Physical Therapy Technical Standards

Doctor of Physical Therapy Program Technical Standards

Samuel Merritt University affirms the established policy to conduct its educational program without discrimination by reason of sex, age, race, color, ethnic or national origin, disability or handicap, religion, marital status, sexual orientation, or status as a veteran in the administration of employment, admission, financial aid, or educational programs.  Nondiscrimination is consonant with the principles and practices of the University and is required by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Titles I and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 as Amended in 2008, and by various other federal, state, and local statutes and regulations. 

Based on the philosophy of the Department of Physical Therapy at Samuel Merritt University, the intent of the professional program is to educate competent generalist physical therapists who can evaluate, manage, and treat the general population of acute and rehabilitation clients in current health care settings.  Enrolled students are expected to complete the academic and clinical requirements of the professional DPT program.  The purpose of this document is to delineate cognitive, affective and psychomotor skills deemed essential to completion of this program and to perform as a competent generalist physical therapist.

The University successfully works with a number of students who need accommodations because of a disability.  Therefore, any student who believes that they may require accommodations in the educational program because of a disability is encouraged to contact the Director of Disability Support Services at 510-869-6616 or send an email to

If a student cannot demonstrate the following skills and abilities it is the responsibility of the student to request an appropriate accommodation. The University will provide reasonable accommodation as long as it does not fundamentally alter the nature of the program offered and does not impose an undue hardship such as those that cause a significant expense, difficulty or are unduly disruptive to the educational process.

Cognitive Learning Skills

The student must demonstrate the ability to:

  1. Receive, interpret, remember, reproduce and use information in the cognitive, psychomotor, and affective domains of learning to solve problems, evaluate work, and generate new ways of processing or categorizing similar information as listed in course objectives.
  2. Perform a physical therapy examination of a patient’s posture and movement including analysis of physiological, biomechanical, behavioral, and environmental factors in a timely manner, consistent with the acceptable norms of clinical settings.
  3. Use examination data to formulate and execute a plan of physical therapy management in a timely manner, appropriate to the problems identified consistent with the acceptable norms of clinical settings.
  4. Reassess and revise plans as needed for effective and efficient management of physical therapy problems, in a timely manner and consistent with the acceptable norms of clinical settings.

Psychomotor Skills

The student must demonstrate the following skills:

  1. Sitting: Maintain upright posture.
  2. Standing: Maintain upright posture.
  3. Locomotion ability to:
    a. Get to lecture, lab and clinical locations, and move within rooms as needed for changing groups, partners and work stations.
    b. Physically maneuver in required clinical settings, to accomplish assigned tasks.
  4. Manual tasks:
    a. Maneuver another person’s body parts to effectively perform examination techniques.
    b. Manipulate common tools used for screening tests of the cranial nerves, sensation, range of motion, blood pressure, e.g., cotton balls, safety pins, goniometers, Q-tips, aesthesiometer, sphygmomanometer.
    c. Safely and effectively guide, facilitate, inhibit, and resist movement and motor patterns through physical facilitation and inhibition techniques (including ability to give time urgent verbal feedback).
    d. Manipulate another person’s body in transfers, gait, positioning, exercise, and mobilization techniques.
    e. Manipulate examination and treatment equipment and safely and accurately apply to clients.
    f. Manipulate bolsters, pillows, plinths, mats, gait assistive devices, and other supports or chairs to aid in positioning, moving, or treating a patient effectively.
    g. Competently perform and supervise cardiopulmonary resuscitation (C. P. R.) using guidelines issued by the American Heart Association.
  5. Small motor/hand skills:
    a. Legibly record/document examinations, patient care notes, referrals, etc. in standard medical charts in hospital/clinical settings in a timely manner and consistent with the acceptable norms of clinical settings.
    b. Legibly record thoughts for written assignments and tests.
    c. Sense changes in an individual’s muscle tone, skin quality, joint play, kinesthesia, and temperature to gather accurate examination information in a timely manner and sense that individual’s response to environmental changes and intervention.
    d. Safely apply and adjust therapeutic modalities.
    e. Safely and effectively position hands and apply mobilization techniques.
    f. Use a telephone.
  6. Visual acuity to:
    a. Receive visual information from clients, e.g., movement, posture, body mechanics, and gait necessary for comparison to normal standards for purposes of examination of movement dysfunctions.
    b. Receive visual information from treatment environment, e.g., dials on modalities and monitors, assistive devices, furniture, flooring, structures, etc.
  7. Communication:
    a. Effectively communicate to other students, teachers, patients, peers, staff and personnel to ask questions, explain conditions and procedures, teach home programs, and for safety in a timely manner and within the acceptable norms of academic and clinical settings.
    b. Receive and interpret written communications in both academic and clinical settings in a timely manner.
    c. Receive and send verbal communication in life threatening situations in a timely manner within the acceptable norms of clinical settings.
  8. Self care:
    a. Maintain general good health and self care in order not to jeopardize the health and safety of self and individuals with whom one interacts in the academic and clinical settings.
    b. Arrange transportation and living accommodations for/during off campus clinical assignments to foster timely reporting to the classroom and clinical center.

Affective Learning Skills

The student must be able to:

  1. Demonstrate appropriate affective behaviors and mental attitudes in order not to jeopardize the emotional, physical, mental, and behavioral safety of clients and other individuals with whom one interacts in the academic and clinical
    settings and to be in compliance with the ethical standards of the American Physical Therapy Association.
  2. Sustain the mental and emotional rigors of a demanding educational program in physical therapy that includes academic and clinical components that occur within set time constraints, and often concurrently.
  3. Acknowledge and respect individual values and opinions in order to foster harmonious working relationships with colleagues, peers, and patients/clients.