonary, Clinical Electrophysiology, Oncology, and Women's Health; July 31 for all other specialty areas). Please note: Reapplicants need only submit PT experience information for the 12 months since their last application submission.

Recertification Requirements

Recertification candidates are required to document evidence of continued direct patient care activities in the specialty area, the equivalent of 200 hours per year since the date of most recent certification. Certified specialists are permitted to recertify up to three years prior to their certification expiration date, and direct patient care hour requirements are adjusted accordingly. Two hundred of the total hours must have occurred within the last three years.

Original Documentation

Applicants are not required to submit original documentation with their application to verify employment history. However, the specialty councils conduct random audits of applications. Applicants should be prepared to submit original documentation to verify their practice experience, e.g., written verification from supervisors, time records, W-2 forms.

If your position includes working within more than one specialty area, you are responsible for estimating the total amount of time spent solely in the specialty area of application. Should you choose to apply for certification in a second specialty area at a later date, you will not be permitted to submit the same documentation of direct patient care hours as you submitted for this application.

What Activities Constitute Direct Patient Care?

Applicants for specialization certification in physical therapy and applicants for recertification frequently ask questions related to the activities that they may include in calculating their "direct patient care" hours. Because each situation is different, there is no specific list of activities that may always be included or excluded as direct patient care. However, a guiding principle to consider for defining direct patient care is the activities that a therapist participates in that have a direct influence on the care of a specific patient or client. This work can be fee based or pro bono work. Please note that eligible direct patient care hours only include the time spent practicing within your specific specialty area.

Access more information on what consistutes direct patient care hours.

Common Disorders

You are asked to list the five (minimum of three) most common types of disorders evaluated and treated at this facility/position for this year.

Number of Weeks Worked for Each Direct Patient Care Experience Entry

  • Maximum number of weeks for current year may not exceed 30 for initial certification applicants or 46 for recertification candidates.
  • Record the actual number of weeks worked at a facility.
  • Deduct leaves of absence, extended sick leave, and vacations (if they are one week or longer) from the total number of calculated weeks.

Number of Hours Worked per Week for Each Direct Patient Care Experience Entry

  • A typical work week equals 40. A typical work year equals 50 weeks.
  • Record the actual number of hours per week if your weekly hours vary, record the average number of hours worked per week.
  • Applicants who record that they work significantly more than 40 hours per week may be asked to submit additional documentation to verify these hours.

Percentage of Clinical Practice Hours in Specialty for Each Direct Patient Care Experience Entry

  • Clinical practice includes any aspect of physical therapy practice in the specialty. Examples include patient care, teaching, research, administration, and consultation.
  • Clinical practice in the specialty area is a subset of general physical therapy.
  • Estimate the percentage of your total hours spent in clinical practice.

Percentage of Direct Patient Care Hours in Specialty for Each Direct Patient Care Experience Entry

  • Direct patient care must include activities in each of the elements of patient/client management applicable to the specialty area and included in the "Description of Specialty Practice." These elements, as defined by the "Guide to Physical Therapist Practice," are examination, evaluation, diagnosis, prognosis, and intervention.
  • Direct patient care in the specialty area is a subset of clinical practice in the specialty.
  • Estimate the percentage of your clinical practice time in the specialty area that you spend in direct patient care.