Skip to main content

Technical Standards

The Doctor of Physical Therapy education program in the Department of Physical Therapy & Human Movement Sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine prepares physical therapists to serve as generalist practitioners. In order to function as a physical therapist with generalist skills in a variety of clinical, classroom and community situations, an individual must have abilities and skills in the areas listed below. Also inherent in performance expectations is providing services in a timeframe appropriate to the context of care.

Overall, the purpose of technical standards is to delineate the skills deemed essential for continuation in and completion of the educational program. Technical standards are necessary to identify and communicate specific expectations for student performance in the academic and clinical environments. Reflected in the standards are those behaviors, knowledge and skills that degree candidates must possess to engage safely and competently in required learning activities and in clinical practice to ensure the well-being of the patient/client, self and others.

 Behavior, Social Skills and Professionalism

  • Practice in a manner that ensures the safety of the patient/client, self and others.
  • Practice in an ethical, legal and responsible manner.
  • Identify, acknowledge and accept responsibility for actions and report errors.
  • Establish professional relationships, based on mutual trust, with individuals from a variety of backgrounds, ages and needs.
  • Recognize the psychosocial impact of dysfunction and disability and integrate the needs, including cultural needs, of the patient/client, family, significant other and caregiver into the plan of care.
  • Self-assess performance and implement plans for professional growth and development.
  • Consistently demonstrate professional behaviors in interactions with patients/clients, families, caregivers, healthcare providers, students, faculty, consumers and payers.
  • Demonstrate the ability to cope and adjust to recurrent stresses, which are inherent in clinical practice.


  • Demonstrate expressive and receptive communication skills (verbal, nonverbal and written) that meet the needs of the target audience (students, faculty, patients/clients, families, caregivers, practitioners, community members, payers and policymakers).
  • Appropriately document the delivery of physical therapy services.

 Cognitive/Integrative Abilities

  • Demonstrate the ability to problem solve, analyze and synthesize information and apply principles of logic and scientific inquiry to the practice of physical therapy.
  • Select appropriate physical therapy examination procedures and synthesize findings to formulate an appropriate physical therapy evaluation.
  • Establish a working physical therapy diagnosis, formulate a prognosis and select appropriate interventions for individuals with an actual or potential movement dysfunction to achieve desired outcomes.
  • Recognize and respond appropriately in emergency situations.


  • Accurately perform physical therapy examination techniques.
  • Demonstrate the strength, mobility, balance, fine motor coordination, endurance, perceptual and sensory capabilities sufficient to provide physical therapy to any adult or pediatric patient/client, including heavy or immobile patients/clients. If a student has a documented disability and is unable to directly provide safe and effective care, they must demonstrate the ability to manage patient/client care with the assistance of approved reasonable accommodations.


It is university policy to ensure that no qualified student with a disability is denied the benefits of, excluded from participation or otherwise subjected to discrimination in any university program or activity. In response to a request made by a qualified student with a documented disability, the university will arrange, at no cost to the student, for the provision of reasonable academic and programmatic accommodations and supports that are determined by the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities to be necessary to afford the student with the opportunity for full participation in university programs.

If any student needs assistance with regards to any disability, the student must register with AccessibleNU to seek the appropriate accommodations. The Chicago campus AccessibleNU office can be reached at 312-503-4042 or

Follow PTHMS on FacebookInstagramYouTubeLinkedIn