British Columbia

Online physiotherapy exam platform crashes after months of delay in issuing certifications

The Canadian Alliance of Physiotherapy Regulators said it was forced to cancel all sessions of the clinical exam this month “due to significant technical difficulties.”

Physiotherapist graduates say their licensing body has had months to plan for virtual exam

Physiotherapists in Canada are required to complete a clinical exam before becoming fully licensed. They say their licensing body has failed to come up with a COVID-safe exam alternative since the pandemic started. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

The clinical exam required for physiotherapy graduates across Canada to become fully licensed was cancelled Saturday morning after the virtual platform crashed while some students were in the midst of the exam.

The Canadian Alliance of Physiotherapy Regulators said it was forced to cancel all sessions of the clinical exam this month "due to significant technical difficulties."

It's the third time the exam has been cancelled during the pandemic.

Physiotherapy graduates say CAPR, which is their profession's licensing exam provider, has had over a year to adapt to a COVID-19 compliant examination procedure.

Gemma Greig was supposed to take the final virtual clinical exam Saturday morning.

"I didn't have a very good night's sleep with anxiety and nerves," she said. "I got the email to say the exam was cancelled and I was like ... is this a joke or is this a mistake?"

Gemma Grieg had spent weeks studying for the clinical exam required to become a physiotherapist when it was cancelled at the last minute. (CBC News)

The delay in becoming fully licensed has left Greig's career in limbo as it costs her money and clients. She says hours of daily studying, time off work, and a 10-week prep course went into her preparation to take the exam.

Physiotherapy association wants exam requirement suspended

CAPR says all affected candidates have been contacted directly by CAPR staff regarding the cancellation.

"The CAPR team extends our sincerest apologies to the candidates who have been negatively impacted by this unacceptable failure," reads a statement on its website.

In response, the Canadian Physiotherapy Association is calling on CAPR to suspend the clinical exam requirement because of the high demand for licensed physiotherapists across the country.

"The health care system in Canada needs physiotherapists. Physiotherapy care, whether delivered in the ICU, in clinics, in long-term care facilities, through virtual care, in homes or in outpatient clinics, is essential care," reads a statement on the association's website.

"This is untenable for our candidates and our profession. It's just not acceptable," said Vivii Riis, president of the association.

Shortage of physiotherapists

The backlog of physiotherapists waiting to be fully licensed is especially felt in B.C.

"In British Columbia we have a shortage of physiotherapists both in the private and the public sector," said Christine Bradstock with the Physiotherapy Association of B.C.

B.C. graduates 80 to 100 physiotherapists a year, but the province is estimated to need three times that number of professionals.

A physiotherapist tapes an athlete's back. (JDzacovsky/Shutterstock)

Graduates can practise with an interim licence while they wait for their exam, but they're often paid less and are unable to specialize.

Physiotherapists are also legally required to advertise that they have an "interim" license if they haven't passed the clinical exam, which can deter new clients.

"Some of these people can be turned off by that because they think, 'Oh they're not as qualified' when they fully are," explained Evan Thomas, co-owner of Dockside Physio in Victoria, B.C.

Greig says the uncertainty over when she'll be able to start her career is the biggest challenge.

"Ultimately we want to help people and the general public are suffering as well, because we aren't fully licensed."

With files from Joel Ballard

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