Accreditation is a voluntary process. Physical therapy education programs desiring accreditation status apply to CAPTE and must first achieve candidacy status before being considered for initial accreditation status. Both steps involve careful internal and external review and reports; onsite visits by qualified reviewers; and demonstrated compliance with established evaluative criteria and guidelines.
Once awarded accreditation status, a program must submit reports regularly to the Commission ensuring continuing compliance with the evaluative criteria and is formally reviewed every 5 to 10 years.
For new programs, the process begins when an institution notifies CAPTE that a program director has been hired to develop the program. Then, at least six months prior to admitting students, the program submits an Application for Candidacy (AFC) that documents the institution's plans for the implementation of the program. An experienced on-site reviewer visits the program to verify the information in the AFC and submits a written report describing the results of the visit. The report is sent to the program for comment. The AFC, the reviewer's report and the institution's comments are then reviewed by members of CAPTE to determine whether the program is making satisfactory progress toward compliance with the accreditation criteria and, if so, the program is granted Candidate for Accreditation status. Once candidacy is granted, the program is allowed to admit students and implement the program. During implementation the program submits annual reports to CAPTE. Then, prior to graduation of the first cohort of students, the program completes the Accreditation Process.
For new and existing programs, this process begins with the determination of when an on-site visit should occur. The program then completes a full review of itself in light of the criteria used to assess educational quality in the following areas: students, faculty, curriculum, clinical education sites, policies and procedures, space and equipment, administration, and outcomes. That review is documented in a Self-study Report which is submitted to CAPTE and serves as the basis for a three-day on-site visit conducted by three reviewers.
The on-site team is charged with validating the information provided in the Self-study Report. They do this by interviewing students, academic and clinical faculty, administrators, alumni, and employers. They also review documents on site such as course materials, sample assignments and other pertinent information. Additionally, the team addresses any questions that arise from their review of the Self-study Report. The team writes a report of their findings which is provided to the program after the visit.
The program has the opportunity to respond to the report, correcting errors of fact or interpretation and, if necessary, adding new information to address any issues raised in the team's report.
A copy of the Self-study Report, the team's report and the program's response is reviewed by CAPTE at the next appropriate meeting. Based on this review, CAPTE determines what accreditation status to award and identifies any areas that are in need of correction or improvement. The program is notified of the decision and CAPTE publishes a list of its actions. Accreditation is granted for a maximum of ten years (five years if it is a new program).
CAPTE then monitors compliance with the criteria by requiring all programs to submit an annual report that tracks information that may indicate the program is no longer in compliance; every third year, the annual report is expanded to ask more detailed questions about continued compliance.