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Technical Standards

Physical therapy education requires that accumulation of scientific knowledge be accompanied by the simultaneous acquisition of skills, behaviors, and professional attitudes. The Doctor of Physical Therapy degree awarded by Mount St. Mary's University at the completion of the student's education process certifies that the individual has acquired the broad base of knowledge, skills and competencies requisite for the practice of physical therapy. To this end, all courses in the curriculum must be completed successfully. The program design is hierarchical and sequential, and thus requires that the entire semester be successfully completed prior to progression to the ensuing semester.

In order to acquire the knowledge and skills for function in a broad variety of clinical situations, and to render a wide spectrum of patient care, accepted and matriculated students in the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program must have abilities and skills in the following five areas: observation; communication; kinesthetic/motor; cognitive/conceptual (integrative and quantitative); and behavioral/social. Technological compensation can be made for some disabilities in certain of these areas, but a candidate must be able to perform in a reasonably independent manner. The use of a trained intermediary means that the candidate's judgment is mediated by the power of selection and the observation of another, and as such is unacceptable.

The Doctor of Physical Therapy Program requires that students returning from a medical leave of absence from the program or experiencing an unexpected medical/health event during the curriculum that might affect their ability to participate in the curriculum undergo an evaluation for the purpose of determining whether the student meets these technical standards, essential characteristics and abilities required of the DPT program.

  • Observation

    The candidate must be able to observe demonstrations and experiments in basic and applied sciences (including, but not limited to human anatomy and physiology, and neuroscience) as well as in the didactic physical therapy curriculum including theory and practice for normal and pathologic states. The candidate must be able to observe a patient accurately at a distance and close at hand. Observation requires the use of common sense, as well as the functional use of the senses of vision, audition, olfaction, and palpation.
  • Communication

    A candidate must be able to elicit information from patients, describe changes in mood, activity and posture, and perceive and accurately report nonverbal communications. A candidate must be able to communicate effectively and sensitively with patients, their families and other health professionals. Communication incorporates not only speech, but also nonverbal communication, reading and writing. The candidate must be able to communicate effectively and efficiently, and in a timely manner with all members of the health care team in both immediate and recorded modes. The candidate must be able to receive and give feedback and criticism, handle conflict, and effectively communicate with socially and culturally diverse individuals and groups.
  • Kinesthetic/Motor

    Candidates should have sufficient motor function for palpation, auscultation, percussion, manual positioning of body segments and other evaluative procedures used to elicit information from patients. A candidate should be able to perform basic screening and examination (physiological measures such as heart rate and respiration), diagnostic procedures (palpation, manual muscle testing, goniometry, sensory evaluation, gait analysis, balance assessment, etc.), and evaluate EKGs and X-rays. A candidate should be able to reasonably execute motor movements required to provide general treatment of patients (including transfers), and provide general care and emergency treatment to patients. Examples of emergency treatment reasonably required of physical therapists are cardiopulmonary resuscitation and application of pressure to stop bleeding. Additionally, candidates must be able to perform debridement of wounds and other physical assessment maneuvers, where such actions require coordination of both gross and fine muscular movements, equilibrium and functional use of the senses of touch and vision.

Physical requirements for evaluative and treatment procedures in the classroom and clinic include but are not limited to:

  • functional range of motion of the spine, upper and lower extremities.
  • the ability to apply and receive adequate force for PNF and all grades of MMT including 5/5 testing for all major muscle groups
  • the ability to assist patients with physical activities including but not limited to bed mobility, transfers and ambulation from supervised to maximum assistance 
  • the ability to sit, stand, walk, bend squat consistently in order to safely administer manual therapy, therapeutic exercise and other treatment modalities 
  • the ability to transition from sitting on the floor to quadruped to half-kneel to standing to walking
  • the ability to assist another individual to transition from sitting on the floor to quadruped to a half-kneel to standing to walking 
  • the ability to push, pull, lift or carry 0-100 pounds on an intermittent basis
  • the ability to perform tasks requiring fine and gross manual dexterity for activities such as wound debridement, compression wrapping, wound dressing, and taping
  • the ability to perform physical tasks related to patient evaluation, examination and assessment 
  • the ability to physically position oneself in a classroom for multiple 50 minute class sessions daily
  • Cognitive: Conceptual-Intergrative and Quantitative Analysis

    Candidates must have sufficient cognitive abilities to perform conceptual-integrative and quantitative analysis. These abilities include measurement, calculation reasoning, analysis, synthesis, integration and retention of complex information. Additional abilities include recall of information, images and sensory feedback, assimilation of knowledge, and application of previously acquired knowledge or skills to new tasks or situations. Problem solving and clinical reasoning, the critical skills demanded of physical therapist practitioners, require all of these intellectual abilities Problem solving includes recognition of problems by collecting and interpreting information from a variety of sources and modalities, critical analysis of problems, generating a reasonable hypothesis, making and implementing choices and decisions based on the hypothesis, developing an appropriate action plan within the time and environmental constraints of the clinical environment, and evaluation of the effectiveness of the action plan. It also requires that the candidate be able to anticipate and accommodate for changes in a patient's behavior or environment in a timely manner. In addition the candidate should be able to comprehend three-dimensional relationships and understand the spatial relationships of structures.

Cognitive requirements for evaluative and treatment procedures in the classroom and clinic include but are not limited to:

  • the ability to answer questions logically 
  • the ability to understand technically complex information
  • the ability to discuss technically complex information in an open and constructive manner, accepting the possibility of multiple answers to a single question
  • the ability to focus and maintain 100% arousal state for 50 minute class sessions
  • the ability to recognize and determine how to remedy an unsafe treatment environment
  • the ability to cognitively participate in all classroom and clinic activities
  • Behavioral/Social Attitudes

    Candidates must possess the emotional health required for full use of their intellectual abilities, the exercise of good judgment, the prompt completion of all responsibilities attendant to the evaluation, diagnosis and care of patients, and the development of mature, sensitive and effective relationships with patients. Candidates must be able to tolerate physically taxing workloads and to function effectively under stress. The candidate must be able to effectively self-assess, adapt to changing environments (including multimodal input and stimulation), display flexibility and learn to function in the face of uncertainties inherent in the clinical environment and problems of many patients. Compassion, integrity, concern for others, interpersonal skills, interest and motivation are all personal qualities that are assessed during the admission and education process.


Participation in the classroom and clinic setting require appropriate and professional interactions with others including the ability to communicate and interact appropriately with all patients, students and teachers.