Essential Functions

It is the expectation of the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program that physical therapy students must be able to perform, with or without reasonable accommodations, each of the expected essential functions in order to fully participate in and complete the graduation requirements for a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree. Reasonable accommodations for qualified students with documented disabilities will be provided, if necessary, for these students to meet minimum abilities. Whether or not a requested accommodation is reasonable will be determined on an individual basis, in consultation with Brenda Parkhill of Student Support Services at Briar Cliff University.

The abilities are presented in two sections:

Physical Therapy Knowledge, Skills, & Behaviors

Knowledge (Cognitive Functions)

  • Comprehend, retain, recall, and apply complex information learned in required prerequisite coursework to enter the Doctor of Physical Therapy program.
  • Read, comprehend, integrate, critically analyze, interpret, and apply information from written materials, demonstrations, lectures, laboratory, scholarly literature, and other pertinent, evidence-based sources, to develop and support the rationale for selection of appropriate patient examination, evaluation, assessment, intervention, discharge, and referrals.
  • Collect, organize, prioritize, and document information to make safe, appropriate, and timely decisions regarding optimal patient care for the purpose of examination, evaluation, assessment, intervention, discharge and referral for any patient.
  • Demonstrate management skills including planning, organizing, supervision PTAs, and delegating.

Skills (Psychomotor Functions)

  • Possess sufficient mental and physical stamina, postural and neuromuscular control, and eye-hand coordination for extended periods of time in order to perform safe patient care tasks.
  • Safely, reliably, and efficiently perform required physical therapy examination and intervention procedures to evaluate and treat the functional skills and limitations of the gross motor system of patient across the lifespan, including, but not limited to:
    • Aerobic Capacity & Endurance
    • Airway Clearance Techniques
    • Arousal, Attention, Cognition
    • Assistive & Adaptive Devices, including Prosthetics and Orthotics
    • Circulation
    • Coordination, Communication, and Documentation
    • Cranial and Peripheral Nerve Integrity
    • Electrotherapeutic Modalities
    • Ergonomics, Body Mechanics, and Posture
    • Functional Training in Self-Care, Home Management, Work, Community, and Leisure
    • Gait, Locomotion, & Balance
    • Integumentary Integrity
    • Integumentary Repair and Protection Techniques
    • Joint Integrity & Mobility
    • Manual Therapy Techniques including Mobilization/Manipulation
    • Motor Function
    • Muscle Performance
    • Neuromotor Development
    • Pain
    • Patient/Client Related Instruction
    • Physical Agents and Mechanical Modalities
    • Range of Motion
    • Reflex Integrity
    • Therapeutic Exercise
  • Demonstrate the ability to perform CPR and emergency first aid, including AED use.
  • Safely and reliably read goniometers, dynamometers, tape measures, and printouts.
  • Demonstrate the ability to manipulate and operate physical therapy equipment and monitoring devices.
  • React safely and appropriately in a timely manner to sudden or unexpected situations involving patients and/or equipment. 

Behaviors (Affective Functions)

  • Interact effectively and sensitively using appropriate verbal, nonverbal, and written communication skills with faculty, peers, patient/clients, caregivers, and interprofessional health care team members.
  • Read, write, and interpret written and nonverbal communication at a competency level that allows one to safely function in classroom, laboratory, and clinical settings.
  • Recognize the impact and influence of age, lifestyle, family and peer support, socioeconomic class, culture, beliefs, race, and abilities on faculty, peers, patient/clients, caregivers, and interprofessional health care team members.
  • Recognize the psychosocial impact of movement dysfunction and disability on the client and caregivers, and integrate these needs into patient examination, evaluation, assessment, screening, intervention, discharge, and/or referrals.
  • Efficiently organize and prioritize multiple tasks, integrate and critically analyze information, and formulate applicable decisions.
  • Practice in a safe, ethical, and legal manner, following guidelines for standard practice as established by federal, state, and local law, Briar Cliff University, clinical education sites, the APTA, and related professional organizations.
  • Accept personal responsibility for all actions, reactions, and inactions.
  • Demonstrate responsibility for self-assessment, professional growth, and development.
  • Effectively and consistently manage personal stress and appropriately respond to the stress of others.
  • Speak and write effectively in English to convey information to other individuals and groups.
Generic Abilities
  1. Critical Thinking: The ability to question logically; identify, generate and evaluate elements of logical argument; recognize and differentiate facts, appropriate or faulty inferences, and assumptions; and distinguish relevant from irrelevant information. The ability to appropriately utilize, analyze, and critically evaluate scientific evidence to develop a logical argument, and to identify and determine the impact of bias on the decision making process.
  2. Communication: The ability to communicate effectively (i.e. verbal, non-verbal, reading, writing, and listening) for varied audiences and purposes.
  3. Problem Solving: The ability to recognize and define problems, analyze data, develop and implement solutions, and evaluate outcomes.
  4. Interpersonal Skills: The ability to interact effectively with patients, families, colleagues, other health care professionals, and the community in a culturally aware manner.
  5. Responsibility: The ability to be accountable for the outcomes of personal and professional actions and to follow through on commitments that encompass the profession within the scope of work, community and social responsibilities.
  6. Professionalism: The ability to exhibit appropriate professional conduct and to represent the profession effectively, while promoting the growth/development of the Physical Therapy profession.
  7. Use of Constructive Feedback: The ability to seek out and identify quality sources of feedback, reflect on and integrate the feedback, and provide meaningful feedback to others.
  8. Effective Use of Time and Resources: The ability to manage time and resources effectively to obtain the maximum possible benefit.
  9. Stress Management: The ability to identify sources of stress and develop and implement effective coping behaviors, with this applying for interactions for one's self, patient/clients and their families, members of the health care team ,and in work/life scenarios.
  10. Commitment to Learning: The ability to self direct learning, to include the identification of needs and sources of learning, and to continually seek and apply new knowledge, behaviors, and skills.



  • American Physical Therapy Association. Minimum Required Skills of Physical Therapist Graduates at Entry Level. BOD G11-05-20-449.
  • American Physical Therapy Association. Guide to Physical Therapist Practice. Alexandria, Virginia. 2008.
  • Professional Behaviors for the 21st Century. May W, Kontney L, Iglarsh A. 2010.