Essential Functions

Students enrolled in Pfeiffer University's Occupational Therapy Master’s program, preparing to become professionals in occupational therapy, are expected to have essential skills in addition to academic competence. These skills are related to one's ability to function as an occupational therapist and/or an occupational therapy student. While not all skills are needed across all settings, all are essential to occupational therapy practice in general. Thus, essential skills are the physical and mental abilities, skills, attitudes, and behaviors that make up the cognitive, psychomotor, and affective domains of occupational therapy practice.

The essential skills apply to classroom, laboratory, clinical/fieldwork, and professional work environments. They exist to ensure the public that the graduates of our program are prepared to become fully competent and caring occupational therapists. In order to be successful in our program, and as occupational therapy professionals, individuals must be able to demonstrate multiple skills and abilities that span the academic, motor, emotional, and social nature of our profession. Where appropriate, the individual must be able to perform all listed essential functions with or without reasonable accommodations.

Under the Americans with Disability Act, occupational therapy students with disabilities have the right to decide if and when they disclose their disability to the academic program and the fieldwork site. It is recommended that if you determine that you will need accommodations to fulfill the essential job functions in your fieldwork setting that this information be disclosed to the fieldwork site before you start your placement. Passing fieldwork level II is based on your ability to demonstrate entry-level competencies by the completion of the placement and you want to make sure that if accommodations are needed that they are reasonable and in place.   Make sure to discuss your decision to disclose with your academic fieldwork coordinator.

Observation Skills

Observation requires the functional use of vision, hearing, and somatic sensations to observe demonstrations, audio/visual materials, and participate in lecture and laboratory experiences as required by the curriculum, necessitating functional use of the senses. A student must have visual perception which includes depth and acuity. The student must be able to observe clients accurately during assessment and intervention, and be able to obtain an appropriate medical history directly from the client or guardian. A student must be able to observe a client accurately at a distance and close at hand, noting nonverbal, as well as verbal signals.

Communication Skills

Communication includes: speech, language, reading, writing and computer literacy. A student must be able to communicate effectively, sensitively, and convey a sense of compassion and empathy with clients to elicit information regarding mood and activities, as well as perceive non-verbal communications. The student must be able to communicate quickly, effectively and efficiently in oral and written English with all members of the team providing services. This includes the effective use of interpreter services for non-English speaking clients. A student must be able to complete forms according to directions in a complete and timely fashion. The student must also have the ability to use therapeutic communication, such as attending, clarifying, coaching, facilitating, and touching. These skills are expected to be performed in clinical, as well as in classroom and laboratory settings.

Motor/Psychomotor skills

A student must possess sufficient motor function to obtain information from the client examination through assessment and intervention. This information may be elicited through observation, palpation, and physical facilitation and inhibition. This includes verbal prompting and physical guidance to ensure the movement and safety of the client. A student must be able to motor plan and execute movements required to provide general and therapeutic care, including the positioning and transferring of clients, and the ability to sit or stand over extended time. The student must have the physical strength to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation and emergency treatment to clients. Motor and psychomotor skills require coordination of both gross and fine motor movement, equilibrium, and the integrated use of touch and vision. The student is required to have the manual dexterity, strength, and movement to perform tasks involving grasping, manipulating, pushing, pulling, holding, extending, rotation, and lifting.

Intellectual – Conceptual Integrative and Quantitative Analysis Abilities

To effectively solve problems, the student must be able to measure, calculate, reason, analyze, integrate and synthesize information in a timely fashion. For example, the student must be able to synthesize knowledge and integrate the relevant aspects of a client’s history, evaluation regarding the administration and interpretation of standardized and non-standardized assessment, and other relevant data. A student must be able to provide a reasoned explanation for likely therapy, recalling and retaining information in an efficient and timely manner. The ability to incorporate new information from peers, instructors, and professional literature in formulating evidenced-based treatment plans and interventions is essential to professional practice. The student must have the ability to use computers for searching, recording, storing, retrieving, and communicating information.

