Physical Therapy Technical Standards

Physical Therapy Schools California

Doctor of Physical Therapy Program

Technical Standards


The mission of Samuel Merritt University is to produce highly skilled and compassionate Doctors of Physical Therapy (DPT). Candidates must develop a robust foundational and applied sciences knowledge and requisite clinical skills, at a level deemed satisfactory by the faculty. Candidates must demonstrate appropriate application of knowledge and skills, effectively interpret information, and contribute to person-centered decisions across a broad spectrum of clinical situations in all settings.

The DPT program has the responsibility to the public to assure that its graduates can become fully competent and caring physical therapists, capable of providing benefit and not doing harm. Therefore, the program is committed to admitting and graduating persons who demonstrate intelligence, integrity, compassion, humanitarian and social concern, and physical and emotional capacity adequately to perform the duties of a physical therapist who embodies and enacts professionalism in all interactions.

The following technical standards, in conjunction with the academic standards, are requirements for admission, promotion, and graduation. The term "candidate" refers to candidates for admission to the DPT program as well as current DPT students who are candidates for retention, promotion, and graduation.

These requirements may be achieved with or without reasonable accommodations, the cost of which will be borne by the institution. These standards should not serve as a deterrent to any candidate with disabilities who desires to pursue education to become a Doctor of Physical Therapy. Candidates with disabilities bring unique perspectives that contribute to the diversity of the candidate population and will create a diverse health care workforce of culturally competent practitioners who can meet the needs of their patients and clients.

Candidates with disabilities are encouraged to contact the Disability Resource Center immediately to begin a confidential conversation about possible accommodations necessary to meet these standards. Fulfillment of the technical standards for graduation from the DPT program does not guarantee that a graduate will be able to fulfill the technical requirements or essential functions of any specific clinical position.


Observational and Situational Awareness Skills

The candidate must demonstrate situational awareness, which includes the ability to perceive informational and environmental cues in real-time in order to work safely and effectively within the environment of care and assess the condition of the patient/client and changes in that condition. One major component of the practice of physical therapy is the assessment and management of movement disorders. Therefore, the candidate must have the ability to perceive movement patterns and identify abnormalities in movement.

A candidate must acquire information as presented through demonstrations and interactive learning experiences in foundational and applied sciences, and in courses where professional skills and abilities are taught. In addition, a candidate must be able to evaluate a patient or client and their environment accurately and assess relevant contextual cues. Candidates must be able to obtain and interpret information through comprehensive assessment of patients/clients, correctly interpret diagnostic representations of patient/client data, and accurately evaluate patient/client conditions and responses.


Communication Skills

Candidates must exhibit interpersonal skills to enable effective caregiving of patients and clients, including the ability to communicate effectively in English with all members of inter-professional health care team, patients/clients, and their families in person and in writing. This information must be communicated effectively in a succinct yet comprehensive manner and in settings in which time available is limited. Candidates must be able to clearly and accurately record information and accurately interpret verbal and non-verbal communication. Communication includes the candidate’s ability to make a correct judgment in seeking supervision and consultation in a timely manner.


Patient/Client Care Skills

The candidate must have the ability, within reasonable limits, to safely assist a patient/client in moving. The candidate must also have the ability to move both their body and the patient/client in three-dimensional space in order to perform  tests, measures, and interventions. A candidate must be able to perform or direct diagnostic procedures and therapeutic interventions, including the interpretation of movement patterns and interventions to improve movement abilities.

Additionally, the candidate must be able to ensure the physical safety of a patient/client at all times. A candidate must be able to provide or direct general care and emergency treatment for patients/clients and respond appropriately in a timely manner to emergency situations. Candidates must meet applicable safety standards for the environment and follow standard precautions.


Intellectual-Conceptual, Integrative, and Cognitive Skills

Candidates must be able to learn through a variety of modalities, including, but not limited to:  classroom instruction; laboratory instruction, including cadaver lab; small-group, team and collaborative activities; individual study; preparation and presentation of reports; and use of computer technology. A candidate must effectively assimilate, understand, interpret and apply complex information and data to the clinical reasoning required to function within the DPT program curriculum. This includes, but is not limited to, the ability to: comprehend three-dimensional relationships and understand spatial relationships of structures; effectively participate in individual, small-group, and lecture learning modalities in the classroom, clinical and community settings; learn, participate, collaborate and contribute as a part of a team; synthesize information  both in person and via remote technology; perceive and interpret causal relationships to make accurate, evidence-based conclusions; and formulate a hypothesis, investigate the potential answers and outcomes, integrate knowledge of psychosocial factors, and reach appropriate and accurate conclusions. A candidate must be able to find sources of information and knowledge, acquire knowledge through various modalities, and possess the ability to be a life-long learner.


Behavioral Attributes, Social Skills and Professional Expectations

A candidate must be able to exercise good judgment, promptly complete all responsibilities attendant to the diagnosis and care of patients/clients, and develop mature, sensitive, and effective relationships with patients/clients and caregivers, and other health care team members. The skills required to do so include the ability to effectively handle and manage heavy workloads, function effectively under stress, adapt to changing environments, display flexibility, demonstrate resiliency, and to learn to function in the face of uncertainties inherent in the clinical care of patients and clients.

Candidates must be able to understand the basis and content of ethical physical therapist practice and demonstrate the professionalism required in such practice. They must possess attributes that include compassion, empathy, altruism, integrity, responsibility, and tolerance. Candidates also must demonstrate the ability to respect boundaries and care for all individuals in a respectful and effective manner regardless of gender identity, age, race, sexual orientation, religion, disability, or any other protected status.

Candidates must understand, and function within, the legal and ethical dimensions of the practice of physical therapy, and maintain and display ethical and moral behavior commensurate with the role and responsibilities of a doctor of physical therapy in all interactions with patients/clients, faculty, staff, students, and the public. Candidates must preserve patient/client confidentiality and protect private information, and adhere to applicable laws, regulations, statutes, and policies.

Candidates must demonstrate the emotional stability to function effectively under stress and to adapt to an environment that may change rapidly without warning and/or in an unpredictable manner. Candidates must exhibit contextually appropriate interpersonal skills including the ability to provide, accept and apply feedback in a professional manner.

Engagement and motivation throughout the educational process are expected of all candidates. Candidates must perform effectively in the presence of rigorous intellectual and emotional demands inherent in the DPT program, including both academic and clinical components that occur within set time constraints, and often concurrently. Candidates must maintain sufficient general good health and self-care in order not to jeopardize the health and safety of themselves and all those with whom they interact in the academic and clinical settings.

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