The Doctor of Physical Therapy Program at Franklin Pierce University is committed to fostering professionalism in our students and graduates. To that end, we utilize this document throughout their academic and clinical education to serve as a framework for expected behaviors in the classroom and the clinic. We gratefully acknowledge the research team who updated the original study and granted permission to reprint the document below.

Background Information

In 1991 the faculty of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Physical Therapy Educational Program identified the original Physical Therapy - Specific Generic Abilities. Since that time these abilities have been used by academic programs to facilitate the development, measurement and assessment of professional behaviors of students during both the didactic and clinical phases of the programs of study.

Since the initial study was conducted, the profession of Physical Therapy and the curricula of the educational programs have undergone significant changes that mirror the changes in healthcare and the academy. These changes include managed care, expansion in the scope of physical therapist practice, increased patient direct access to physical therapists, evidenced-based practice, clinical specialization in physical therapy and the American Physical Therapy Association’s Vision 2020 supporting doctors of physical therapy.

Today’s physical therapy practitioner functions on a more autonomous level in the delivery of patient care which places a higher demand for professional development on the new graduates of the physical therapy educational programs.  Most recently (2008-2009), the research team of Warren May, PT, MPH, Laurie Kontney PT, DPT, MS and Z. Annette Iglarsh, PT, PhD, MBA completed a research project that built on the work of other researchers to analyze the PT-Specific Generic Abilities in relation to the changing landscape of physical therapist practice and in relation to generational differences of the “Millennial” or “Y” Generation (born 1980-2000).  These are the graduates of the classes of 2004 and beyond who will shape clinical practice in the 21st century.

The research project was twofold and consisted of 1) a research survey which identified and rank ordered professional behaviors expected of the newly licensed physical therapist upon employment (2008); and 2) 10 small work groups that took the 10 identified behaviors (statistically determined) and wrote/revised behavior definitions, behavioral criteria and placement within developmental levels (Beginning, Intermediate, Entry Level and Post Entry Level) (2009).  Interestingly the 10 statistically significant behaviors identified were identical to the original 10 Generic Abilities, however, the rank orders of the behaviors changed.  Participants in the research survey included Center Coordinators of Clinical Education (CCCE’s) and Clinical Instructors (CI’s) from all regions of the United States.  Participants in the small work groups included Directors of Clinical Education (DCE’s), Academic Faculty, CCCE’s and CI’s from all regions of the United States.

This resulting document, Professional Behaviors, is the culmination of this research project.  The definitions of each professional behavior have been revised along with the behavioral criteria for each developmental level.  The ‘developing level’ was changed to the ‘intermediate level’ and the title of the document has been changed from Generic Abilities to Professional Behaviors.  The title of this important document was changed to differentiate it from the original Generic Abilities and to better reflect the intent of assessing professional behaviors deemed critical for professional growth and development in physical therapy education and practice.

Preamble

In addition to a core of cognitive knowledge and psychomotor skills, it has been recognized by educators and practicing professionals that a repertoire of behaviors is required for success in any given profession (Alverno College Faculty, Assessment at Alverno, 1979).  The identified repertoire of behaviors that constitute professional behavior reflect the values of any given profession and, at the same time, cross disciplinary lines (May et. al., 1991).  Visualizing cognitive knowledge, psychomotor skills and a repertoire of behaviors as the legs of a three-legged stool serves to emphasize the importance of each.  Remove one leg and the stool loses its stability and makes it very difficult to support professional growth, development, and ultimately, professional success. (May et. al., Opportunity Favors the Prepared:   A Guide to Facilitating the Development of Professional Behavior, 2002)

The intent of the Professional Behaviors Assessment Tool is to identify and describe the repertoire of professional behaviors deemed necessary for success in the practice of physical therapy.  This Professional Behaviors Assessment Tool is intended to represent and be applied to student growth and development in the classroom and the clinic.  It also contains behavioral criteria for the practicing clinician.  Each Professional Behavior is defined and then broken down into developmental levels with each level containing behavioral criteria that describe behaviors that represent possession of the Professional Behaviorthey represent.  Each developmental level builds on the previous level such that the tool represents growth over time in physical therapy education and practice. 

It is critical that students, academic and clinical faculty utilize the Professional Behaviors Assessment Tool in the context of physical therapy and not life experiences.  For example, a learner may possess strong communication skills in the context of student life and work situations, however, may be in the process of developing their physical therapy communication skills, those necessary to be successful as a professional in a greater health care context.  One does not necessarily translate to the other, and thus must be used in the appropriate context to be effective.

