Title

Essential Functions for Physical Therapy Practice

Introduction

All students in the physical therapy department must be able to perform the essential clinical as well as academic requirements, as the overall curricular objectives are to prepare students to practice in their chosen field.  These standards are applicable in the classroom, laboratories, simulated clinical settings and while on clinical education assignments. The purpose of this document is to assure that all students entering the physical therapy program know and understand the requirements, and can make informed decisions regarding their pursuit of this profession. Students must be able to meet these standards with or without reasonable accommodations.

Basic Requirements

Physical therapists must have the capacity to observe and communicate; demonstrate sufficient gross and fine motor ability to perform physical diagnostic examinations and interventions; physical strength, dexterity, agility, and endurance; emotional stability to exercise good judgment and to work effectively in potentially stressful situations; and intellectual ability to synthesize data and solve problems.  

Procedures for Implementation of Essential Functions for Physical Therapy Practice

  1. All applicants will be referred to the Department of Physical Therapy Essential Functions upon application to the program.
  2. Accepted students (and parents/guardians if student is <18 years of age) will review the Department of Physical Therapy Essential Functions and sign the Affidavit entitled, Essential Functions for Physical Therapy Practice before the beginning of the first semester in the physical therapy program. Students with documented disability may meet with personnel from Student Accessibility Services to sign the Affidavit.
  3. The document will be reviewed with students throughout the program in related courses (i.e., Professional Development and Preclinical Conference I-IV).

Student Accessibility Services

The Ithaca College student handbook details services available to students with disabilities (http://www.ithaca.edu/attorney/policies/vol7/Volume_7-70103.htm#70103). Services and accommodations for students with disabilities are coordinated by Student Accessibility Services.

The Manager and specialists of Student Accessibility Services are available during College business hours to assist students in accessing reasonable accommodations and in determining which accommodations are appropriate. The nature and extent of a student's disability must be documented by a physician or health care professional. The presence of a specific learning disability must be documented by a psychologist or learning disabilities specialist. Students with psychological/emotional disabilities can obtain documentation from either a psychiatrist or a licensed psychologist. Students seeking accommodations are required to meet with personnel in the Student Accessibility Services each semester to discuss accommodations for the current semester. If a student has not identified to the office by providing documentation on his/her disability and consented to the limited sharing of information regarding the disability, she/he will not be eligible to receive accommodations. Students, parents, faculty and staff members are encouraged to call at any time to discuss issues related to access or in supporting students with disabilities

To allow auxiliary aids and services to be obtained or appropriate academic adjustments to be made by the start of the academic term, the student or prospective student who believes that he/she will need an academic adjustment/auxiliary aids and services must complete and return the Disability Identification Form with documentation of their disability Student Accessibility Services as soon as possible. Timely submission of materials is encouraged.

Accommodations identified after the start of the semester will be honored, but grades achieved prior to that time will remain unchanged.  Ithaca College is unable to make accommodations that impose an undue burden, present a threat to the health or safety of the individual or others, or fundamentally alters the nature of the curriculum including didactic component, laboratory, patient simulations, and clinical education coursework

Students must follow the procedural guidelines as written in the most recent edition of the Ithaca College Student Handbook (http://www.ithaca.edu/attorney/policies/vol7/Volume_7-70103.htm#70103and the Americans with Disabilities Act (http://www.ada.gov/). 

Essential Functions for Physical Therapy Practice

Each accepted student must complete the affidavit entitled, Essential Functions for Physical Therapy Practice, that attests to their ability to fulfill the Department of Physical Therapy Essential Functions as outlined in the list below. These are competencies, essential functions, and examples of expectations during the professional years of the program in preparation for clinical practice. Accommodations may be unavailable due to the essential functions required in the clinical setting. The student needs to have a discussion with the Department of Physical Therapy Program Director and Student Accessibility Services (SAS) if requesting accommodations during the professional years of the program.

Standards, Functions and Example

Competency

Essential Function

Practice Example Applicability

Accommodations that may be Unavailable

Emotional

Students must possess the emotional ability to adapt to the environment, cope with stressors, and assume daily responsibilities.

Student must demonstrate the following functionality:

  • possess emotional health required to make sound judgments 
  • demonstrate behaviors appropriate to the situation
  • use appropriate coping strategies
  • demonstrate active learning
  • respond to stressful situations effectively by recalling knowledge from short term and long term memory

Student may be restricted from participation in the clinical program, and would therefore not qualify to meet the degree requirements, if proficiency is not to the following standard.

