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Pat Miller, PT, PhD, Vanima Dal Bello-Haas, PT, PhD, Chantal Lauzon, PT, BSc (PT)

What is this project about?

The Canadian Physiotherapy Association (CPA) has partnered with Dr. Vanina Dal Bello-Haas and Dr. Pat Miller from McMaster University to identify a set of core professional values and associated behaviours considered relevant and essential to our members. This is being done through a Delphi process,1 a consensus exercise involving CPA members from across the country. In January 2018, Survey #1 was circulated for four weeks. Members were asked to indicate their level of agreement with 10 professional values and their associated behaviours. Only items that achieved 80% agreement among members were maintained. Based on members’ ratings and feedback, edits and additions were made to the list of values and to the associated behaviours.  Survey #2 was circulated in September 2018 for four weeks, and members’ feedback led to further revisions to the list of values and behaviours. At Congress Montreal18, we held a workshop to seek additional feedback from members about the list of values and behaviours, and to identify strategies for sharing the list among members and with other stakeholders. Based on feedback we’ve received through our work to date, Survey #3 includes a shortened list of core professional values (from 10 to five), and revised respective lists of associated behaviours for each of those values.

Why are we doing this?

This project directly aligns with one of CPA’s four strategic priorities of the 2018 Strategic Plan - “Champion excellence, innovations and professionalism in physiotherapy.” A value is an “operational belief” that can guide one’s behaviour.2 Core values are at the centre of professionalism. They guide the decisions we make as physiotherapists and they can determine the behaviours in which we engage as professionals. Professional values are ideally upheld by all members.

We already have the Competency Profile and the Code of Ethics…what does this list of Core Professional Values add?

The new list of core professional values and associated behaviours will be an important addition to the resources available to physiotherapists and physiotherapy stakeholders.

The Competency Profile for Physiotherapists in Canada (the Profile) (2017)3 describes the essential competencies required of a physiotherapist at entry to the profession. It is a roles-based framework addressing seven domains of physiotherapy practice, namely:

  1. Physiotherapy Expertise
  2. Communication
  3. Collaboration
  4. Management
  5. Leadership
  6. Scholarship
  7. Professionalism

The CPA Code of Ethics  sets out the ethical principles that guide the conduct of that association’s members.4 The Code of Ethics defines members’ physiotherapy responsibilities to the patient/client, to the public and to the profession.

A document outlining the core professional values of Canadian physiotherapists has never been defined until now. A professional value is a basic or fundamental belief or principle that guides decision-making and behaviours. A comparison of ethics and values describes the first as a constraint and the second as a motivator.5   

There are commonalities within the content of the Profile, the CPA Code of Ethics and the core professional values. While the Profile describes the competencies or roles that are expected of us as physiotherapists, and the Code of Ethics outlines the principles governing our conduct, it is the core professional values document that will describe the core beliefs that influence our actions. These core professional values can direct an individual physiotherapist’s clinical practice and influence and direct the profession as a whole.

How will the list of core professional values be used in the future?

Once members come to a consensus on the list of core professional values and associated behaviours, additional resources and strategies will be developed to promote its use by CPA members, students, physiotherapy educators and regulators, the public, and other stakeholders.

Is it too late to have my say?

No! We have just launched Survey #3 and we want to hear from you! If you haven’t participated yet, now is your chance. If you have already participated, we would really appreciate your feedback on the shortened list of core professional values. We anticipate that it might take between 20 - 30 minutes to complete the survey.

The greater the number of CPA members who participate and provide their input, the more representative, relevant, and valid the final core values document will be to our profession.

Call to Action:

Survey #3 will be launched soon. Please take time to review the updated list of values and behaviours and share your feedback with us. Your input will steer the next steps in this national initiative to identify the core  professional values and behaviours relevant to our members. Thank you!



  1. Hsu C, Sandford B. The Delphi technique: making sense of consensus. Practical Assess Res Eval. 2007 ; 12(10): 1-8.
  2. Davis C. Patient practitioner interaction. Thorofare, NJ: SLACK; 2011.
  3. Competency Profile for Physiotherapists in Canada (2017) National Physiotherapy Advisory Group
  4. CPA Code of Ethics
  5. Difference between Ethics and Values. February 6, 2019.

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