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Ethical Issues in Physical Therapy Practice

Kathleen D. Weissberg, OTD, OTR/L, CMDCP, CDP, CFPS

December 1, 2023

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Question

What are some common ethical issues in practicing in physical therapy and in healthcare in general today?  

Answer

In the healthcare profession, we commonly encounter several ethical issues that deserve our careful attention. These encompass both the need for thorough and accurate documentation as well as navigating complex workplace demands:

  • Documentation Lapses
    • Ensuring timely and accurate documentation of patient encounters is critical. Lapses in documentation, such as shortcuts, using X's or dots, or cloning/copy-pasting records, can compromise patient care and credibility in legal situations.
  • Employer Demands and Productivity Quotas
    • Balancing productivity demands with ethical practice is essential. While efficiency and productivity are important, falsifying billing or misrepresenting services to meet quotas is unethical.
  • Use and Supervision of Support Personnel
    • Utilizing support personnel within the boundaries of state practice acts is crucial. Clearly defining roles and responsibilities of support staff to ensure they adhere to legal and ethical guidelines is vital.
  • Impaired Practitioners
    • Recognizing and addressing impaired practitioners due to mental health issues or substance abuse is essential for patient safety and maintaining professional ethics. Prompt intervention and support are imperative in such cases
  • Student Supervision
    • Adequate supervision and mentorship for students during clinical placements are ethical responsibilities. Neglecting to provide proper guidance and supervision can compromise the learning experience and ethical conduct of students.

Addressing these ethical challenges involves upholding professional standards, prioritizing patient care and safety, and ensuring compliance with legal regulations. It's incumbent upon healthcare professionals to maintain ethical conduct while navigating the demands and responsibilities inherent in their roles.


kathleen d weissberg

Kathleen D. Weissberg, OTD, OTR/L, CMDCP, CDP, CFPS

In her 30+ years of practice, Dr. Kathleen Weissberg has worked in rehabilitation and long-term care as an executive, researcher, and educator.  She has established numerous programs in nursing facilities; authored peer-reviewed publications on topics such as low vision, dementia quality care, and wellness; and has spoken at national and international conferences. She provides continuing education support to over 40,000 individuals nationwide as National Director of Education for Select Rehabilitation. She is a Certified Dementia Care Practitioner, a Certified Montessori Dementia Care Practitioner, and a Certified Fall Prevention Specialist.  She serves as the Region 1 Director for the American Occupational Therapy Association Political Action Committee and adjunct professor at Gannon University in Erie, PA. 


Related Courses

Supervising Assistants, Students, and Aides: Upholding Your Ethics in a Challenging Health Care Environment
Presented by Kathleen D. Weissberg, OTD, OTR/L, CMDCP, CDP, CFPS
Recorded Webinar

Presenter

Kathleen D. Weissberg, OTD, OTR/L, CMDCP, CDP, CFPS
Course: #4377Level: Intermediate2 Hours
  'her examples, delineation between Mcr A and Mcr B pts/treatments'   Read Reviews
This presentation reviews the definitions of supervision as well as APTA guidance related to supervising assistants, students, and aides in various healthcare environments. Documentation guidelines for Medicare are reviewed as these relate to what an assistant can complete versus a therapist. The use of students and rehab aides in long-term care is reviewed in accordance with Medicare guidelines. Real examples of common supervisory ethical dilemmas from the field, including the appropriate action steps to take in each one, are highlighted. This course is directly related to the practice of physical therapy and is therefore appropriate for the PT/PTA

Ethics: A Clinical Perspective for Therapists
Presented by Kathleen D. Weissberg, OTD, OTR/L, CMDCP, CDP, CFPS
Recorded Webinar

Presenter

Kathleen D. Weissberg, OTD, OTR/L, CMDCP, CDP, CFPS
Course: #4693Level: Intermediate3 Hours
  'The examples were helpful'   Read Reviews
This seminar provides practical information about ethics from a clinical perspective. Basic principles of ethics as they relate to healthcare and physical therapy are reviewed. Behaviors that are considered unethical by most credentialing bodies are considered, as well as health care/therapy codes of ethics. The CELIBATE and RIPS methods for analyzing ethical dilemmas are reviewed with case studies to demonstrate use.

Ethics and Jurisprudence for the Indiana Physical Therapist and Physical Therapist Assistant
Presented by Kathleen D. Weissberg, OTD, OTR/L, CMDCP, CDP, CFPS, Calista Kelly, PT, DPT, ACEEAA, Cert. MDT
Text/Transcript

Presenters

Kathleen D. Weissberg, OTD, OTR/L, CMDCP, CDP, CFPSCalista Kelly, PT, DPT, ACEEAA, Cert. MDT
Course: #4574Level: Intermediate2 Hours
  'very thorough and clinically applicable'   Read Reviews
PTs and PTAs practicing in the state of Indiana are required to complete a two-hour course on ethics and jurisprudence for license and certificate renewal respectively. This course reviews the principles of ethics, common ethical dilemmas, and methods for analyzing ethical dilemmas. Jurisprudence components as outlined by the Indiana Board of Physical Therapy, Indiana Physical Therapy Practice Act and The Indiana Administrative Code is also discussed.

Ethics in Rehabilitation: A Clinical Perspective for Therapists
Presented by Kathleen D. Weissberg, OTD, OTR/L, CMDCP, CDP, CFPS
Recorded Webinar

Presenter

Kathleen D. Weissberg, OTD, OTR/L, CMDCP, CDP, CFPS
Course: #4338Level: Intermediate3 Hours
  'The instructor made this course interesting and gave good examples'   Read Reviews
In this seminar, practical information about ethics is provided from a clinical perspective. Basic principles of ethics as they relate to healthcare and therapy are reviewed. Behaviors that are considered unethical by most credentialing bodies are considered as well as health care/therapy codes of ethics. The CELIBATE and RIPS methods for analyzing ethical dilemmas are reviewed with case studies to demonstrate use. This course is directly related to the practice of physical therapy and is therefore appropriate for the PT/PTA.

Put Down the Drugs: Evidence-Based Interventions to Reduce Unwanted Behaviors with Dementia
Presented by Kathleen D. Weissberg, OTD, OTR/L, CMDCP, CDP, CFPS
Recorded Webinar

Presenter

Kathleen D. Weissberg, OTD, OTR/L, CMDCP, CDP, CFPS
Course: #3072Level: Intermediate1 Hour
  'Wonderful review and will be quite helpful for this PTA working in my long term facility!'   Read Reviews
PTs can apply evidence-based interventions to improve dementia care. This session reviews the etiology of common behaviors. Cognitive-emotion, multi-sensory, animal-assisted, and exercise interventions to reduce agitation are discussed as well as specific strategies for improving task-related engagement. This course is directly related to the practice of physical therapy and is therefore appropriate for the PT and PTA.

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