Essential Functions

Those interested in going into physical therapy should be familiar with the demands of the working therapist. Interested individuals are encouraged to observe physical therapy practice in a variety of settings. Also, individuals interested in physical therapy should consider if they could perform the following typical job specifications for a physical therapist. Because students are required to pass full-time clinical education experiences as well as perform well in the classroom, the inability to function within the following specifications could preclude a student from completing the program.

Typical Job Specification for the physical therapist

Motor Skills

A physical therapist must have sufficient motor function (gross and fine muscular movements, equilibrium and strength) to:

  1. Elicit information from patients by palpation, auscultation, manual tests, and other evaluation procedures.
  2. Provide general physical therapy treatment including physical strength to stand and ambulate with a walker, cane, or crutches.
  3. Perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
  4. Lift and transfer patients.
  5. Walk and simultaneously manipulate or grasp objects with both hands.
  6. Engage in procedures involving grasping, fingering, pushing, pulling, holding, extending and rotation.
  7. Provide for patient safety and well being in all therapeutic or transferring activities.
  8. Stand for extended periods of time and/or maintain awkward positions for a prolonged time.
  9. Frequently walk long distances without resting (1000-2000 feet).
  10. Occasionally lift greater than 150 pounds and occasionally lift and carry objects up to 50 pounds.
  11. Frequently push and pull individuals weighing 150-300 pounds in a wheelchair.

Sensory/Observation Skills

A physical therapist must have sufficient sensory abilities and observations skills to:

  1. Observe demonstrations.
  2. Observe patients.
  3. Obtain an appropriate medical history directly from the patient or guardian.
  4. Examine the patient observing skin color, skin texture, odors, bony landmarks and other anatomical structures.
  5. See dials and meters with small print.

To do the above, the physical therapist must have the functional use of vision, hearing, smell, and touch.

Communication Skills

The Physical Therapist must be able to

  1. Communicate in English effectively and sensitively with patients.
  2. Communicate in English in oral and written form with faculty, peers, and other personnel in the classroom, laboratory and clinical settings.
  3. Read English, including completing reading assignments and search and evaluate literature, read charts and graphs.
  4. Complete written assignments, maintain records, manually record and use computerized recording of patient information.
  5. Use therapeutic communication such as attending, clarifying, motivating, coaching, facilitating and touching.

Intellectual/Conceptual, Integrative and Qualitative skills

Problem solving, diagnosing, and prognosticating are critical skills demanded of physical therapists, which require intellectual abilities. Thus physical therapists must have the ability to

  1. Measure, calculate, interpret, reason, analyze, prioritize and synthesize data.
  2. Use computers for searching, recording, storing and retrieving information.
  3. Comprehend three-dimensional relationships and spatial relationships.

These skills allow therapists to make proper assessments, sound judgments, appropriately prioritize interventions, measure and record patient care outcomes.

Behavioral/Social skills and Professionalism

Physical Therapist must demonstrate

  1. Attributes of empathy, integrity, concern for others, interpersonal skills, interest and motivation.
  2. Emotional well being required for use of their intellectual abilities, the exercise of sound judgment, the prompt completion of all responsibilities attendant to the evaluation and care of patients.
  3. The ability to adapt to ever-changing environments, display flexibility and learn to functioning the face of uncertainties and stress which are inherent in the educational process, as well as the clinical problems of many patients.
  4. The ability to be assertive, delegate responsibility appropriately, and function as part of a team.
  5. The organizational skills necessary to meet deadlines and manage time.
  6. The ability to accept criticism.
  7. Cope with the stress of heavy workloads, weekend and evening shifts, demanding patients and life threatening situations.
  8. Recognize and respond appropriately to individual of all ages, genders, races, socioeconomic and religious and cultural backgrounds.

Upon admission, a student who discloses a properly certified disability will receive reasonable accommodation but must be able to perform the essential functions of the curriculum and meet the standards described herein. Students seeking accommodations should initiate their request in the office of Dean of the College of Education and Health Science. The applicant should be aware that in order to practice physical therapy they must take an extensive and timed written national licensure examination. The Bradley University Department of Physical Therapy and Health Science is not responsible for the examination process and is unable to make any accommodation for the licensure exam.