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AAPM&R Issues Position Statement on the Proper Use of ‘Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation’ and Derivatives

Feb 10, 2020

In response to members’ concerns regarding non-physician and non-PM&R physician practices improperly using the term “Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation” to describe themselves and their services, AAPM&R has released a Position Statement on the appropriate use of the term and its derivatives.

Physiatrists can use this advocacy tool to combat inappropriate use of the specialty’s name and protect those seeking care from the spread of misinformation.

AAPM&R believes “Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation” and its derivatives, such as “physical medicine,” “rehabilitation medicine,” and “PM&R,” are specific to titles of a physician gained through rigorous medical education and experience unique to the PM&R specialty. “Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation” is not a general designation applicable to any or all clinicians working in broader rehabilitation care settings.

Physiatrists are Medical Doctors (M.D.) or Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) who specialize in physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R). To become a physiatrist, individuals must complete medical school and four additional years of postdoctoral training in a physical medicine and rehabilitation residency. This includes one year developing fundamental clinical skills and three additional years of training in the full scope of the specialty. The unique experience and expertise that physiatrists gain during their residency training is not replicated in any other training program and is what defines a physiatrist as a physical medicine and rehabilitation physician.

The Academy believes this term and its derivatives should be strictly reserved for highly trained physiatrists and the services they provide. Using PM&R to describe services offered by health care providers who are insufficiently trained in the specialty causes confusion among patients and payers, threatens the health and safety of patients, and jeopardizes the reputation and quality of care standard to the specialty.

Physiatrists should use AAPM&R’s Position Statement as a tool to educate the public and their patients, so that they can make informed decisions when seeking care, as well as to protect the integrity of the specialty.

Read the full Position Statement.

A special note of thanks to members of the Quality, Practice, Policy, and Research (QPPR) Committee for their critical work on this statement, which was swiftly approved by the AAPM&R Board of Governors on January 28, 2020.