Essential Requirements of Physical Therapy Education At Elon University

Technical Standards for Admission

Technical standards, as distinguished from academic standards, refer to those physical, cognitive and behavioral abilities required for admission and satisfactory completion of all aspects of the curriculum, and the development of professional attributes required by the faculty of all students at graduation. The essential abilities required by the curriculum are in the following areas: intellectual, communication, observation, motor and the behavioral and social aspects of the performance of a physical therapist.


The student must have the ability to acquire and master information presented in course work in the form of lectures, written material, projected images and demonstrations.

The student must have the cognitive abilities necessary to master relevant content in basic and clinical science courses and clinical education experiences at a level deemed appropriate by the faculty. These skills may be described as the ability to comprehend, memorize, analyze and synthesize material. He/she must be able to discern and comprehend dimensional and spatial relationships of structures, and be able to develop reasoning and decision-making skills appropriate to the practice of physical therapy.

The student must have the aptitude to use computers and other technology for research, classroom assignments and clinical experiences (electronic medical records).


The student must be able to communicate effectively and efficiently in oral and written English with clients and family and other members of the health care team. The communication skills require the ability to assess all information, including nonverbal communication, with immediate assessment of information to allow for appropriate, well-focused follow-up. The student must be capable of responsive, empathetic listening in order to establish rapport in a way that promotes openness on issues of concern and sensitivity to potential cultural differences.

The student must have the ability to take, and document (written or electronically), an appropriate history, and perform a physical examination. Such tasks require the ability to communicate with the client and family. The student must be able to process and communicate information on the client’s status with accuracy, and in a timely manner, to physical therapist colleagues and other members of the health care team. This information needs to be communicated in a succinct, yet comprehensive manner, and in settings in which time is limited. The appropriate communication may also rely on the student's ability to make a correct judgment in seeking supervision and consultation in a timely manner.


Observation includes the use of vision, hearing, and somatic sensation. The student must be able to observe educational presentations including lectures, lab dissections and demonstrations. The student must be able to observe a patient accurately at a distance and closely. The student must also be capable of perceiving and interpreting the signs of disease and impairments through direct hands-on performance and observation of the physical examination including but not limited to observation and palpation of the body surfaces, palpable changes in various organs and tissues, and auditory information (such as patient voice, lung and heart sounds).


A major component of the practice of physical therapy is the assessment and management of movement disorders. Therefore, the student must have fine and gross motor ability to safely evaluate and provide therapeutic and emergency care to a patient; for example: move a patient’s limbs to assess range of motion or strength, position a large or immobile patient, transfer a patient from a bed to chair, physically guard and provide assistance to a patient while walking, apply mobilization techniques, manipulate health care tools (sphygmomanometer), provide CPR. Additionally, the student must be able to ensure the physical safety of the patient, self and co-workers at all times.


The student must possess attributes which include: altruism, accountability, compassion/caring, excellence, integrity, professional duty, and social responsibility. He/she must have the emotional stability to function effectively under stress and to adapt to an environment which may change rapidly without warning and/or in unpredictable ways. The student must have the interpersonal skills to positively and professionally interact with patients, family members, and other health care providers with diverse backgrounds. 

These essential functions of physical therapy education identify the requirements for admission, retention and graduation of applicants and students respectively at the Elon University Department of Physical Therapy Education. Graduates are expected to be qualified to enter the field of physical therapy. It is the responsibility of the student with disabilities to request those accommodations that he/she feels is reasonable and is needed to execute the essential requirements described. Students who indicate they cannot meet any of these essential requirements will be reviewed by Elon University to determine what, if any, accommodations might be reasonable if admitted to the program.

The Department of Physical Therapy Education, as part of Elon University, is committed to the principle of equal opportunity. The department does not discriminate on the basis of age, race, color, creed, sex, national or ethnic origin, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or veteran's status. When requested, the college will provide reasonable special services and accommodations to otherwise qualified students with documented disabilities.