As society becomes increasingly mobile, we have seen many developments in the healthcare industry. Telemedicine has become increasingly common and travel careers in allied health have seen significant growth in recent years. Given the projected growth in healthcare demand, these trends are likely to continue. Overall, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that healthcare occupations are projected to grow by 18% between 2016-2026. Considering the direction that the American healthcare system seems to be heading, it is no surprise that the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy is in the process of introducing the physical therapy licensure compact. As demand for physical therapists grows, physical therapists will need to practice in multiple states more often. However, current state licensure requirements make this difficult. Moving forward, an interstate license will make it easier for physical therapists to be mobile in their careers.
What is the Physical Therapy Licensure Compact?
History to Date
The FSBPT began discussing an interstate physical therapy licensing process at a significant level in 2014. In April of that year, the FSBPT established an Advisory Task Force composed of various stakeholders. This task force was responsible for preparing initial proposals for how to proceed in introducing a compact license. Using the task force’s proposals, a drafting team established the initial statutory language of the compact. Following a period of review, the drafting team finalized the language on October 6th, 2015. After the policy had been written, the FSBPT initiated a period of education that has continued to this day. In order for a state to adopt the compact, that state’s legislative body and board of physical therapists must independently approve it. In April 2017, Washington became the 10th state to sign onto the compact. This allowed the FSBPT to move forward since it had the 10 states necessary to introduce the interstate license.
To date, 14 states have enacted compact legislation. These states include Washington, Oregon, Montana, North Dakota, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Texas, Missouri, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, and New Hampshire. Additionally, at least six other legislative bodies have discussed the possibility of introducing the physical therapy licensure compact. Many states have joined the compact and it officially became law on April 25th, 2017. However, the policy will likely not take effect until 2018. The FSBPT was able to form a commission of state boards once Washington joined the compact. Yet, the commission must work out some of the technical aspects of the licensure before physical therapists can begin practicing across state lines using this license. Eventually, physical therapists wishing to enroll in this program will need to apply for approval through this commission. For the time being, nothing has officially changed regarding the process of securing licensing in another state. PTs must continue to apply on a case by case basis.
Future of the Compact License
The FSBPT aims to enroll all 50 states in the interstate licensure compact. This process will likely take awhile given the current rate of adoption. Although 14 states have agreed to implement the physical therapy licensure compact, three others have discussed it and closed their legislative session without approval. Moving forward, states will likely be influenced by the success of the program in the states who are early-adopters. Until then, only physical therapists whose primary residence is within one of the 14 states listed above will be able to enjoy the benefits of the compact.
The physical therapy licensure compact is certainly a step in the right direction. It will allow physical therapists increased mobility in their careers. It is important to keep in mind that even physical therapists living in compact states may not all be eligible for a compact license. There will be an application process with strict criteria. With that said, those who meet the criteria will be able to search for jobs in exciting new locations around the country!