The Commission on Accreditation for Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) has been the sole accreditor of physical therapist and physical therapist assistant educational programs for more than 25 years. This is no accident. Most states legislate that student physical therapists and physical therapist assistants must graduate from a CAPTE-approved program in order to be eligible to sit for licensure examination in that state as protection for its citizens. In addition, some other countries, such as Canada, have contracted with CAPTE for accreditation of their programs, knowing that this is the most outstanding seal of approval that a program can receive.
That this process can take up to two years to institute in a developing program is part of what makes this process so valuable to the public’s health and safety. It is the opposite of a rubber-stamp process. CAPTE accreditation is seen as the model to emulate by other health professions, and it has won numerous awards for being the benchmark process others aspire to. I know this first hand, as I have served as a CAPTE commissioner for six years. In that capacity I not only voted to accept or reject applications for accreditation, I participated in the hours and weeks of advising and assisting struggling programs to live up to the standards of this agency and this process.
Dade Medical College’s CEO Ernesto Perez didn’t want to wait for CAPTE accreditation and didn’t want to have to pass CAPTE accreditation standards. He simply paid a lobbyist, Carlos Trujillo, to sneak a rider onto an unrelated bill and, all of a sudden, Florida physical therapist assistant programs can be “accredited” by any accreditation agency.
However, those students with their so-called associate’s degree can sit for licensure in Florida, but not any other state. And it is doubtful that the centers for Medicare and Medicaid will allow these graduates with education of questionable quality to bill for care of those on federal insurance programs.
It seems as though Florida legislators can be bought not to care about the safety of their fellow citizens needing healthcare. The negative repercussion of this fiasco not only hurts patients, but hurts students who will not be assured of a quality education that they are paying twice as much for as the one they would receive from one of the most highly regarded CAPTE accredited physical therapist assistant programs in the nation at Miami Dade College. The Florida Physical Therapy Association and I urge the state legislators to realize how damaging this law is and move to reverse it in their next session before more students and citizens suffer.
Carol M. Davis, professor emerita, Department of Physical Therapy, University of Miami, Coral Gables