To effectively participate in the program and successfully fulfill curricular requirements, student physical therapists in AdventHealth University’ (AHU) Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program must be able to perform, with or without reasonable accommodations, each of the Essential Functions.

If the student has a disability and needs reasonable accommodation to fully participate in this program, the student must follow the directions provided in AHU’s Catalog under “Rehabilitation Act (1973) Section 504: Services for Students with Special Needs”.

A student may be dismissed from the program if it becomes apparent that the student cannot complete the Essential Functions even with reasonable accommodation; the needed accommodations are not reasonable and would cause undue hardship to the Institution; or that fulfilling the functions would create a significant risk of harm to the health or safety of others.

Essential Functions are applicable in classroom, laboratories, and clinical settings. The Program uses independent clinical education sites that may or may not be able to offer the same reasonable accommodations that are made available by the Institution.

All Essential Functions should be able to be completed in highly complex and distracting environments and within time frames consistent with current clinical practice.

Cognitive Learning Skills

  1. Receive, interpret, remember, reproduce and use information in the cognitive, psychomotor, and affective domains of learning from the undergraduate, prerequisite, and Program curriculum to solve problems, evaluate work, and generate new ways of processing or categorizing similar information listed in course objectives and syllabi.
  2. Perform the physical therapy diagnostic process including taking a history, examination, systems review, and selection of the most appropriate tests and measures. These may include, but are not limited to, a patient’s posture and movement including analysis of physiological, biomechanical, behavioral, and environmental factors; evaluation; development of a physical therapy diagnosis; prognosis; and plan of care; and perform interventions, in a timely manner and consistent with the acceptable norms of clinical practice.
  3. Use examination and evaluation data to formulate and execute a plan of physical therapy management in a timely manner, appropriate to the problems identified and acceptable norms of clinical practice.
  4. Reassess and revise plans as needed for effective and efficient management of physical therapy problems in a timely manner and consistent with the acceptable norms of clinical practice.
  5. Access, input, and retrieve information from a computer or other electronic devices.

Psychomotor Skills

  1. Demonstrate the locomotion ability to get to lecture, lab and clinical locations in a timely and prompt manner, and move within rooms as needed for changing groups, partners and work stations.
  2. Physically maneuver in required clinical settings, to accomplish assigned tasks.
  3. Demonstrate appropriate body mechanics and react safely and appropriately to sudden or unexpected movements of patients, clients, or classmates
  4. Safely, reliably, and efficiently perform appropriate physical therapy procedures to examine the functional skills and gross motor system of patients across the lifespan. These include but are not limited to:
    1. Cognitive, mental, emotional status
    2. Endurance
    3. Skin integrity
    4. Sensation
    5. Strength
    6. Joint mobility
    7. Joint motion and play
    8. Range of motion
    9. Muscle tone and reflexes
    10. Movement patterns
    11. Coordination
    12. Balance
    13. Development skills
    14. Pain
    15. Posture
    16. Gait
    17. Functional abilities
    18. Assistive technology
    19. Cardiopulmonary status
    20. Segmental length, girth, and volume
  5. Safely, reliably, and efficiently perform treatment procedures for patients across the lifespan, using procedures that are appropriate for the patient’s status and plan of care. These include, but are not limited to:
    1. Therapeutic exercises to improve strength, ROM, or endurance
    2. Developmental activities
    3. Gait activities
    4. Prosthetic and orthotic training
    5. Wound management and prevention
    6. Wheelchair training
    7. Neurosensory techniques
    8. Biophysical agents
    9. Balance and coordination training
    10. Positioning techniques
    11. Cardiopulmonary rehabilitation
    12. Joint mobilization and soft tissue procedures
    13. Functional activities, bed mobility, transfers
  6. Competently perform and supervise cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and first aid using guidelines issued by the American Heart Association.
  7. Demonstrate the ability to observe and practice universal precautions
  8. Manipulate and operate physical therapy equipment and monitoring devices
  9. Demonstrate the fine motor/hand skills in order to:
    1. Legibly record thoughts for written assignments and tests.
    2. Legibly record/document evaluations, patient care notes, and referrals, etc. in standard medical charts in hospital/clinical settings in a timely manner and consistent with the acceptable norms of clinical practice.
    3. Detect changes in an individual’s muscle tone, skin quality, joint play, kinesthesia, heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure, pulse oximetry, and temperature to gather accurate objective examination information in a timely manner and sense that individual’s response to environmental changes and treatment.
    4. Safely apply and adjust the dials or controls of therapeutic modalities
    5. Use a telephone and other communication devices
  10. Exhibit the ability to:
    1. Interpret written and illustrated material in the English language, in the form of lecture handouts, textbooks, literature and patient’s chart. A majority of the reading will occur outside of normal class hours.
    2. Observe active demonstrations in the classroom.
    3. Participate in academic and clinical study using training videos, projected slides/overheads, imaging pictures, and notes written on a blackboard/whiteboard/projection/computer screen.
    4. Receive visual information from clients, e.g., movement, posture, body mechanics, and gait necessary for comparison to normal standards for purposes of evaluation of movement dysfunctions.
    5. Receive visual information from treatment environment, e.g., dials on modalities and monitors, printouts, goniometers, assistive devices, furniture, flooring, structures, etc.
    6. Receive visual clues as to the patient’s tolerance of the intervention procedures. These may include facial grimaces, muscle twitching, withdrawal, etc.
  11. Exhibit the ability to:
    1. Participate in lectures and discussion in an academic and clinical setting.
    2. Participate in conversations with a patient, family member, interdisciplinary team member, and clinical instructor or supervising physical therapist in an academic and clinical setting
    3. Distinguish between normal and abnormal breathing, lung and heart sounds using a stethoscope.
  12. Maintain general good health and self-care in order to not jeopardize the health and safety of self and individuals with whom one interacts in the academic and clinical settings.
  13. Arrange transportation and living accommodations to foster timely reporting to the classroom and clinical assignments. Some students relocate outside of the Orlando area to complete one or more clinical experiences of four to ten weeks’ duration each.
  14. Legally travel outside of the United States in order to complete required coursework.
  15. Attend classes 30 or more hours per week during each academic trimester. Classes typically consist of a combination of lecture, laboratory, and clinical activities. When on clinical rotation, students are typically present at the clinic 40 or more hours per week on a schedule that corresponds to the operating hours of the clinic.