  Student must be able to:

  • manage more than one patient at one time in a clinical setting
  • outwardly demonstrate flexibility and calm demeanor in managing, organizing and administering care to patients  in dynamic clinical settings
  • implement functional interventions customized to patients dwellings, whether outdoors, in small homes, on playgrounds, and in hospital rooms
  • implement stress management activities for themselves when necessary
  • demonstrate comfort with discussing and being present during the variety of medical procedures applicable to the profession
  • react appropriately to and interact effectively with patients regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, age or sexual preference.
  • explain/articulate the pathophysiology of disease in a classroom, laboratory or clinical situation, in medical and layman’s terms.
  • observe the designated universal precautions whenever bodily fluids are present.

The following are examples of accommodations that may therefore be unavailable during the Professional Years of the PT Program:

  • alternative to cold calling
  • low distraction environment and time and a half/double time for check offs, lab practicals, or other contexts that mimic the clinic setting.

Communication

Students must possess the ability to understand and utilize verbal, non-verbal, and written communication, including oral and written English clearly, effectively, and efficiently. 

Student must demonstrate the following functionality:

  • explain treatment procedures
  • provide education related to patient status
  • document and interpret patient/client information
  • utilize effective note taking skills
  • complete written and reading assignments in a timely fashion
  • assess and respond to verbal and non-verbal communication
  • communicate with others professionally during times of high stress

Student must be able to:

  • effectively convey information to ensure patient safety and proper treatment
  • explain/articulate the pathophysiology of disease in a classroom, laboratory or clinical situation, in medical and layman’s terms.
  • give oral presentations  to a variety of professionals
  • provide training and  teaching to patient/client, family members and other professionals
  • provide information to health care teams for optimal patient/client management
  • effectively gather information for patient safety and proper treatment
  • conduct interviews and evaluations
  • document information according to occupational therapy practice standards

The following are examples of accommodations that may therefore be unavailable during the Professional Years of the PT Program:

  • alternative to cold calling
  • modification of assignment deadlines

Cognitive/

Critical Thinking

Student must meet academic standards and possess critical thinking abilities sufficient for making sound judgments.

Student must demonstrate the following functionality:

  • utilize their full intellectual abilities with an understanding of the rationale and justification within clinical and laboratory settings. 
  • recall, interpret, analyze and apply information from a variety of sources, including reading material, lecture, discussion, patient observation, examination and evaluation
  • determine what data and methods are needed to solve problems
  • demonstrate appropriate responses to emergency situations

Student must be able to:

  • obtain examination data and develop a plan of care given a patient/client diagnosis (i.e. stroke)
  • develop and progress an exercise program for a patient/client with cerebral palsy
  • adapt and change an intervention within a session, depending on patient response
  • establish a list of differential (alternative) diagnoses given a patient problem
  • conduct a self-assessment and create a professional development plan based upon areas that need attention

The following are examples of accommodations may therefore be unavailable during the Professional Years of the PT Program:

  • audio recording when patients or guests are present in Integrated Clinical Experience (ICE) or in lecture or labs
  • classroom breaks for ICE courses

Sensory-Motor

Students must possess adequate strength, dexterity, balance, and sensation, to accurately carry out physical activities through an 8-10 hour work day

Student must demonstrate the following functionality:

  • a variety of patient examinations,  interventions including (but not limited to): palpation, auscultation, joint mobilizations, patient transfers, ambulation training
  • safely guard patients with limited mobility or unsafe balance responses
  • observational skills to obtain accurate information in classroom, laboratory, and clinical settings
  • provide safe, reliable, efficient emergency care

Student must be able to: 

  • assist a dependent patient with a joint replacement with transfer (bed to chair)
  • provide cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
  • safely guard a child with autism on a balance beam
  • prevent a patient/client with a head injury from falling while negotiating stairs
  • read numbers on a goniometer
  • use electrotherapeutic modalities
  • assess color changes of the skin
  • observe the designated universal precautions whenever bodily fluids are present

Social-behavioral

Student must possess interpersonal abilities sufficient for appropriate, respectful and effective interaction with individuals and caregivers of various backgrounds

Student must:

  • develop mature, sensitive and effective rapport with peers, faculty, health care providers
  • function effectively in environments with high physical and mental demands
  • display flexibility and adaptive skills in a variety of conditions 
  • demonstrate professionalism, compassion, integrity, empathy, interest and motivation
  • interact with groups from various social, cultural, and religious backgrounds

Student must be able to:

  • participate in small and large group discussions
  • deal with sensitive, confidential information respectfully and within the ethical standards of the profession
  • meet externally established deadlines
  • provide emotional support to patients/clients during critical periods
  • use “people-first” language when speaking about patients/clients with disabilities
  • initiate communications to clarify situations

The following are examples of accommondations that may therefore be unavailable during the Professional Years of the PT Program:

  • modification of attendance policy in labs and in ICE courses
  • modification of late policy

Adopted 4/16/10; revised 5/21/10, 7/17/19, 2/17/22