Opportunities to reflect on each Professional Behavior through self assessment, and through peer and instructor assessment is critical for progress toward entry level performance in the classroom and clinic.  A learner does not need to posses each behavioral criteria identified at each level within the tool, however, should demonstrate, and be able to provide examples of the majority in order to move from one level to the next.  Likewise, the behavioral criteria are examples of behaviors one might demonstrate, however are not exhaustive.  Academic and clinical facilities may decide to add or delete behavioral criteria based on the needs of their specific setting.  Formal opportunities to reflect and discuss with an academic and/or clinical instructor is key to the tool’s use, and ultimately professional growth of the learner.  The Professional Behaviors Assessment Tool allows the learner to build and strengthen their third leg with skills in the affective domain to augment the cognitive and psychomotor domains. 

Definitions of Behavioral Criterial Levels

Criteria Level  
Beginning Level behaviors consistent with a learner in the beginning of the professional phase of physical therapy education and before the first significant internship
Intermediate Level behaviors consistent with a learner after the first significant internship
Entry Level behaviors consistent with a learner who has completed all didactic work and is able to independently manage a caseload with consultation as needed from clinical instructors, co-workers and other health care professionals
Post-Entry Level behaviors consistent with an autonomous practitioner beyond entry level

Professional Behavior

Critical Thinking

The ability to question logically; identify, generate and evaluate elements of logical argument; recognize and differentiate facts, appropriate or faulty inferences, and assumptions; and distinguish relevant from irrelevant information.  The ability to appropriately utilize, analyze, and critically evaluate scientific evidence to develop a logical argument, and to identify and determine the impact of bias on the decision making process.

Beginning Level

  • Raises relevant questions
  • Considers all available information
  • Articulates ideas
  • Understands the scientific method
  • States the results of scientific literature but has not developed the consistent ability to critically appraise findings (i.e. methodology and conclusion)
  • Recognizes holes in knowledge base
  • Demonstrates acceptance of limited knowledge and experience 

Intermediate Level 

  • Feels challenged to examine ideas
  • Critically analyzes the literature and applies it to patient management
  • Utilizes didactic knowledge, research evidence, and clinical experience to formulate new ideas
  • Seeks alternative ideas
  • Formulates alternative hypotheses
  • Critiques hypotheses and ideas at a level consistent with knowledge base  
  • Acknowledges presence of contradictions

Entry Level 

  • Distinguishes relevant from irrelevant patient data
  • Readily formulates and critiques alternative hypotheses and ideas
  • Infers applicability of information across populations
  • Exhibits openness to contradictory ideas
  • Identifies appropriate measures and determines effectiveness of applied solutions efficiently
  • Justifies solutions selected

Post-Entry Level

  • Develops new knowledge through research, professional writing and/or professional presentations
  • Thoroughly critiques hypotheses and ideas often crossing disciplines in thought process
  • Weighs information value based on source and level of evidence
  • Identifies complex patterns of associations
  • Distinguishes when to think intuitively vs. analytically
  • Recognizes own biases and suspends judgmental thinking
  • Challenges others to think critically
 Communication

The ability to communicate effectively (i.e. verbal, non-verbal, reading, writing, and listening) for varied audiences and purposes.

Beginning Level

  • Demonstrates understanding of the English language (verbal and written):  uses correct grammar, accurate spelling and expression, legible handwriting
  • Recognizes impact of non-verbal communication in self and others
  • Recognizes the verbal and non-verbal characteristics that portray confidence
  • Utilizes electronic communication appropriately

Intermediate Level 

  • Utilizes and modifies communication (verbal, non-verbal, written and electronic) to meet the needs of different audiences
  • Restates, reflects and clarifies message(s)
  • Communicates collaboratively with both individuals and groups
  • Collects necessary information from all pertinent individuals in the patient/client management process
  • Provides effective education (verbal, non-verbal, written and electronic)

Entry Level

  • Demonstrates the ability to maintain appropriate control of the communication exchange with individuals and groups
  • Presents persuasive and explanatory verbal, written or electronic messages with logical organization and sequencing
  • Maintains open and constructive communication
  • Utilizes communication technology effectively and efficiently

Post Entry Level

  • Adapts messages to address needs, expectations, and prior knowledge of the audience to maximize learning
  • Effectively delivers messages capable of influencing patients, the community and society
  • Provides education locally, regionally and/or nationally
  • Mediates conflict

Problem Solving

The ability to recognize and define problems, analyze data, develop and implement solutions, and evaluate outcomes.

