This past summer Governor Christie signed into law an amendment (“SB 1315”) to the New Jersey Physical Therapy Licensing Act of 1983 (“PT Licensing Act”), to be effective as of January 17, 2018.  Most importantly, SB 1315 will expand the scope of practice for Physical Therapists (each a “PT” and collectively “PTs”) and allow greater utilization of Physical Therapy Assistants (“PTAs,” or individually a “PTA”). In addition, SB1315 adds additional mandatory notice requirements for PTs and PTAs and makes other changes related to students, title protection, and the unlawful practice of physical therapy.

First, SB 1315 expands the scope of practice for PTs to add identification of balance disorders and wound debridement and care.  “Wound debridement and care” is defined as “the removal of loosely adhered necrotic and nonviable tissue, by a physical therapist, to promote healing, done in conjunction with a physician or podiatric physician.” In addition, physical therapists licensed in New Jersey now may screen, examine, evaluate, and apply “interventions for the promotion, improvement, and maintenance of fitness, health, wellness, and prevention services in populations of all ages exclusively related to physical therapy practice.”  Prior to SB 1315, providing services solely for the health maintenance, wellness, and prevention were not included within the scope of practice.

Second, SB 1315 presents an opportunity for greater utilization of PTAs.  SB 1315 removes the requirement that PTAs only provide services under the direct supervision of a PT. Under SB 1315, PTAs may provide services under either the direct or general supervision of a PT. The definition of direct supervision was not changed and still requires the physical presence of the supervising PT on site. However, SB 1315, adds a definition for “general supervision,” which only requires the supervising PT to “be available at all times by telecommunications” but does not require physical presence as long as the PT continually assesses the PTA’s ability to perform selected interventions. Under the general supervision standard, the supervising PT must make an onsite visit and actively participate in the treatment of patient at least once every six (6) patient visits or every fourteen (14) days, whichever occurs first.  Further, when supervising a PTA in an off-site setting, the supervising PT must also make supervisory visits upon certain set treatment milestones and must stay in communication with the supervisee PTA.

By July 15, 2018, the New Jersey State Board of Physical Therapy (the “Board”) will provide additional guidance concerning the general supervision of PTAs.

In addition, SB 1315 requires that new notices must be conspicuously displayed to inform patients: 1) that PTs and PTAs are licensed by the Board; and 2) about the complaint filing process available.

We will continue to monitor the implementation of SB 1315. Check back with the Health Law Gurus for updates. A copy of the amendment is available here.