September 30, 2020   (Ottawa, ON)

The CPA's Response

The Canadian Physiotherapy Association (CPA) was disappointed on Friday, September 25 to learn of the cancellation of the clinical component of the Physiotherapy Competency Examination (PCE) scheduled for November 2020. As early as June 2020, CPA student and new graduate members publicly voiced their concerns over the lack of a clear contingency plan from the Canadian Alliance of Physiotherapy Regulators (CAPR), should the clinical examination be unable to proceed in November 2020 based on the ongoing pandemic and potential for a second wave. These students challenged the CPA and the CAPR for more information on alternatives. In response, the CPA supported the CAPR’s position that they were exploring all avenues to ensure the November 2020 clinical examination could move forward. While CPA recognizes the public health realities related to the pandemic, it is disappointing that the CAPR has not been able to deliver on hosting examinations in November 2020.

New Physiotherapists Are Critical to the Profession

It is critical in this endeavor to state outright that CPA student and new graduate members represent more than the future of the Association and the profession. They are future Board members, thought leaders, healers, and advocates; they have committed themselves to a profession, to their desire to improve the health of Canadians, and to being part of getting Canada moving. There are resident physiotherapists that graduated at the end of 2019 – nearly a year ago – who still have not had a chance to challenge the clinical component of the PCE. There are other new graduates who are unable to practice because they unsuccessfully challenged the examination and their provincial regulations don’t allow for a single failure on a provisional license. All of these students are concerned about their future, the financial implications of selecting a profession that they can’t work in, unsure of what to do or who to call for support, questions, and more.

The CAPR has been forthcoming about their intentions to ensure that they think about the candidates and their well-being in advance. They don’t want to be in the same position as other professions where candidates are finding out about cancelled exams days in advance – they want to set expectations to allow candidates to prepare effectively. The CPA appreciates this effort and wants to contribute to an environment where we are forthcoming with these members who are anxious about their next steps.

The CAPR's New Commitments

As a result of the announcement of the cancellation of the November 2020 clinical component, the CPA hosted a call on Monday, September 28 with leaders from the CPA, including its Board of Directors, CPA staff, CPA National Student Assembly representatives, Branch representatives, and the Chair of the CPA Branch Presidents’ Forum, with both the President and Chief Executive Officer of the CAPR. On this call, they were provided with both a detailed review of the events leading to the CAPR Board of Directors’ decision to cancel the November examination, as well as the plan moving forward to ensure the pandemic proof examination is available come March 2021. On the call with CAPR, they committed to the following:

  • A pandemic-proof clinical examination will launch March 2021.
  • The development of this exam includes two phases – one phase for the development and validation of the exam and a second phase for the orienting of candidates who plan on challenging the exam in the new format.
  • All efforts will be made to assess students from the classes of 2019 and 2020 (clinical component) and 2021 (written component) in 2021 and address the backlog.
  • The CAPR commits to continuing to run the written component of the PCE, despite COVID-19 limitations, taking advantage of virtual modalities and remote proctoring capabilities for all candidates, should they be needed thereby committing to continuing access to the profession for current students and internationally-educated physiotherapists.
  • In keeping with previously agreed pandemic principles related to the exam, decisions about the exam in all cases will be considered against two key principles: first in, first out; and doing the most good for the most people while complying with pandemic-related public health measures to ensure the safety of candidates, staff, and standardized patients.

The Clinical Component Has a Critical Role

The CPA has made previous statements regarding the PCE and recognize the importance of its relationship with the CAPR and Colleges across the country. The CPA stands by the statement made alongside the National Physiotherapy Advisory Group that the PCE clinical component is a critical element of the self-regulated nature of the profession and upholding the standard of practice across the country. With that said, the CPA is eager to understand, contribute to, and assure its members that there are strategies in place to ensure candidates have the opportunity to challenge the PCE clinical component in the short-term. In addition, the CPA will continue to partner with and support the CAPR in ensuring that the commitments they made are feasible and can be addressed as outlined.

The CPA's Calls to Action

The CPA is encouraged by the CAPR’s innovative approach to reconsidering the clinical component of the PCE – the CPA is supportive of a pandemic-proof exam to ensure that this critical section of the community can challenge their exams and start practice. The CPA is calling for the following to support the effective achievement of these aggressive and innovative goals:


  • The CPA is calling for the CAPR to make a public commitment to deliver the PCE clinical component no later than March 2021 and to meet the commitments identified to CPA leaders on Monday, September 28 (see above).
  • The CPA is calling for the CAPR to commit to regular, public communications about this project.
  • The CPA is calling on the CAPR to ensure physiotherapy student, new graduate, and intern perspectives are represented in the development of the new clinical exam.

Regulatory Bodies

  • The CPA is calling on all Regulators to continue to explore and deploy the extension of provisional licenses until at least the end of 2021.

How the CPA Will Help

The CPA, alongside our Branches, remain a vigilant partner willing and ready to contribute to the actions to be taken by the CAPR, the Regulatory Colleges, and other stakeholders in addressing this issue in as expedient and thorough way as possible. The CPA commits to the following:

  • Using relationships with the CPA's National Student Assembly and other student and new graduate representatives to build relevant resources for candidates impacted to help them through these times - the CPA commits to announcing more on these initiatives no later than end of October 2020.
  • Advocating for the extension of provisional licenses until at least the end of 2021.
  • Continuing an open dialogue with student and new graduate members who represent those impacted by the delays in the PCE clinical component delivery, including but not limited to engagement through the CPA's National Student Assembly, the CPA's Executive Staff, and continued dialogue with the CAPR and the CPA's Board of Directors.
  • Continuing to offer the CPA Member Relief Package - Student Relief Year for the 2020/2021 season.
  • Working with the CAPR to build a robust communications plan and touch points with students and new graduates that are members of the CPA with frequent, regular updates on progress on the development and deployment of the new exam.
  • Acknowledging that this is merely the beginning of this effort, the CPA and its Branches will continue to fact-find and inform ourselves so we can continue to respond and equip our members to address the challenges and needs they have identified.

The CPA will continue to explore through dialogue, best practice, and engagement with members and physiotherapy experts and how to support this critical group of members through this challenging time.

The CPA wants to publicly state its commitment to student and new graduate members and acknowledge that they have raised these concerns since the spring of 2020. The CPA encourages its members to understand the position of the 2019, 2020, and 2021 cohorts of students and new graduates, as well as internationally-educated physiotherapists, as they look to challenge the clinical component of the PCE and join the profession. Students, new graduates, and resident physiotherapists are the future – and these members need support.