The meanings of autonomy for physical therapy

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The purpose of this article is to explore the social context and meanings of autonomy to physical therapy. Professional autonomy is a social contract based on public trust in an occupation to meet a significant social need and to preserve individual autonomy. Professional autonomy includes control over the decisions and procedures related to one's work (technical autonomy) and control over the economic resources necessary to complete one's work (socioeconomic autonomy). Professional autonomy is limited and weakened by the relationship of one profession to another (dominance), by the influence of other social institutions (rationalization and deprofessionalization), and by the internal disposition of the profession itself (insularity). Professional autonomy for physical therapists is increasing as medical dominance has declined but is limited by the trends of rationalization and deprofessionalization in health care. Physical therapists must recognize that professional autonomy represents a social contract based on public trust and service to meet the health needs of people who are experiencing disablement in order to maintain their individual autonomy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)98-106
Number of pages9
JournalPhysical therapy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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