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Doctor of Physical Therapy


Essential Functions

Graduates of the entry-level Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) Program must have the knowledge and skills to provide physical therapy services in a wide variety of clinical situations and environments.

In accordance with Section 504 of the 1973 Vocational Rehabilitation Act, the PT Admissions and Retention Committee has established the following essential functions1 of students in the educational program offered by the Physical Therapy Department. Physical Therapy students must demonstrate, with or without reasonable accommodations to policies and practices, the ability to perform the essential functions listed below during their physical therapy education.

  1. Utilize appropriate verbal, nonverbal, and written communications with clients/patients, families and others.
  2. Practice in a safe, ethical, and legal manner.
  3. Determine the physical therapy needs of any patient with an existing or potential movement dysfunction.
  4. Demonstrate ability to apply universal precautions.
  5. Safely, reliably, and efficiently perform appropriate physical therapy procedures used to assess the function of the movement system. These include, but are not limited to, the assessment of cognitive/mental status, vital signs, skin and vascular integrity, wound status, endurance, segmental length, girth and volume, sensation, strength, tone, reflexes, movement patterns, coordination, balance, developmental stage, soft tissue, joint motion/play, cranial and peripheral nerve function, posture, gait, functional abilities, assistive device fit/use, and the cardiopulmonary system.
  6. Perform treatment procedures in a manner that is appropriate to the patient's status and desired goals. These include, but are not limited to, exercise and aerobic conditioning, functional training in self care and home management, functional training in community and work integration, activities of daily living, developmental activities, balance training, coordination training, positioning techniques, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
  7. Develop and document a plan of care for a patient with a movement dysfunction.
  8. Recognize the psychosocial impact of dysfunction and disability and integrate the needs of the patient and family into the plan of care.
  9. Demonstrate responsibility for lifelong professional growth and development.
  10. Demonstrate management skills, including planning, organizing, supervising, delegating, and working as a member of a multi-disciplinary team.
  11. Develop and apply programs of prevention and health promotion.
  12. Apply teaching/learning theories and methods in health care and community environments.
  13. Participate in the process of scientific inquiry.

The PT Admissions and Retention Committee will consider for admission applicants who demonstrate the ability to learn and perform the essential skills identified in this document. The DPT Program must ensure the health, safety, and security of all clients/patients. Eligibility to enter or continue in the program will be based on scholastic accomplishments, as well as physical and emotional capacities to perform the essential functions necessary to meet the requirements of the program's curriculum and become an effective practitioner.

I understand that I must demonstrate mastery of the essential functions described above prior to graduation. If I have a disability and need an accommodation, I agree to provide appropriate documentation of the disability to the Accessibility Resource Center with a request specifying desired accommodations.

This request must be presented in a timely manner prior to the need for accommodation to permit the request to be processed by the Director of Accessibility Resource Center in collaboration with the Admissions and Retention Committee. The Admissions and Retention Committee will determine if any recommended accommodation will fundamentally alter the DPT Program of study.

Contact the Physical Therapy Department at 563/333-6403 if you have any questions about the Essential Functions and requirements stated above. Questions regarding disability certification and/or requests for accommodation should be directed to the Director of Accessibility Resource Center at 563/333-6275. St. Ambrose University is committed to prohibiting discrimination based on disability.


1Adapted from Ingram D., Opinions of Physical Therapy Education Program Directors on Essential Functions.  Phys Ther 1997:77:37-45.