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DPT Professional Dispositions, Behaviors and Essential Functions

The Commission on Accreditation of Physical Therapy Education accredits professional training programs in physical therapy and requires institutions to ensure that students demonstrate entry-level clinical performance prior to graduation. Accredited programs must provide evidence that their graduates have acquired the knowledge and skills necessary for eligibility to sit for the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) and upon passing the exam, enter into the profession of physical therapy. As a result, all students admitted to the program must be able to demonstrate the following essential functions with or without reasonable accommodations.

Essential competencies include the ability to meet the cognitive, affective and psychomotor requirements of the curriculum. Examples of tasks related to these essential competencies include the following:

  • Comprehend, retain, integrate, synthesize, and apply information to meet curricular and clinical demands;
  • Display mature, empathic, and effective relationships with clients and faculty/staff while maintaining professional boundaries;
  • Display affective skills and appropriate demeanor and rapport that relate to professional education and quality patient care;
  • Communicate professionally, intelligibly, and sensitively with patients and colleagues, including individuals from different cultural and social backgrounds. This includes, but is not limited to, the ability to establish rapport with patients and communicate judgments and treatment information effectively.
  • Possess reading and writing skills sufficient to meet curricular and clinical demands. Students must be able to understand and speak the English language at a level consistent with competent professional practice;
  • The ability to adjust to changing situations and uncertainty in clinical situations;
  • Sufficient postural and neuromuscular control, sensory function, and coordination to perform appropriate physical examinations and interventions using accepted techniques; and accurately, safely and efficiently use equipment and materials during the assessment and treatment of patients;
  • Recognize disorders of movement and function to accurately develop physical therapy diagnoses, assessments, and therapeutic judgments. This includes the ability to record physical examination items and treatment plans clearly and accurately and differentiate normal versus abnormal findings;
  • Participate in classroom and clinical activities for the defined workday.

These are mandatory for admission to, retention in, and completion of the Physical Therapy training program. The program is committed to providing access to qualified individuals with disabilities in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. However, the program 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 alter the nature of the academic or clinical curriculum.

These Professional Dispositions, Behaviors and Essential Functions are developmental, meaning you are not necessarily expected to demonstrate these immediately. However, as you move through the program and receive instruction and education on these skills, you are expected to gradually become proficient in these professional competencies.


You are expected to progress from awareness and understanding to demonstrating, mastering and integrating the following Professional Dispositions, Behaviors and Essential Functions. Successful progression through the program requires students to progress in these behaviors and functions throughout the program.

  1. Professionalism: The ability to maintain appropriate hygiene, dress, and demeanor and to follow program policies and procedures.
  2. Collaboration: The willingness and ability to work together with students, clinical & academic faculty, other healthcare professionals and patients/clients.
  3. Honesty/Integrity: The ability to demonstrate moral excellence and trustworthiness.
  4. Respect: The ability to demonstrate consideration and regard for self and others regardless of ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, gender, or religious affiliation. The College’s Equal Opportunity, Harassment, and Non-Discrimination statement specifies non-discrimination on the basis of “race, color, national origin, religion, sex, gender identity and expression, political affiliation, age, disability, veteran status, genetic information or sexual orientation.”
  5. Reverence for Learning: Be able to demonstrate reverence for knowledge, experience, and being prepared for academic and clinical responsibilities.
  6. Emotional Maturity: The ability to control emotions by exhibiting appropriate social behavior in the classroom and clinic and during other program activities and interactions.
  7. Flexibility: The willingness to accept and adapt to change. The student is expected to have the flexibility to function effectively under stress; that is, the individual is expected to be able to learn to adapt to changing environments, to display flexibility to function in the face of uncertainties inherent in the clinical problems of many patients/clients.
  8. Sensory/observational skills: The ability to recognize typical versus abnormal movement and function through visual and tactile skills.
  9. Communication skills: The ability to demonstrate effective communication skills necessary for establishing rapport with patients/clients, conducting clinical sessions, educating clients and interacting with colleagues, faculty, and other professionals.
  10. Motor-coordination and balance skills: The ability to perform the physical activities and examinations necessary in making diagnoses, manipulate and use necessary equipment without violating testing protocol and with best therapeutic practice. Sustain necessary physical activity required for classroom and clinical activities.