Physical therapy education requires that the accumulation of scientific knowledge be accompanied by the simultaneous acquisition of skills and professional attitudes and behavior. The clinical doctorate (DPT) degree, awarded by the University of Miami School of Medicine, Department of Physical Therapy at the completion of the student’s education process, certifies that the individual has acquired a broad base of knowledge and skills requisite for the practice of physical therapy. To this end, all courses in the curriculum must be completed successfully. In order to acquire the knowledge and skills to function in a broad variety of clinical situations and to render a wide spectrum of patient care, candidates for the DPT degree must have abilities and skills in five areas: observation; communication; motor; conceptual (integrative and quantitative); and behavioral/social. Technological compensation can be made for some disabilities in certain of these areas, but a candidate should be able to perform in a reasonably independent manner. The use of a trained intermediary means that a candidate’s judgement must be mediated by someone else’s power of selection and observation, and as such is unacceptable.
The candidate must be able to observe demonstrations and experiments in basic and applied sciences including, but not limited to human anatomy and physiology, neuroscience, as well as in didactic courses in physical therapy theory and practice for normal and pathologic states. A candidate must be able to observe a patient accurately at a distance and close at hand. Observation requires the use of common sense, as well as the functional use of the senses of vision, audition, olfaction, and palpation.
A candidate must be able to elicit information from patients, describe changes in mood, activity and posture, and perceive and accurately report nonverbal communications. A candidate must be able to communicate effectively and sensitively with patients and their families. Communication includes not only speech, but reading and writing. The candidate must be able to communicate effectively and efficiently with all members of the health care team in both immediate and recorded modes.
Candidates should have sufficient motor function to elicit information from patients by palpation, auscultation, percussion, manual positioning of body segments and other evaluative procedures. A candidate should be able to do basic screening and examination (physiological measures such as HR and respiration), diagnostic procedures (palpation, manual muscle testing, goniometry, sensory evaluation, gait analysis, balance assessment), and evaluate EKGs and X-rays. A candidate should be able to execute motor movements reasonably required to provide general care and emergency treatment to patients. Examples of emergency treatment reasonably required of physical therapists are cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and application of pressure to stop bleeding. Additionally, candidates must be able to perform debridement of wounds and other physical assessment maneuvers, where such actions require coordination of both gross and fine muscular movements, equilibrium and functional use of the senses of touch and vision.
Conceptual-Integrative and Quantitative Analysis
These abilities include measurement, calculation, reasoning, analysis, synthesis, and retention of complex information. Problem solving, the critical skill demanded of physical therapist practitioners, requires all of these intellectual abilities. In addition, the candidate should be able to comprehend three-dimensional relationships and to understand the spatial relationships of structures.
Candidates must possess the emotional health required for full use of their intellectual abilities, the exercise of good judgement, the prompt completion of all responsibilities attendant to the evaluation, diagnosis and care of patients, and the development of mature, sensitive and effective relationships with patients. Candidates must be able to tolerate physically-taxing workloads and to function effectively under stress. They must be able to adapt to changing environments, display flexibility and learn to function in the face of uncertainties inherent in the clinical problems of many patients. Compassion, integrity, concern for others, interpersonal skills, interest and motivation are all personal qualities that are assessed during the admissions and education process.