Beginning Level

  • Recognizes problems
  • States problems clearly
  • Describes known solutions to problems
  • Identifies resources needed to develop solutions
  • Uses technology to search for and locate resources
  • Identifies possible solutions and probable outcomes

Intermediate Level 

  • Prioritizes problems
  • Identifies contributors to problems
  • Consults with others to clarify problems
  • Appropriately seeks input or guidance
  • Prioritizes resources (analysis and critique of resources)
  • Considers consequences of possible solutions

Entry Level 

  • Independently locates, prioritizes and uses resources to solve problems
  • Accepts responsibility for implementing solutions
  • Implements solutions
  • Reassesses solutions
  • Evaluates outcomes
  • Modifies solutions based on the outcome and current evidence
  • Evaluates generalizability of current evidence to a particular problem

Post Entry Level 

  • Weighs advantages and disadvantages of a solution to a problem
  • Participates in outcome studies
  • Participates in formal quality assessment in work environment
  • Seeks solutions to community health-related problems
  • Considers second and third order effects of solutions chosen

Interpersonal Skills

The ability to interact effectively with patients, families, colleagues, other health care professionals, and the community in a culturally aware manner.

Beginning Level 

  • Maintains professional demeanor in all interactions
  • Demonstrates interest in patients as individuals
  • Communicates with others in a respectful and confident manner
  • Respects differences in personality, lifestyle and learning styles during interactions with all persons
  • Maintains confidentiality in all interactions
  • Recognizes the emotions and bias that one brings to all professional interactions

Intermediate Level 

  • Recognizes the non-verbal communication and emotions that others bring to professional interactions
  • Establishes trust
  • Seeks to gain input from others
  • Respects role of others
  • Accommodates differences in learning styles as appropriate

Entry Level 

  • Demonstrates active listening skills and reflects back to original concern to determine course of action
  • Responds effectively to unexpected situations
  • Demonstrates ability to build partnerships
  • Applies conflict management strategies when dealing with challenging interactions
  • Recognizes the impact of non-verbal communication and emotional responses during interactions and modifies own behaviors based on them

Post Entry Level 

  • Establishes mentor relationships
  • Recognizes the impact that non-verbal communication and the emotions of self and others have during interactions and demonstrates the ability to modify the behaviors of self and others during the interaction

Responsibility

The ability to be accountable for the outcomes of personal and professional actions and to follow through on commitments that encompass the profession within the scope of work, community and social responsibilities.

Beginning Level 

  • Demonstrates punctuality
  • Provides a safe and secure environment for patients
  • Assumes responsibility for actions
  • Follows through on commitments
  • Articulates limitations and readiness to learn
  • Abides by all policies of academic program and clinical facility

Intermediate Level 

  • Displays awareness of and sensitivity to diverse populations
  • Completes projects without prompting
  • Delegates tasks as needed
  • Collaborates with team members, patients and families
  • Provides evidence-based patient care

Entry Level 

  • Educates patients as consumers of health care services
  • Encourages patient accountability
  • Directs patients to other health care professionals as needed
  • Acts as a patient advocate
  • Promotes evidence-based practice in health care settings
  • Accepts responsibility for implementing solutions
  • Demonstrates accountability for all decisions and behaviors in academic and clinical settings

Post Entry Level 

  • Recognizes role as a leader
  • Encourages and displays leadership
  • Facilitates program development and modification
  • Promotes clinical training for students and coworkers
  • Monitors and adapts to changes in the health care system
  • Promotes service to the community

Professionalism

The ability to exhibit appropriate professional conduct and to represent the profession effectively while promoting the growth/development of the Physical Therapy profession.

Beginning Level 

  • Abides by all aspects of the academic program honor code and the APTA Code of Ethics
  • Demonstrates awareness of state licensure regulations
  • Projects professional image
  • Attends professional meetings
  • Demonstrates cultural/generational awareness, ethical values, respect, and continuous regard for all classmates, academic and clinical faculty/staff, patients, families, and other healthcare providers

Intermediate Level

  • Identifies positive professional role models within the academic and clinical settings
  • Acts on moral commitment during all academic and clinical activities
  • Identifies when the input of classmates, co-workers and other healthcare professionals will result in optimal outcome and acts accordingly to attain such input and share decision making
  • Discusses societal expectations of the profession

