Physical therapy plays a vital role in helping people recover from injury, illness, and disability through movement, hands-on care, and patient education. Physical therapists (PTs) work closely with patients to develop customized treatment plans aimed at improving mobility, managing pain, and preventing further injury.
In Oklahoma, the practice of physical therapy is governed by the Physical Therapy Practice Act, found in Title 59 of the Oklahoma Statutes, Sections 887.1–887.19. This act outlines the requirements for PT licensure, defines the scope of PT practice, and establishes a Physical Therapy Committee to advise the State Board of Medical Licensure and Supervision on matters related to physical therapy regulation.
Licensing Requirements for PTs in Oklahoma
To obtain a license to practice as a physical therapist in Oklahoma, candidates must:
- Graduate from a CAPTE-accredited PT education program
- Pass the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE)
- Submit an application and pay required licensing fees
The State Board of Medical Licensure and Supervision is responsible for issuing licenses to qualified candidates. Licenses must be renewed annually by January 31st.
In addition to initial licensure, PTs in Oklahoma must complete continuing education requirements to maintain their license. Specific CE requirements are established in the board’s rules.
Definition and Scope of Physical Therapy Practice
The Physical Therapy Practice Act defines “physical therapy” as services provided by or under the direction and supervision of a licensed PT. This includes:
- Patient evaluations to determine degree of impairment
- Therapeutic exercises to improve strength, endurance, coordination and range of motion
- Training in activities of daily living
- Use of physical agents to relieve pain and alter physiological status
- Telehealth to deliver care remotely using technology
PTs in Oklahoma can evaluate and treat patients for up to 30 days without a physician referral (with some exceptions). After 30 days, a referral is required to continue providing physical therapy services. PTs cannot practice outside their scope, which excludes surgery, x-rays, and certain electrical modalities.
Governance and Disciplinary Action
The Physical Therapy Committee assists the Medical Board in licensing, examination, continuing education, and disciplinary matters related to PTs in Oklahoma. The Medical Board investigates complaints and takes disciplinary action against licenses when necessary.
Grounds for discipline include:
- Practicing beyond the scope outlined in the Practice Act
- Failing to refer patients to other providers when needed
- Negligence or fraud in the practice of physical therapy
- Criminal convictions related to patient harm
Disciplinary actions can consist of license revocation, suspension, probation restrictions, fines, and more.
Recent Changes to Oklahoma PT Laws
Oklahoma recently enacted several notable changes impacting the PT profession:
Physical Therapy Licensure Compact (2018): Oklahoma adopted an interstate compact allowing PTs licensed in compact member states to practice in other states through privilege to practice provisions. This improves license portability across state lines.
Dry Needling Regulations (2020): The Medical Board established supervision and education requirements for physical therapists who perform dry needling. PTs must have specialized certification and work within their scope of practice while using this skill.
In the end, practice laws serve to protect patients by upholding competent, ethical standards for physical therapy in Oklahoma. Therapists have a duty to provide care safely within their defined scope of practice. Patients should feel confident that PTs receive proper oversight and regulation from the Medical Board and Physical Therapy Committee. As laws evolve, the PT profession also continues working to improve access, quality, and outcomes for those receiving physical therapy services.