Physical Therapy Residency and Fellowship Programs Face ABPTRFE Mandated Changes

The American Board of Physical Therapy Residency and Fellowship Education (ABPTRFE) has announced on its website new quality standards for clinical Residency and Fellowship programs. The effective date of the new quality standards is January 1, 2018. and programs that currently are accredited, or that have applied for accreditation on or before December 31, 2017, have until January 1, 2020, to comply with the new quality standards. ABPTRFE is strongly encouraging Physical Therapy Residency programs and Fellowship programs to begin reviewing and making the necessary modifications now, rather than waiting until January 1, 2020. Should ABPTRFE find a program not in compliance with the standards as of January 1, 2020,  the program’s accreditation status may be negatively impacted. According to the new APTA rules, 2019 will be the last year that PTs can be accepted into and begin an APTA-accredited Fellowship program without first completing either an ABPTRFE accredited residency or an  American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS) written exam. This rule change affects all 30 APTA/ABPTRFE accredited fellowship programs.

The new standards are largely based on work done by ABPTRFE consultant Susan Chiaramonte, who developed the standards after a series of open forms, calls for comments, and weekly updates that occurred during the first part of 2017. During that time, Chiaramonte summarized the comments, offered clarifications, and identified areas for further review, and then finalized the quality standards by incorporating changes based on stakeholder feedback. The final quality standards for clinical Residency and Fellowship programs were presented to and unanimously adopted by ABPTRFE on June 21.

After completing a review of the 2016 ABPTRFE Accreditation Handbook Link , the updated 2017 Quality Standards document Link , and several current application forms of programs offering Residencies and Fellowships, CE For Therapy has identified 2 major changes that are contained in the new Quality Standards. For Residency programs, the old/current standards called for a minimum of 1500 program hours, and with the new standards, this will be increased to a minimum of 1800 hours. The second change affects the Fellowship application process. The old/current standards required that the applicant must possess at least one of the following qualifications: 1. Specialist Certification, 2. Completion of a Residency in a specialty area, or 3. Demonstrable clinical skills within a particular specialty area. The new standards for Fellowship application call for American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS) Specialist Certification in the related area of specialty, or Completion of an ABPTRFE-accredited residency in a related specialty area. There is no mention of a 3rd option of prior professional experience or demonstrable clinical skills within a particular specialty area, which essentially makes having completed a Residency program or achievement of a Specialty Certification an admission requirement rather than a recommendation.

CE For Therapy has reached out to several providers of Physical Therapy Residency and Fellowship programs regarding how these changes will potentially affect the number of individuals applying for the programs, or the costs of the programs, or personnel resource issues. We have learned that a prominent manual therapy fellowship program that has been in existence for over 10 years has stopped taking on new cohorts of fellows-in-training and will shut their doors after they graduate their current fellows.  A hand fellowship program is also considering closing due to the policies set forth by ABPTRFE. The American Academy of Manipulative Therapy Fellowship (along with approximately 12 other ABPTRFE-accredited fellowship programs throughout the country)has announced that it has decided not to renew its ABPTRFE accreditation. Instead, and beginning January 2020, the AAMT Fellowship will be accredited by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Manual Physical Therapists (AAOMPT), the designated member organization of the International Federation of Orthopaedic Manipulative Physical Therapists (IFOMPT). AAMT has noted that the new current mentoring standard set by ABPTRFE does not meet the minimum standard for 1:1 clinical mentorship hours set by AAOMPT, and that the ABPTRFE clinical mentoring standard is not recognized by IFOMPT.

APTA has called for a task force to investigate the ABPTRFE policies. and we will update this article when we receive additional input. There are several providers listed on the Provider Directory who currently offer Fellowship and Residency programs. Link

Physical Therapy Residency