Essential Requirements of Physical Therapy Education At Elon University

Admission, Retention and Graduation Standards



The physical therapy degree is recognized as a broad undifferentiated degree requiring the acquisition of general knowledge and basic skills in all applicable domains of physical therapy. The education of a physical therapist requires assimilation of knowledge, acquisition of skills and development of judgement through patient care experience in preparation for independent and appropriate decisions required in practice. The current practice of physical therapy emphasizes collaboration among physical therapists, other health care professionals, the client and the client’s family.


Elon University, Department of Physical Therapy Education, endeavors to select applicants who have the ability to become highly competent physical therapists. The Elon curriculum in physical therapy adheres to the standards and guidelines of the Commission on Accreditation Physical Therapy Education of the American Physical Therapy Association. Within these guidelines, the Department of Physical Therapy Education has the freedom and ultimate responsibility for the selection and evaluation of its students; the design, implementation and evaluation of its curriculum; and the determination of who should be awarded a degree. Admission and retention decisions are based not only on prior satisfactory academic achievement but also on nonacademic factors, which serve to ensure that the candidate can complete the essential functions- admission, retention, graduation- of the academic program required for graduation.

The department has the responsibility to the public to assure that its graduates can become fully competent and caring physical therapists, capable of doing benefit and not harm. Thus, it is important that persons admitted possess the intelligence, integrity, compassion, humanitarian concern, and physical and emotional capacity necessary to practice physical therapy.

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.


Technical standards, as distinguished from academic standards, refer to those physical, cognitive and behavioral abilities required for 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: motor, sensory, communication, intellectual (conceptual, integrative, and quantitative abilities for problem solving and patient assessment), and the behavioral and social aspects of the performance of a physical therapist.

The Elon University Department of Physical Therapy curriculum requires essential abilities in information acquisition. The student must have the ability to master information presented in course work in the form of lectures, written material and projected images.

The student must have the cognitive abilities necessary to master relevant content in basic science and clinical science courses 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 ability to take, and document in a client’s record, an appropriate history, and perform a physical examination. Such tasks require the ability to communicate with the client and family. The student must also be capable of perceiving the signs of disease, especially neuromusculoskeletal dysfunction, as manifested through the physical examination. Such information is derived from 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).
The student must have the ability to discern skin, subcutaneous masses, muscles, bones, joints, lymph nodes and intra-abdominal organs (for example, liver and spleen). The student must be able to perceive the presence of abnormalities which are not within the musculoskeletal system, such as masses in the abdomen.

A major component of the practice of physical therapy is the assessment and management of movement disorders. Therefore, the student must have the ability, within reasonable limits, to safely assist a patient in moving, for example, from a chair to a bed or from a wheelchair to a commode. The student must also have the ability to move him/herself and the client in three-dimensional space in order to perform tests, measures and interventions. Additionally, the student must be able to ensure the physical safety of a client at all times.

The student must be able to communicate effectively with clients and family, physicians, and other members of the health care team. The communication skills require the ability to assess all information, including the recognition of the significance of nonverbal communication, and immediate assessment of information provided to allow for appropriate, well-focused follow-up inquiry. 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 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 then needs to be communicated in a succinct, yet comprehensive manner, and in settings in which time is limited. Written or dictated patient assessments, etc., must be complete and accurate. 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.

The student must be able to understand the basis and content of ethical physical therapy practice. He/she must possess attributes which include: compassion, empathy, altruism, integrity, responsibility and tolerance. 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.

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.