Affective and Communication Skills

  1. Demonstrate respect to all people, including students, teachers, patients and medical personnel, without showing bias or preference on the grounds of age, race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, lifestyle, opinions or personal values.
  2. Demonstrate appropriate affective behaviors and mental attitudes in order not to jeopardize the emotional, physical, mental, and behavioral safety of clients and other individuals with whom one interacts in the academic and clinical settings and to follow the ethical standards of the American Physical Therapy Association. Students must also follow standards and policies specified in the Catalog, Student Handbook, DPT Program Handbook, and the DPT Clinical Education Handbook. The most recent copies of these documents are available for review.
  3. Acknowledge and respect individual values and opinions in order to foster harmonious working relationships with colleagues, peers, and patients/clients.
  4. Sustain their mental and emotional health given the rigors of a demanding educational program in physical therapy which includes academic and clinical components, each with exceptional challenges in the volume and breadth of required reading and the necessity to impart information to others that occur within set time constraints, and often concurrently.
  5. Effectively communicate information and safety concerns with other students, teachers, patients, clients, peers, staff and personnel by asking questions, giving information, explaining conditions and procedures, or teaching home programs. These all need to be done in a timely manner and within the acceptable norms of academic and clinical settings.
  6. Receive and interpret written communication in both academic and clinical settings in a timely manner.
  7. Receive and send verbal communication in life threatening situations in a timely manner within the acceptable norms of clinical settings.
  8. Students must be able to communicate quickly, effectively and efficiently in oral and written English with all members of the health care team.


AASIG Technical Standards, Essential Functions Document. Section on Education, September 1998.

American Physical Therapy Association. Guide to Physical Therapist Practice. Alexandria, Virginia, 2008.

American Physical Therapy Association. Minimum Required Skills of Physical Therapist Graduates at Entry Level. BOD G11-05-20-449.

Essential Functions, Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, CA

Essential Functions for DPT Students, University of the Incarnate Word, San Antonio, TX

Essential Functions of a Physical Therapist, Lynchburg College, Lynchburg, VA

Ingram D. Opinions of Physical Therapy Education Program Directors on Essential Functions. Physical Therapy. 1997;77:37-45.