Student physical therapists must meet the essential functions and technical standards required of the majority of physical therapist practice, unless they have special considerations that the university is able to accommodate under the “reasonable accommodations” of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). These requirements are necessary for both the clinical portion of academic courses and clinical internships. The requirements are as designated below:
Communication skills: Students must be able to communicate effectively with faculty, peers, coworkers, clients, patients and other members of the healthcare team. Effective communication includes the ability to receive, interpret, utilize and disseminate information via verbal, non-verbal, and written communication in a manner that is comprehensible by colleagues, clients, and laypersons. It is required that students communicate in the English language at a level consistent with competent professional practice, verbally and in writing (manual and computer). Students must demonstrate the ability to sensitively and effectively communicate with individuals with disabilities and/or from different social and cultural backgrounds.
Observation skills: Students must be able to accurately observe the client’s or patient’s activity and behavior during examinations and interventions as well as changes in status such as skin temperature and/or color, heart rate, facial expression, muscle tone, breath sounds, and breathing rate or pattern. Students must also be able to accurately observe and interpret demonstrations in the classroom, projected slides or overheads, x-rays, and monitor dials on equipment.
Psychomotor skills: Students must be able to develop proficiency in motor skills required for accurate examination, evaluation, and intervention techniques. The student must demonstrate adequate locomotor ability to allow them to physically maneuver to and from and within the classroom, lab, and clinical settings in a timely manner. This includes the ability to quickly respond in emergency situations such as preventing a patient’s fall. Students must be able to safely and effectively manipulate or maneuver another person’s body and/or body parts to perform examination and intervention techniques and emergency procedures (e.g., transfers, gait training, positioning, mobilization, exercise, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, use of tools such as goniometer, blood pressure cuff, stethoscope, etc.). Students must be able to perform physical therapy examination and intervention procedures in a manner that is consistent with the American Physical Therapy Association’s (APTA) Code of Ethics and Guidelines for Professional Practice.
Students must be able to perform the physical demands required by the majority of clinical settings in which physical therapists practice. These physical demands include the ability to:
Continuously (67-100% of workday) utilize gross and fine motor hand coordination with repetitive motions such as simple and firm grasp tasks requiring manual dexterity.
Frequently (34%-66% of workday) stand, walk, climb stairs, reach, squat, twist, bend and lift and carry items up to 30 pounds for a distance of at least 30 feet. Also, must be able to exert push/pull forces up to 24 pounds for distances up to 50 feet.
Occasionally (up to 33% of workday) kneel, crawl, and reach above shoulder level, as well as lift and carry items between 10 and 40 pounds for a distance of at least 30 feet. Also must be able to exert push/pull forces of up to 30 pounds for distances up to 50 feet.
Cognitive/Intellectual skills: Students must be able to measure, calculate, reason, analyze, synthesize, and apply large amounts of information in a short period of time. Students must be able to understand and apply principles, theory, and research to physical therapist practice. Students must demonstrate the ability to think critically and problem-solve. Students must have the ability to accurately self-assess and reflect on their own performance.
Behavioral/Affective skills: Students must possess and demonstrate a level of emotional health and maturity that allows the full use of their intellectual capabilities, the use of good judgment, the ability to effectively handle physically, emotionally, or intellectually stressful situations. This includes the ability to adjust and adapt to changing situations or uncertainty in the academic or clinical environment. Students must also demonstrate a commitment to working with individuals with physical and cognitive deficits from a variety of age groups, cultures, socioeconomic status, without bias. If a student is limited or prohibited from performing the essential functions & technical standards noted above because of injury, illness or pregnancy, the student must register with the Disability Resource Center. Each individual situation will be evaluated to determine whether the student is able to continue in the clinical/academic portion of the curriculum and whether reasonable accommodations (short term and/or permanent) can be made.