College Fellows can now use ‘Doctor’

An artist's impression of a woman running on a suite of arrows all pointing in the one direction.

College Fellows can now use ‘Doctor’

An artist's impression of a woman running on a suite of arrows all pointing in the one direction.

You may have heard that Fellows of the Australian College of Physiotherapists (ACP) now have the right to use the title ‘Doctor’ to demonstrate their professional achievement and standing.

The APA lobbied the Physiotherapy Board of Australia to recognise this right as one of several new initiatives designed to strengthen the rewards and recognition of being a Fellow.

In so many ways, this is long overdue. Specialisation is a hugely significant achievement.

It confers Fellowship of the Australian College of Physiotherapists (alongside original contribution pathways) and requires knowledge and expertise at level 10 of the Australian Qualifications Framework.

That is the Australian Qualifications Framework’s highest level and is commensurate with higher doctoral degrees.

Specialists undertake a tough, often gruelling and always intellectually challenging two-year training program to become Fellows after demonstrating their readiness to enter the program (no mean feat in itself).

They represent the pinnacle of academic and professional achievement for the physiotherapy profession.

This initiative did not simply come into being overnight.

The APA has been working with the College Council and Fellows for many years, exploring whether this form of recognition is right.

Unlike many other professions that seem to leap at the chance to use the title ‘Doctor’ as soon as an undergraduate degree is conferred, we carefully evaluated the validity and legitimacy of this move.

‘Doctor’ is not a protected title under the law and no legal element stood in the way of its use.

The law simply requires that anyone using that title ensures that they do not incorrectly imply that they are a medical practitioner (a title that is protected by law).

Nevertheless, we recognise the importance of applying it carefully and correctly if it is to carry any weight in our society.

Over the coming years, the APA will pursue a long-term strategy to encourage our most capable members to undertake specialisation with the Australian College of Physiotherapists.

We intend to do this in a number of ways, including providing a world-class and rigorous training program that sets high standards while keeping specialisation attainable, communicating to consumers about the value that specialist physiotherapists can bring to their healthcare journey and ultimately working with third-party funders
to reward the expertise and achievements of specialist physiotherapists.

This brings me to titling.

We recognise that the achievement of titling and the participation of titled physiotherapists as ACP members is an important milestone on the possible journey to Fellowship.

Therefore, the APA will also put significant effort into demonstrating the value of titling to consumers and to physiotherapy employers as well.

The external recognition that ACP members and Fellows deserve will take some time to achieve.

We need to build a community of members who will advocate with us and use our resources to work towards the same goals.

Speaking of which, our membership renewal campaign kicks off shortly. We hope that the promise of much bigger things to come will entice titled members to join the ACP, to earn the right to use the designation ‘Member of the Australian College of Physiotherapists’ and to gain access to useful new resources.

Look out for ACP-specific communications in your inbox soon.

If you are not yet titled and are interested in pursuing one of our many career pathways towards titling—and, ultimately, Fellowship of the ACP—please feel free to get in touch with our team to discuss plans for your career development.

Earning formal recognition for your knowledge and expertise is an important part of being a professional.


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