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Essential Functions

Essential Functions

In keeping with the goals of the Professional Doctor of Physical Therapy Program, the highest priority is placed on developing graduates who are competent, caring physical therapists who possess the skills of lifelong learning needed to incorporate new knowledge and methods into their practices and to adapt to a changing healthcare environment. Certain essential functions are requisite for admission, progression, and graduation from the DPT Program.

An individual must be able to independently, with or without reasonable accommodation, meet the following essential functions. Individuals unable to resolve deficiencies in these essential functions, with or without reasonable accommodation, are counseled to pursue alternate careers.

General Abilities: The student is expected to possess functional use of the senses of vision, touch, and hearing so that data received by the senses may be integrated, analyzed, and synthesized in a consistent and accurate manner. A student must also possess the ability to perceive pain, pressure, temperature, position, vibration, position equilibrium, and movement that are important to the student's ability to gather significant information needed to manage patients effectively.

Observational Ability: The student must have sufficient capacity to accurately observe and participate in lectures, laboratories, and with patients at a distance and close at hand, including non-verbal and verbal signals, to assess health and illness alterations in a variety of healthcare settings. Inherent in the observational process is the use of the senses to elicit information through procedures regularly required in examination and treatment, such as inspection, palpation, and assessment of strength and motor capabilities.

Communication Ability: The student must communicate effectively verbally and non-verbally to elicit information; describe changes in mood, activity, posture; and perceive non-verbal communications. Each student must be able to read and write, comprehend, and speak the English language to facilitate communication with patients, their family members, and other professionals in healthcare settings where written and electronic medical records, verbal presentations, and patient/family instruction are integral to effective healthcare practice and patient care. The student must communicate effectively verbally and in writing with instructors and other students in the classroom setting as well.

Motor Ability: The student must be able to perform gross and fine motor movements with coordination sufficient to perform complete physical examinations using a variety of examination maneuvers. A student must develop the psycho-motor skills reasonably needed to perform interventions, including management and operation of therapeutic healthcare equipment used in the general practice of a physical therapist. The student must be (1) able to maintain consciousness and equilibrium, (2) have sufficient levels of postural control, neuromuscular control, and eye-to-hand coordination, and (3) possess the physical and mental stamina to meet the demands associated with extended periods of sitting, standing, moving, lifting, and physical exertion required for satisfactory performance in patient care and classroom/laboratory settings.

Intellectual, Conceptual, Integrative, and Quantitative Abilities: The student must be able to develop and refine problem-solving skills crucial to practice as a physical therapist. Problem solving involves the abilities to (1) comprehend three-dimensional relationships and understand the spatial relationships of structures, (2) measure, calculate, reason, analyze, and synthesize objective and subjective data, and (3) make decisions that reflect consistent and thoughtful deliberation and sound clinical judgment. A student must have the capacity to read and comprehend healthcare literature. Each student must demonstrate mastery of these skills and the ability to incorporate new information from peers, teachers, and the healthcare literature to formulate sound judgment in patient/client management.

Behavioral and Social Attributes: Flexibility, compassion, integrity, motivation, effective interpersonal skills, and concern for others are personal attributes required of physical therapists. The student must possess the emotional health required for (1) full utilization of the student's intellectual abilities, (2) exercise of good judgment, (3) prompt completion of all responsibilities in classroom setting, as well as those in patient care setting, and (4) development of mature, sensitive, and effective relationships with patients and other members of the healthcare team. Each student must have the emotional stability required to exercise sound judgment and to complete assessment and interventional activities. The ability to establish rapport and maintain sensitive, interpersonal relationships with individuals, families, and groups from a variety of backgrounds is critical for the physical therapist.The student must be able to (1) tolerate physically taxing loads and still function effectively under stress, (2) adapt to changing environments, (3) display flexibility, graciously accept constructive criticism, (4) manage difficult interpersonal relationships during training, and (5) learn to function cooperatively and efficiently in the face of the uncertainties inherent in clinical practice.

In compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and applicable federal and state laws, Drexel University ensures people with disabilities will have an equal opportunity to participate in its programs and activities. If requesting auxiliary aids, accommodations, and services to participate in Drexel University's programs, members and guests of the Drexel community who have a disability need to register with the Office of Disability Services (ODS). All requests for reasonable and appropriate auxiliary aids, academic adjustments, and services will be considered on a case-by-case basis and in a timely fashion. For additional information, contact the ODS at

Office of Disability Services
3201 Arch St., Ste. 210
Philadelphia, Pa. 19104

** Adapted from "Technical Standards for Admission, Academic Progression, and Graduation" from the Drexel University Physician Assistant Program, Philadelphia, Pa. Used with their permission.