Essential Functions of a Physical Therapist

The Doctor of Physical Therapy Program at Lynchburg College, in compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, including changes made by the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act of 2008, does not discriminate against qualified individuals with disabilities.

Student physical therapists must be able to perform, with or without reasonable accommodations, each of the Essential Functions in order to effectively participate in our program and successfully fulfill the requirements of the professional curriculum.

An offer of admission may be withdrawn and or a student may be dismissed from the program if it becomes apparent that the student cannot complete the Essential Functions even with reasonable accommodation; the needed accommodations are not reasonable and would cause undue hardship to the College; or that fulfilling the functions would create a significant risk of harm to the health or safety of others.

Essential Functions are applicable in classroom, laboratories, and clinical settings. Lynchburg College Doctor of Physical Therapy Program uses independent clinical education sites that may or may not be able to offer the same reasonable accommodations that are made available by the College.

Individuals who have questions regarding reasonable accommodations should contact the Support Services Coordinator in the Academic and Career Services Center at 434.544.8419.

Essential Functions

All Essential Functions should be able to be completed in highly complex and distracting environments and within time frames consistent with current clinical practice.

Cognitive Functions (Knowledge)

  1. Comprehend, retain, recall, and apply complex information learned in required prerequisite courses to the program’s professional course work.
  2. Read, comprehend, integrate, critically analyze, interpret, and apply information from written materials, demonstrations, lectures, laboratory sessions, and research literature, and other pertinent sources to develop and support the rationale for appropriate patient examinations, evaluations, assessments, interventions, discharges, and or referrals.
  3. Collect, organize, prioritize and document information to make safe, appropriate and timely decisions regarding patient care for the purposes of examination, evaluation, assessment, intervention, discharge, and or referral for any patient.
  4. Demonstrate management skills including planning, organizing, supervising, and delegating.

Affective and Communication Functions (Professional Behaviors)

  1. Interact effectively and sensitively using appropriate verbal, nonverbal, and written communication skills with faculty, peers, other members of the health care team, and patients/clients, and caregivers.
  2. Read, write and interpret written and nonverbal communication at a competency level that allows one to safely function in classroom, laboratory, and clinical settings.
  3. Recognize the impact and influence of age, lifestyle, family or peer support, socioeconomic class, culture, beliefs, race, and abilities on faculty, peers, other members of the health care team, and patients/clients, and caregivers.
  4. Recognize the psychosocial impact of movement dysfunction and disability on the client and caregivers and integrate these needs into patient examinations, evaluations, assessments, interventions, discharges, and or referrals.
  5. Efficiently organize and prioritize multiple tasks, integrate and critically analyze information, and formulate applicable decisions.
  6. Practice in a safe, ethical, and legal manner, following guidelines for standard practice as established by federal, state, and local law, the College, clinical facilities, the APTA, and related professional organizations.
  7. Accept personal responsibility for all actions, reactions, and inactions.
  8. Demonstrate responsibility for self-assessment, professional growth and development.
  9. Effectively and consistently manage personal stress and appropriately respond to the stress of others.
  10. Speak and write effectively in English to convey information to other individuals and groups.

Psychomotor Functions (Skill)

  1. Possess sufficient mental and physical stamina, postural and neuromuscular control, and eye-hand coordination for extended periods of time in order to perform patient care tasks in a manner that does not compromise patient or therapist safety.
  2. Safely, reliably, and efficiently perform required physical therapy examination and intervention procedures to evaluate and treat the functional skills & limitations and gross motor system of patients across the lifespan. These include but are not limited to:
    • Cognitive, mental, emotional status
    • Cardiopulmonary status
    • Segmental length, girth, volume
    • Skin integrity & wound care
    • Sensation
    • Strength
    • Joint mobility, motion and play
    • Muscle tone and reflexes
    • Coordination & balance
    • Development skills & movement patterns
    • Functional abilities
    • Posture & gait
    • Endurance
    • Pain
    • Therapeutic exercises
    • Prosthetics & orthotics
    • Adaptive devices & assistive technology
  3. Demonstrate the ability to perform CPR and emergency first aid.
  4. Safely and reliably read meters, dials, printouts, and goniometers.
  5. Demonstrate the ability to manipulate and operate physical therapy equipment and monitoring devices.
  6. React safely and appropriately in a timely manner to sudden or unexpected situations involving persons and or equipment.


  • American Physical Therapy Association. Minimum Required Skills of Physical Therapist Graduates at Entry Level. BOD G11-05-20-449.
  • American Physical Therapy Association. Guide to Physical Therapist Practice. Alexandria, Virginia, 2008.
  • AASIG Technical Standards, Essential Functions Document. Section on Education, September 1998.
  • Ingram, D. (1997). Opinions of Physical Therapy Program Directors on Essential Functions, Physical Therapy, 77(1).