Practice Alerts

Disclaimer: Practice guidelines provide licensees with general guidance to promote good practice. Law, rules and regulations, not guidelines, specify the requirements for practice and what may constitute professional misconduct.

Alert 8: Delegating Professional Tasks to Unlicensed Person

The physical therapist (PT) may not delegate to an unlicensed person tasks included in the scope of practice of physical therapy. Regents’ Rule 29.1(b)(10) states that it is unprofessional conduct for a licensee to delegate professional responsibilities to a person when the delegating licensee knows or has reason to know that such a person is not qualified, by training, experience or licensure, to perform them.

Individuals who are not licensed may perform tasks such as answering phones, preparing paperwork, cleaning equipment, etc. Physical therapy treatment may not be performed by an unlicensed person, even under the direct supervision of a PT . Family members or caregivers may be trained to assist the patient/client in tasks, but these are not considered physical therapy treatment. An unauthorized individual who practices a profession could be prosecuted by the Attorney General for the commission of a class E felony.

Unlicensed persons may assist patients/clients in preparation for treatment. This would include such acts as lowering a patient/client into a Hubbard tank or performing patient/client transfers. For instance, unlicensed persons can be used to assure that patients/clients are safe while in the pool. Performance of any activities by unlicensed personnel is predicated upon the understanding that such individuals have demonstrated their ability to safely perform those activities.

Unlicensed persons may act as an extra set of hands or eyes for the PT or physical therapist assistant (PTA) who is actually providing treatment. However, they may not:

  • place electrodes or hot or cold packs on patients/clients;
  • interpret referrals;
  • perform evaluation procedures;
  • initiate, adjust, or perform treatment programs; or
  • assume responsibilities for planning patient/client care.

The professional judgment of the PT determines, in the first instance, what constitutes treatment and the activities that, therefore, may and may not be performed by the unlicensed person. Ultimately, should that professional judgment give rise to a complaint of professional misconduct, it would be examined by a panel of peers to determine whether the licensee had improperly delegated professional tasks.

Supervision of PT students must be provided by a licensed PT and must be on-site supervision, but not necessarily direct personal supervision. The student must be enrolled in a program conducted in an approved school of physical therapy or in a clinical facility or health care agency affiliated with the school.

Supervision of a PTA student must be by a licensed PT. It must be on-site supervision, but not necessarily direct personal supervision. The clinical assisting and supervision must take place in an approved program for PTAs or in a clinical facility or health care agency affiliated with such program. A PTA may act as a Clinical Instructor for the PTA student. However, overall responsibility for the supervision of the PTA student rests with the PT.

NOTE: Payment for physical therapy services may be contingent upon supervision guidelines set by Medicare or other 3rd party payers.

Citations of Pertinent Law, Rules or Regulations:
Education Law, Section 6509(7) – aiding and abetting unlicensed practice
Education Law, Section 6736(b)(1) – supervision of a physical therapy student
Education Law, Section 6741(a) and (b) – supervision of a physical therapist assistant student
Regents Rules, Part 29.1(b)(10) – delegation of professional responsibilities
Last Updated: April 15, 2021