Behavioral/ Social Attributes and Professionalism

The student is expected to demonstrate attributes of empathy, integrity, concern for others, appropriate interpersonal skills, and motivation upon admission and throughout the program. The student must also possess the emotional well-being required for the full utilization of their intellectual abilities. The student is also expected to exercise good judgment for the prompt completion of all responsibilities inherent to diagnosis and assessment and intervention, and for the development of mature, sensitive, and effective relationships with clients. A student must be able to tolerate physically and mentally taxing workloads and function effectively under stress. The student must be able to adapt to a changing environment, display flexibility and learn to function in the face of uncertainties inherent in the clinical problems of clients. As a component of the student’s education, he or she must demonstrate ethical behavior at all times.

Specifically, students must be able to:

  1. Attend and participate in classes for 30 or more hours per week during each academic semester. Classes consist of a combination of lecture, discussion, laboratory, clinical activities, and various testing methods.
  2. Use auditory, tactile, and visual senses to receive classroom instruction and to evaluate and treat clients or patients.
  3. Read, write, speak, and understand English at a level consistent with successful course completion and development of positive client-therapist relationships.
  4. Complete readings, assignments, and other activities outside of class hours.
  5. Apply critical thinking processes to their work for courses and fieldwork.
  6. Exercise sound judgment in class and at fieldwork sites.
  7. Work effectively with instructors and peers in a variety of course and clinical assignments.
  8. Participate in fieldwork experiences which typically require students to be present up to 40 or more hours per week on a schedule that corresponds to the operating hours of the site.
  9. Independently gather decision-making pieces of information during client assessment activities in class or at the fieldwork site.
  10. Perform assessment and intervention activities in class or at the clinical setting.
  11. Sit for three to eight hours daily; stand for one to four hours continuously.
  12. Frequently lift weights less than 10 pounds and occasionally lift weights between 10 and 50 pounds.
  13. Occasionally carry up to 25 pounds while walking up to 50 feet.
  14. Frequently exert 75 pounds of push/pull forces to objects for up to 50 feet and occasionally exert 150 pounds of push/pull force for this distance.
  15. Frequently twist, bend, and stoop.
  16. Occasionally kneel, squat, crawl, climb stools, and reach above shoulder level.
  17. Frequently move from place to place and position to position at a speed that permits safe handling of classmates and clients.
  18. Frequently stand and walk while providing support to a classmate simulating a disability or while supporting a client or patient with a disability.
  19. Climb stairs and negotiate uneven terrain.
  20. Frequently use hands repetitively with a simple grasp and frequently use a firm grasp and manual dexterity skills.
  21. Frequently coordinate cognitive, visual/perceptual activities with sensorimotor activities.

Essential Tasks for Admission, Promotion and Graduation

The tasks listed below are essential for all students considering admittance to the OT Program, and through the duration of the program, to be recommended as a candidate for graduation. The ability to perform these tasks assists in ensuring a safe and effective classroom environment, and to protect students, clients, patients, and faculty. If a student is unable to comply with any of the following tasks, he or she should not enter the program. Failure to comply with the regulations listed below once admitted to the program may lead to dismissal.

Students must agree to:

  1. Follow safety procedures established for each class and clinic.
  2. Interact with others appropriately, and as needed, for productive classroom discussion, respectful interaction with classmates and faculty, and development of appropriate therapist-client relationships.
  3. Maintain personal appearance and hygiene conducive to classroom and clinical settings, including adhering to a professional dress code.
  4. Demonstrate appropriate health status prior to enrollment, with annual updates on some items; no active tuberculosis; rubella (German measles) and rubeola (measles) immunity; tetanus-diphtheria booster within 10 years of anticipated graduation; and hepatitis B vaccine series or written declination.
  5. Complete the OSHA-regulated Blood-borne Pathogen Exposure Training.
  6. Follow standards, policies, and procedures specified in the OT Program Student Handbook, in the Affiliation Agreement (contract between the university and clinical sites) and in the Handbook. The most recent copies of these documents are available for review.
  7. Complete required training and provide proof of completion to the academic fieldwork coordinator.