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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
    1. effectively communicate the patient’s progress and mental/physical status to the PT
    2. effectively communicate directions to patients
    3. record accurate, legible progress notes in chart
    4. elicit accurate and pertinent health history/information from the client and chart
    5. accurately and efficiently follow directions
    6. give, receive, understand and be understood when engaged in relevant written and verbal English and nonverbal feedback
  2. Conceptual and Analytical Reasoning
    1. apply didactic knowledge effectively in the lab and clinical settings
    2. demonstrate the ability to analyze distinct situations and utilize critical thinking in the process of delivering safe and appropriate care to clients
    3. exercise good judgment in problem solving
  3. Social Skills
    1. perform effectively under stress
    2. display flexibility
    3. demonstrate compassion
    4. develop positive and effective relationships with clients, staff, peers and families
    5. willingly accept constructive criticism and modify behavior appropriately
    6. provide care in a variety of settings to individuals and families without regard to race, creed, color, national origin, gender, age or disability
  4. Physical Strength
    1. physically lift an adult in a pivot transfer
    2. demonstrate a two-man lift with an adult
    3. carry out emergency procedures such as patient evacuation and CPR
    4. stand and walk for extended periods of time, and be able to work a 40 hour week
  5. Bilateral Dexterity
    1. carry out stretching exercises, range of motion and exercise programs such as PNF techniques
    2. adjust crutches/canes and walkers
    3. carry out manual massage and bandaging techniques
    4. set up exercise machines such as traction, Cybex, mechanical lifts, electrical modalities
  6. Unilateral Dexterity
    1. adjust and fine tune controls on electrical and heat modalities
    2. demonstrate fine motor skills such as activities of daily living and exercise to patients
  7. Balance
    1. maintain balance during guarding of unstable patients on flat surfaces, inclines or stairs
    2. maintain balance during lifting, transferring and guarding of unstable patients
  8. Observational and Sensory Skills
    1. assess pertinent body systems including inspection of skin, color, odor; take accurate vital signs (respiration, blood pressure, temperature, pulse and oximetry); and assess motor function of the client
    2. detect and interpret calibrations on modalities, sphygmomanometers, computers, and measurement instruments (goniometers, dynamometers)
    3. interpret and respond appropriately to equipment used to monitor patients
    4. judge distance, surface and depth changes for ambulating patients on all surfaces
    5. recognize patient call systems, including timers and emergency signals
    6. touch and be touched by other students, therapists and patients (e.g. palpation, massage)