School of Health Sciences

Essential Functions

The following list of "Essential Functions" incorporate activities that a student must be able to perform in order to successfully complete the professional program in Physical Therapy.

The primary responsibilities of the entry level physical therapist include performing the multiple facets of the role of clinical practitioner. In addition, the therapist must demonstrate skills in management, teaching and research. While pursuing these multiple roles, the physical therapist must attempt to achieve maximum benefit from a minimum investment of time and resources.

  1. Intellectual/conceptual, Integrative and Quantitative Abilities: The student must be able to measure, calculate, reason, analyze, evaluate and synthesize. Specifically, the student must be able to use these qualities to problem solve and think critically.
    • Problem Solving: The ability to recognize and define problems, analyze data, develop and implement solutions, and evaluate outcomes.
    • Critical Thinking: The ability to question logically, to identify, generate, and evaluate elements of logical argument; to recognize and differentiate facts, illusions, assumptions; and to distinguish the relevant from the irrelevant.
  2. Behavioral and Social Attributes: The student must possess the emotional health to fully use his/her intellectual abilities. The student must also demonstrate appropriate motivation for the physical therapy profession. These behaviors include professionalism, responsibility, commitment to learning, stress management and skill in interpersonal relations.
    • Professionalism: The ability to exhibit appropriate professional conduct and to represent the profession effectively.
    • Responsibility: The ability to fulfill commitments and to be accountable for actions and outcomes.
    • Commitment to Learning: The ability to self-assess, self-correct, and self-direct; to identify personal needs and sources for one's own learning; and to continually seek knowledge.
    • Stress Management: The ability to identify sources of stress and to develop effective coping behaviors.
    • Interpersonal Skills: The ability to interact effectively and appropriately with patients, families, colleagues, other health professionals, and the community and to deal effectively with cultural and ethnic diversity issues.
  3. Observation Abilities: The student must be able to participate fully in all demonstrations, laboratory exercises, and clinical experiences within the professional program. The student must be able to assess and comprehend without assistance the condition of all patients assigned for examination, diagnosis and intervention. Such observation and information gathering requires the functional use of vision, hearing and somatic sensations.
  4. Communication Abilities: The student must be able to communicate effectively with varied audiences and for multiple purposes. Communication skills include listening, speaking, body language, reading, writing and the observation skills noted above. In addition, effective communication involves the ability to seek out, use and provide constructive feedback for improving personal and therapeutic interactions.
  5. Motor Abilities: The student must possess sufficient motor function to perform basic tests, diagnostic and therapeutic procedures. The student must be able to move about the work environment throughout the day, move in and out of varied sized work spaces, move from one floor to another and onto different levels and surfaces. In the clinical environment, the student will be required to perform heavy lifting activities.

(Adapted from: May, W & Straker, G, "Generic Abilities Assessment", University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1995 and Indiana University, School of Health Sciences, "Technical Standards for Admission and Retention in the Patient Care Programs", 1994)