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Recommended Academic Plan

Academic Policy 3


The PTA student must be able to apply the knowledge and skills necessary to function in a broad variety of clinical situations while providing the spectrum of physical therapy treatments. The list of Essential Functions reflects reasonable expectations of the PTA student for the performance of common physical therapy functions in a safe and competent manner.


A student must be capable of performing the following list of essential functions while enrolled in the Physical Therapist Assistant program, with or without reasonable accommodations. The PTA program fully supports the provision of reasonable accommodations to students with special needs in order to achieve program objectives. All adaptive equipment and associated cost is the responsibility of the student.

Motor Skills

A student must be able to:

  • Sit or stand in class for up to 7 hours per day.
  • Move or position patients and equipment, which involves lifting, carrying, pulling, and guiding weights up to and including 100 pounds.
  • Palpate anatomical structures and handle injured body parts without causing injury to the patient.
  • Give manual resistance to a patient’s arm, leg, or trunk during exercise.
  • Move with adequate agility and speed to ensure patient safety.
  • Walk and balance well enough to help patients walk and transfer with or without equipment, while preventing injury to patient and self.
  • Safely grasp and manipulate small objects and set dials on electrical equipment.
  • Use equipment that emits electrical, ultrasonic, and thermal energy.Competently perform and supervise cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) using guidelines issued by the American Heart Association or the American Red Cross.

Observational and Sensory Skills

A student must be able to:

  • Use visual, auditory, and tactile senses to observe patients and collect and interpret data.
  • Read and interpret equipment dials, patient charts, professional literature, and notes from patients, physicians, and other health professionals.
  • Respond to warning sounds, machine alarms, and calls for help.

Communication Skills

A student must be able to:

  • Communicate effectively in English in verbal and written (including electronic) formats with faculty, peers, patients, families, and other health professionals.
  • Record thoughts legibly and clearly for written assignments and tests.
  • Legibly record/document patient care notes and communications in standard medical charts in hospital/clinical settings in a timely manner and consistent with the acceptable norms of clinical settings.

Intellectual and Conceptual Skills

A student must be able to:

  • Meet class standards for successful course completion.
  • Collect, interpret, and integrate data about patients.

Behavioral and Social Attitudes

A student must be able to:

  • Recognize and respond appropriately to individuals of all ages, genders, and races, and from all socio-economic, religious, and cultural backgrounds.
  • Cope with stress of heavy workloads, demanding patients, and life-threatening clinical situations.
  • Recognize and respond appropriately to potentially hazardous situations.
  • Demonstrate the physical and emotional capacity to work a 40-hour week while on clinical affiliation.
  • Behave in an ethically sound, competent, compassionate, and professional manner in the classroom and in the clinic.


The Essentials Functions Policy is posted on the PTA program web page and located in the PTA Student Handbook. Students will be given the Essential Functions for PTA Students form in their PTA Student Handbooks and will sign the associated acknowledgement form.

Students who have concerns about the ability to perform any of the essential functions should contact the PTA program coordinator and campus coordinator of disabilities services.

Students with documented disabilities are entitled to reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act. (See PTA Academic Policy 22, Nondiscrimination) Students who cannot meet the essential functions with reasonable accommodations will receive career counseling.