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  • Physical Therapists
  • Physical Therapist Assistants
Hours: 3 Contact Hours
Author(s): Bruce H. Greenfield, PT, PhD
Peer Reviewer(s): Mary Ann Wharton, PT, MS
Item#: Q3504
Contents: 1 Course Book (66 pages)
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Ethical Issues and Decision Making in Physical Therapy

Price $29.95
Item # Q3504
When available, the Online Course format is included with the hard copy, eBook, or audio book formats!

Release Date: March 25, 2016

Expiration Date: March 25, 2019

Ethics involves making decisions about what is right or wrong, good or bad, and otherwise providing a justification for an ethical decision. Ethics figures strongly into the professional lives of physical therapy practitioners and research demonstrates that expert clinicians use ethical reasoning as part of their critical thinking. Across all practice, educational, and research settings, physical therapy practitioners face issues that involve ethical questions. To navigate effectively and safely through ethical issues and problems, physical therapy practitioners should be well-versed in the knowledge and skills of ethical decision-making. This includes an understanding of their ethical and legal responsibilities under the APTA Code of Ethics, APTA Guide for Professional Conduct, APTA Standards of Ethical Conduct for the Physical Therapist Assistant, the APTA Guide for Conduct of the Physical Therapist Assistant, and individual states’ practice acts.

Although ethics education has become better integrated into physical therapy education over the past decade, many educators believe that, due to increasing professional autonomy and independence in clinical decision making and judgments, physical therapists face increasingly complex ethical issues in clinical practice. As a result, a gap remains between ethics knowledge and practice. Adding to this is the increasing interdisciplinary nature of the clinical environment that requires decisions to be made in the best interest of the patients within a web of health professional teams, the increasing focus on patient-centered care, the extent and boundaries of patient autonomy in clinical decision-making, the rapid development of technology and genomics integrated into rehabilitation, and the ethical implications of value-based practice payments.

This intermediate-level course will provide physical therapists and physical therapist assistants with an updated and in-depth overview of ethical theories, the Core Ethics documents of the American Physical Therapy Association, and tools to guide the physical therapy practitioner in making ethical decisions. Multiple case vignettes will illustrate the concepts discussed. This course is designed to help clinicians effectively and efficiently integrate ethical decision-making into their clinical practice.


California, Delaware, Illinois, Mississippi, Oklahoma, & Utah PTs and PTAs - Fulfills your ethics requirement.

Pennsylvania PTs & PTAs – Course Approval #PTCE011749

California PTs & PTAs – Approved by the Physical Therapy Board of California through Net Education Design, Inc., an agency recognized by the board to approved courses that meet Physical Therapy Regulations 1399.96.

Ohio PTs & PTAs – Approved by the Ohio Physical Therapy Association, Approval #17S5741

Oklahoma PTs & PTAs - Approved by the Oklahoma State Board of Physical Therapy, Approval #201710638

Florida PTs & PTAs – The Florida Board of Physical Therapy accepts this course based on its pre-approval by the Ohio PT Association.

Texas PTs & PTAs - This course is not approved to fulfill your ethics requirement. See item #Q3414 & #Q3413.

Course Objectives

  • Identify the differences and commonalities among morality, values, ethics, and the law
  • Describe the purpose and limitations of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) Code of Ethics for Physical Therapists
  • Identify types of ethical problems and issues in physical therapy
  • Describe the ethical approaches, theories, and principles that can guide the physical therapy practitioner in making an ethical decision
  • Evaluate ethical issues based on an ethical decision-making model
  • Describe future considerations in ethical decision making


Bruce H. Greenfield, PT, PhD, is an associate professor in the Division of Physical Therapy, Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia, where he has been on the faculty since 1985. He is a senior fellow in the Emory University Center for Ethics, and affiliated faculty, Certificate Program in Disability, Health and Culture. He is a member of the Emory University Hospital Ethics Committee. Dr. Greenfield holds a bachelor of arts degree from Oglethorpe University; a certificate in physical therapy and master’s degree in medical science, both from Emory University; and a PhD in higher education from Georgia State University. He subsequently received an additional master’s degree in bioethics from Loyola University in Chicago, Illinois. Dr. Greenfield was appointed by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) Board of Directors to serve on the APTA Ethics and Judicial Committee. He chairs the Research Committee of the Physical Therapy Association of Georgia and serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of Physical Therapy Education and the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy. Dr. Greenfield’s influential writings on ethics in physical therapy have twice caused him to be recognized by the APTA section on Education as recipient of its prestigious Stanford Award. His scholarship focuses on strategies to improve patient-centered care, including the development of an ethics of care based on phenomenology that contains practical steps to help clinicians to understand the values and concerns of a patient living with disabilities as those values emerge and change over time.


Mary Ann Wharton, PT, MS, is an associate professor and curriculum coordinator in the Department of Physical Therapy at Saint Francis University. She is a physical therapy graduate of Ithaca College and received a master of science degree in leadership, with an emphasis in geriatric physical therapy from the University of Pittsburgh. She has served on the Pennsylvania Physical Therapy Association’s Ethics Committee for the past 21 years and as its chair for 19 years. Ms. Wharton has been an invited speaker on ethics for the American Physical Therapy Association’s (APTA’s) Ethics and Judicial Committee, at APTA Combined Sections meetings, and at the Pennsylvania Physical Therapy Association (PPTA) chapter meetings. She has authored two book chapters addressing ethical issues in physical therapy: “Enhancing Professional Accountability: Inquiry Into the Work of a Health Profession’s Ethics Committee,” in Educating for Moral Action: A Sourcebook in Health and Rehabilitation Ethics, edited by Ruth Purtilo, Gail Jensen, and Charlotte Royeen; and “Ethics” in Geriatric Rehabilitation Manual, 2nd edition, edited by Timothy Kauffman. She has also published nearly 40 articles on ethics in various publications, including the PPTA Newsletter, GeriNotes, and Topics in Geriatric Rehabilitation. She has conducted mock trials at two meetings of the Pennsylvania Physical Therapy Association, as well as with physical therapy students at Saint Francis University for more than 10 years.

  • Courses must be completed on or before the expiration date noted in the course description above.
  • You must score 75% or higher on the final exam and complete the course evaluation to pass this course and receive a certificate of completion
  • Through our review processes, Western Schools ensures that the course content is presented in a balanced, unbiased manner and is free from commercial influence. It is Western Schools’ policy not to accept commercial support
  • All persons involved in the planning and development of this course have disclosed no relevant financial relationships or other conflicts of interest related to the course content
  • There are no prerequisites for this course