Regulation raises profile of kinesiology

Lakehead’s School of Kinesiology now offers a 12-month graduate diploma in professional kinesiology
in part to help graduates prepare for the College of Kinesiologists of Ontario’s membership exam. (From left) Dr. Paolo Sanzo, Dr. Jocelyn (Joey) Farrell, and Glen Paterson.

New 12-month graduate diploma course

The new College of Kinesiologists of Ontario (CKO) – the first such college in Canada – will help define the role of kinesiologists in health care, say officials at the School of Kinesiology at Lakehead University. The province established the CKO on April 1, 2013 to oversee and regulate the profession, ensuring that kinesiologists “adhere to a common set of professional standards, a code of ethics, and participate in ongoing professional development.”

Glen Paterson, a co-ordinator with Lakehead’s program, said not much will change in the day-to-day activities of kinesiologists. However, self-regulation will raise the profile of the profession, making it easier for physicians, physiotherapists and other health-care professionals to provide referrals for their services.

“There will be a greater clarification as to what is this person capable of doing, what is within the scope. I think regulation has been a positive move,” said Paterson.

Dr. Paolo Sanzo, an assistant professor with the program said, “It adds credibility to the profession, and it shows the level of competence… that these individuals have as health-care providers.”

The term “kinesiologist” is now a protected term in Ontario and can only be used by a member of the CKO. Similar to other regulated professions, kinesiologists will have to earn their degree, pass an exam to be accepted into the college and abide by the college’s regulations.

Kinesiologists now also have a formalized scope of practice. CKO’s broad definition of kinesiology is: “The assessment of human movement and performance and its rehabilitation and management to maintain, rehabilitate or enhance movement and performance.”

A seven-page practice guideline outlines specifically what care a kinesiologist can and cannot provide.

One of the biggest areas of confusion for many people is the difference between a kinesiologist and a physiotherapist.

Although there is a lot of overlap in services provided, there are some key differences. For one, physiotherapists require post-graduate training – many physiotherapists take kinesiology as their undergraduate major.

Physiotherapists also have the ability to diagnose certain injuries and prescribe treatments, which kinesiologists cannot do. On the other hand, kinesiologists tend to be more involved in preventative health care than physiotherapists.

“Physiotherapy… looks at human movement from a pathological or abnormal perspective and aims to treat that individual to restore them to normal function,” said Sanzo. “The big role for the kinesiologist in terms of the new and evolving independent roles, I think, is going to be in the area of lifestyle management or behavioural change, prevention of some of these chronic diseases.”

Dr. Céline Boudreau-Larivière, director of the School of Human Kinetics at Laurentian University, echoed this sentiment.

“Having kinesiologists within the health-care team ensures that clients/patients receive the best exercise prescription possible to improve and maintain health,” Boudreau-Larivière said. The CKO is important because it helps increase public safety, ensuring that patients receive exercise and physical activity prescriptions from kinesiologists, specialized professionals who have the knowledge and practical skill set, she added.

“The CKO finally and officially acknowledges and legitimizes the kinesiology profession,” she said. Dr. Jocelyn (Joey) Farrell, director of the School of Kinesiology at Lakehead, said she hopes the role of kinesiology in health care will become clearer now that it is a regulated profession and, in turn, become a more common term.

For example, in the past someone might look for an “exercise specialist” even though it’s a kinesiologist who fills that role.

“The term is not as common, but we think that will flip,” Farrell said. “Now, it will be ‘kinesiologist’ with all the different (areas of practice).”

Farrell underlined that regulation won’t have much of an impact on the School of Kinesiology since the scope of practice has merely been formalized, not changed.

One change due in large part to regulation is a new graduate diploma in professional kinesiology, launched this past September.

The 12-month intensive course will help graduates of any kinesiology program in Canada prepare for CKO registration, provide business skills training for those who want to open their own practice, and provide advanced academic and practical training.

Most of the course is provided through online learning, though the practical component requires students to travel to Lakehead for four weekends during the course. Internships can be set up across Canada, so in theory at least students can have one arranged close to wherever they live.

There are 16 students in the inaugural class, though Farrell said that she hopes to accommodate up to 30 students in the future.

Other than this program, there won’t be any major changes to the kinesiology curriculum – or practice – directly related to CKO’s launch, Farrell said.

“The development of the College has come from existing programs, existing practitioners,” she said.

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