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Essential Skills

A candidate for a physical therapist assistant associate in applied science degree must have the abilities and skills necessary to complete the educational requirements as defined by the American Physical Therapy Association and the state regulatory agencies.  The following is a representative list of the essential skills, with or without appropriate accommodation, expected of students enrolled in the PTA program.

1.  Communication Skills  

  • effectively communicate the patient’s progress and mental/physical status to the PT
  • effectively communicate directions to patients
  • record accurate, legible progress notes in chart
  • elicit accurate and pertinent health history/information from the client and chart
  • accurately and efficiently follow directions
  • give, receive, understand and be understood when engaged in relevant written and verbal English and nonverbal feedback
  • effectively establish rapport and maintain professional relationships with clients/families and colleagues for optimum treatment effectiveness
  • ability to communicate and document effectively via computer
  • ability to hold and use a writing instrument for legible documentation
  • ability to recognize, interpret and respond to nonverbal behavior of self and others  

2.  Conceptual and Analytical Reasoning  

  • apply to collect, interpret and analyze didactic knowledge effectively in the lab and clinical settings
  • demonstrate the ability to analyze distinct situations and utilize critical thinking in the process of delivering safe and appropriate care to clients
  • exercise good judgment in problem solving
  • ability to prioritize multiple tasks, integrate information and make effective decisions
  • effectively manage time
  • ability to apply knowledge of the principles, indications and contraindications for physical therapy interventions, including those related to human pathology and disability, therapeutic modalities, massage, physical and functional measures, and therapeutic exercise
  • determine when assistance from the supervising physical therapist is needed      

3.  Social Skills, Responsibility & Behavior  

  • ability to work with lab partners, patients and their families, and others, and to  perform effectively under stress
  • display flexibility
  • demonstrate compassion
  • develop positive and effective relationships with clients, staff, peers and families
  • willingly accept constructive criticism and modify behavior appropriately
  • provide care in a variety of settings to individuals and families without regard to race, creed, color, national origin, religion, ancestry gender, age sexual orientation, or disability
  • ability to maintain personal hygiene consistent with the close personal contact associated with patient care
  • ability to foster cooperative and collegial relationships with classmates, instructors other health care providers, patients and their families
  • abide by the policies and procedures of the OCC PTA program as detailed in the PTA student handbook
  • ability to act safely and ethically in the physical therapy classroom, lab and clinical settings
  • ability to arrive to class/lab/clinical on time and prepared for the experience
  • actively participate in class/lab/clinical (work completed, awake and contributing to class)
  • if an absence is essential, then the student will call the professor prior to the start of the class, lab or clinical    

4.  Physical Strength  

  • physically lift an adult in a pivot transfer and demonstrate a two-man lift with an adult; guiding weights up to and including 50 pounds
  • ability to adjust and position equipment and patients, which involves bending or stooping freely to floor level and reaching above the head
  • carry out emergency procedures such as patient evacuation and administering CPR without assistance
  • coordination, speed and agility to stand, walk and safely assist and guard patients on level surfaces and stairs, for extended periods of time and be able to work an 8 hour day/40 hour week  

5.  Bilateral Dexterity  

  • carry out stretching exercises, range of motion and exercise programs such as PNF techniques
  • adjust crutches/canes and walkers
  • carry out manual massage and bandaging techniques
  • set up exercise machines such as traction, Cybex, mechanical lifts, electrical modalities        

6.  Unilateral Dexterity  

  • adjust and fine tune controls on electrical and heat modalities
  • demonstrate fine motor skills such as activities of daily living and exercise to patients  

7.  Balance  

  • maintain balance during guarding of unstable patients on flat surfaces, inclines or stairs
  • maintain balance during lifting transferring and guarding of unstable patients  

8.  Observational and Sensory Skills  

  • assess pertinent body systems including inspection of skin, color changes, odor; take accurate vital signs (respiration, blood pressure, temperature, pulse and oximetry); and assess motor function of the client
  • visual ability (corrected as necessary) detect and interpret calibrations on modalities, sphygmomanometers, computers, and measurement instruments (goniometers, dynamometers), recognize and interpret facial expressions and body language
  • interpret and respond appropriately to equipment used to monitor patients
  • judge distance, surface and depth changes for ambulating patients on all surfaces
  • auditory ability (correct as necessary) recognize patient call systems, including timers and emergency signals, respond to soft voices, and effectively use devices for measurement of blood pressure and breath sounds
  • tactile ability to palpate a pulse and detect changes or abnormalities of surface texture, skin temperature muscle tone and joint movement
  • touch and be touched by other students, therapists and patients (e.g. palpation, massage)