Essential Functions and Technical Standards

Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)

Information on the University’s Disabilities Support Services is set forth in the MCPHS University Catalog. If a student feels s/he may require special accommodations to perform any of the fundamental requirements of the curriculum, it is the student’s responsibility to contact the Assistant Dean for Academic Support Services as set forth in the MCPHS University Catalog.

Essential Functions

The practice of physical therapy includes the examination, diagnosis, and treatment of people with physical disabilities, movement dysfunction, and pain. Physical therapists must be prepared to conduct in a timely manner a relevant patient examination, evaluate the results of this examination and synthesize these data to establish an accurate diagnosis, prognosis and plan of care, implement an intervention and use the process of re-examination to assess patient outcomes. Physical therapists must also possess the skills necessary to determine when referral of the patient/client to another health care professional is appropriate. Physical therapists must provide evidence that the care that they provide is effective, often through the conduct of clinically based research.

DPT students must be able to complete the following:

  • Participation in all required aspects of classroom and laboratory activities.
  • Participation in all required aspects of clinical experience activities.
  • Effective communication with other students, instructors, assistive personnel, patients, family members, payers, and other health care professionals.
  • Maintenance of a safe environment for other individuals and for one’s self, including use of universal precautions.
  • Provision of emergency patient care, including, but not limited to, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
  • Completion of elements of patient/client management, including examination, evaluation of data, formulation of physical therapy diagnosis and prognosis, intervention, assessment of outcomes, and record keeping.
  • Completion of specific patient/client interventions and treatments, including patient and family education, application of modalities, therapeutic exercise, and functional training.

Clinical agencies may have additional or agency-specific technical standards, which take precedence over MCPHS University technical standards.

The Commission on Accreditation of Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) accredits professional physical therapy programs and requires that graduates of these programs be able to deliver entry-level clinical services. Graduates of entry-level programs are required to possess a broad base of knowledge and skills requisite for the practice of physical therapy. Physical therapists require the intellectual—communication, behavioral—social, observational, and motor abilities to meet the standard of practice.

Certain disabilities can interfere with a student’s ability to complete the program of study and acquire the essential functions necessary for the practice physical therapy. Reasonable accommodation can be made to compensate for some limitations. However, those that interfere with patient care, safety or require the use of an intermediary may be incompatible with independent professional practice.

Technical Standards


Intellectual skills include the abilities to recall and comprehend large amounts of didactic information and to apply this information to the examination, evaluation and management of routine and complex physical therapy problems. Effective communication skills enable the physical therapist to elicit appropriate information from patients and to effectively explain examination and treatment procedures.

Some of the skills an individual must be able to demonstrate include but are not limited to the ability to:

  • Communicate clearly and in a timely manner with patients, physicians, other health professionals, community or professional groups, and colleagues.
  • Report clearly, legibly, and in a timely manner through progress notes in patient charts, reports to physicians, insurance forms, and order forms.
  • Respond to such things as a patient calling from behind a curtain, warning calls from anyone, and machine alarms.
  • Participate in group meetings to deliver and receive information and to respond to questions from a variety of sources.


Students must demonstrate the ability to practice in a professional and ethical manner and possess the emotional stability to practice in a stressful work environment. Compassion, integrity, concern for others, interpersonal skills, cultural competence and motivation are all personal attributes associated with the practice of physical therapy.

Some of the skills an individual must be able to demonstrate include but are not limited to the ability to:

  • Recognize and respond appropriately to individuals of all ages, genders, races, socio- economic, religious, and cultural backgrounds.
  • Cope with the stress of heavy workloads, demanding patients, and life threatening clinical situations.
  • Recognize and respond appropriately to potentially hazardous situations.


Observation is one of the key tools that a physical therapist possesses. To gather data on patient/client condition and to appropriately manipulate machinery are critical to being an effective physical therapist. Some of the skills an individual must be able to demonstrate include but are not limited to the ability to:

  • Observe and interpret patient movement, skin condition, safety hazards, and changes in appearance.
  • Read and interpret equipment dials, assessment graphs, patient charts, professional literature, and notes from patients, physicians, and other health professionals.


The practice of physical therapy requires that the practitioner possess the ability to perform basic evaluative and therapeutic procedures that require specific physical skills and stamina (e.g. palpation, transfers, gait training). A therapist must be able to use vision and somatic sensation in the evaluation and treatment of patients. Some of the skills an individual must be able to demonstrate include but are not limited to the ability to:

  • Lift, carry, and push patients (150 lbs.) in bed or wheelchairs, heavy equipment, body parts, and patients transferring from bed to chair or mat or be able to instruct others in the activity including proper body mechanics.
  • Walk and balance well enough to help patients walk and transfer with or without equipment, and prevent injury to patient and self.
  • Palpate anatomical structures and handle injured body parts without causing injury to the subject.
  • Exhibit sufficient manual dexterity to manipulate very small equipment, provide support and resistance as needed through complex exercise movements, perform CPR, manipulate dials, and treat acutely ill patients without disturbing sensitive monitoring instruments and lines.
  • Provide for the patient’s safety and well-being in all therapeutic or transporting activities.