Stefani Doctor of Physical Therapy Technical Standards


Technical standards are a set of characteristics and abilities DPT students must have, with or without accommodations, to participate in the program.

USM’s Technical standards refer to physical, cognitive, and behavioral abilities required for satisfactory completion of the physical therapy curriculum, and the development of professional attributes required by the faculty at graduation.

  1. Observation

  2. Communication and Perception

  3. Motor

  4. Intellectual

  5. Behavioral and Social Attributes

1. Observation:

A candidate must be able to observe demonstrations in the classroom and clinical setting and be able to effectively gather and assimilate information from them. A candidate must have sufficient visual and other sensory modalities to accurately observe a patient at a distance and at close range, in order to gather necessary data about the patient such as that needed to describe posture, habitus, mood, activity, deviations of movement, and non-verbal communications.

2. Communication and Perception:

A candidate must be able to communicate effectively and sensitively with patients from different social and cultural backgrounds, and to develop effective professional rapport with other members of the health care team. Communication includes not only speech and nonverbal communications, but also reading and writing. This includes the ability to record examination and diagnostic results clearly, accurately, and efficiently. The candidate must have the ability to take, and document in a patient's record, an appropriate history, treatment descriptions, and comprehensive care plans. Such tasks require the ability to communicate with the patient or client. In addition, candidates must be able to communicate effectively with patients’ family members, physicians, and other members of the health care team. The candidate must be capable of responsive, empathetic listening to establish rapport in a way that promotes openness on issues of concern and sensitivity to potential cultural differences. The candidate must be able to process and communicate information on the patient's status in a succinct yet comprehensive manner to colleagues and other members of the health care team, and in settings in which time available is limited. Appropriate communication might also rely on the candidate's ability to make a correct judgment in seeking or providing supervision and consultation in a timely manner. Communication is also important in being able to ensure the safety of patients and clients. The candidate must be able to communicate well in writing so that other health care professionals can follow the logic, flow, and intent of the writing so as to prevent miscommunication and mishandling of patients and clients. The candidate must also be capable of perceiving the signs of disease, especially neurological, musculoskeletal, and cardiopulmonary dysfunction, as manifested through the physical examination. Such information is derived from observation and palpation of the body surfaces, palpable changes in
various organs and tissues, and auditory information (such as patient voice and heart tones). The candidate must have the ability to discern skin, subcutaneous masses, muscles, nerves, bones, joints, lymph nodes, blood vessels, and intra abdominal structures when it is possible to do so.

3. Motor:

Candidates must possess sufficient postural control, neuromuscular control, and eye to hand and hand-to-hand coordination to utilize physical therapy equipment and possess sufficient control of the upper and lower limbs to meet the physical requirements for training. A major component of the practice of physical therapy is the assessment and management of movement disorders. Therefore, the candidate must have the ability, within reasonable limits, to safely assist a patient in moving, for example, from a chair to a bed, or from a wheelchair to a commode. The candidate must be strong enough to assist the patient physically and to help prevent falls during therapeutic treatment. The candidate must also have the ability to move himself or herself and the patient in three dimensional space to perform motor function tests and treatments. Additionally, the candidate must be able to ensure the physical safety of a patient at all times.

4. Intellectual:

The education of a physical therapist requires assimilation of knowledge, acquisition of skills, and the development of judgment throughout the curriculum (including clinical internships) in preparation for independent and appropriate decisions required in practice. Candidates must have the mental capacity to learn and assimilate a large amount of complex, technical, and detailed information; solve clinical problems through critical analysis, perform measurements, and synthesize and apply concepts and information from various disciplines in order to formulate evaluations, diagnoses, and therapeutic plans. The candidate must have the ability to master information presented in course work in the form of lectures, collaborative work, written material, and projected images. The candidate must have the cognitive abilities necessary to master relevant content in basic science and clinical courses at a level deemed appropriate by the faculty. These skills may be described as the ability to comprehend, memorize, analyze, synthesize, to use information constructively in patient evaluation and care, and to be creative when necessary for the benefit of a patient or client. He or she must be able to discern and comprehend dimensional and spatial relationships of structures, and be able to develop reasoning and decision making skills (critical thinking) appropriate to the practice of physical therapy. The candidate must be able to reflect on past performance, and make constructive inferences from it in order to improve evaluation and treatment of future patients and clients.

5. Behavioral and Social Attributes:

A candidate must possess the emotional and mental health required for full utilization of his or her intellectual abilities, the exercise of good judgment, the prompt completion of all responsibilities attendant to the examination and care of patients, and the development of mature, thoughtful, and effective relationships with patients and clients. Candidates must be able to tolerate physically taxing workloads and have the ability to maintain composure and emotional stability during periods of high stress. They must be able to adapt to changing environments, to display flexibility, and to function in the face of uncertainties inherent in the clinical problems of many patients. Compassion, integrity, appropriate interpersonal skills, interest, responsibility, accountability, respect, honesty tolerance, and motivation are all personal qualities that are essential to the role. The candidate must be able to understand, and demonstrate behavior consistent with, the basis and content of ethical physical therapy practice. Your signature below indicates that you have read all three pages of this document and that you understand the meaning and importance of these essential functions.