Entry Level 

  • Demonstrates understanding of scope of practice as evidenced by treatment of patients within scope of practice, referring to other healthcare professionals as necessary
  • Provides patient/family centered care at all times as evidenced by provision of patient/family education, seeking patient input and informed consent for all aspects of care and maintenance of patient dignity
  • Seeks excellence in professional practice by participation in professional organizations and attendance at sessions or participation in activities that further education/professional development
  • Utilizes evidence to guide clinical decision making and the provision of patient care, following guidelines for best practices
  • Discusses role of physical therapy within the healthcare system and in population health
  • Demonstrates leadership in collaboration with both individuals and groups

Post Entry Level 

  • Actively promotes and advocates for the profession
  • Pursues leadership roles
  • Supports research
  • Participates in program development
  • Participates in education of the community
  • Demonstrates the ability to practice effectively in multiple settings
  • Acts as a clinical instructor 
  • Advocates for the patient, the community and society

Use of Constructive Feedback

The ability to seek out and identify quality sources of feedback, reflect on and integrate the feedback, and provide meaningful feedback to others.

Beginning Level

  • Demonstrates active listening skills
  • Assesses own performance
  • Actively seeks feedback from appropriate sources
  • Demonstrates receptive behavior and positive attitude toward feedback
  • Incorporates specific feedback into behaviors
  • Maintains two-way communication without defensiveness

Intermediate Level 

  • Critiques own performance accurately
  • Responds effectively to constructive feedback
  • Utilizes feedback when establishing professional and patient related goals
  • Develops and implements a plan of action in response to feedback
  • Provides constructive and timely feedback

Entry Level 

  • Independently engages in a continual process of self evaluation of skills, knowledge and abilities
  • Seeks feedback from patients/clients and peers/mentors
  • Readily integrates feedback provided from a variety of sources to improve skills, knowledge and abilities
  • Uses multiple approaches when responding to feedback
  • Reconciles differences with sensitivity
  • Modifies feedback given to patients/clients according to their learning styles

Post Entry Level 

  • Engages in non-judgmental, constructive problem-solving discussions
  • Acts as conduit for feedback between multiple sources
  • Seeks feedback from a variety of sources to include students/supervisees/peers/supervisors/patients
  • Utilizes feedback when analyzing and updating  professional goals

Effective Use of Time and Resources

The ability to manage time and resources effectively to obtain the maximum possible benefit.

Beginning Level 

  • Comes prepared for the day’s activities/responsibilities
  • Identifies resource limitations (i.e. information, time, experience)
  • Determines when and how much help/assistance is needed
  • Accesses current evidence in a timely manner
  • Verbalizes productivity standards and identifies barriers to meeting productivity standards
  • Self-identifies and initiates learning opportunities during unscheduled time

Intermediate Level 

  • Utilizes effective methods of searching for evidence for practice decisions
  • Recognizes own resource contributions
  • Shares knowledge and collaborates with staff to utilize best current evidence
  • Discusses and implements strategies for meeting productivity standards
  • Identifies need for and seeks referrals to other disciplines

Entry Level 

  • Uses current best evidence
  • Collaborates with members of the team to maximize the impact of treatment available
  • Has the ability to set boundaries, negotiate, compromise, and set realistic expectations
  • Gathers data and effectively interprets and assimilates the data to determine plan of care
  • Utilizes community resources in discharge planning
  • Adjusts plans, schedule etc. as patient needs and circumstances dictate
  • Meets productivity standards of facility while providing quality care and completing non-productive work activities

Post Entry Level 

  • Advances profession by contributing to the body of knowledge (outcomes, case studies, etc)
  • Applies best evidence considering available resources and constraints
  • Organizes and prioritizes effectively
  • Prioritizes multiple demands and situations that arise on a given day
  • Mentors peers and supervisees in increasing productivity and/or effectiveness without decrement in quality of care

 

Stress Management

Mentors peers and supervisees in increasing productivity and/or effectiveness without decrement in quality of care

Beginning Level 

  • Comes prepared for the day’s activities/responsibilities
  • Identifies resource limitations (i.e. information, time, experience)
  • Determines when and how much help/assistance is needed
  • Accesses current evidence in a timely manner
  • Verbalizes productivity standards and identifies barriers to meeting productivity standards
  • Self-identifies and initiates learning opportunities during unscheduled time

Intermediate Level 

  • Utilizes effective methods of searching for evidence for practice decisions
  • Recognizes own resource contributions
  • Shares knowledge and collaborates with staff to utilize best current evidence
  • Discusses and implements strategies for meeting productivity standards
  • Identifies need for and seeks referrals to other disciplines

Entry Level 

  • Uses current best evidence
  • Collaborates with members of the team to maximize the impact of treatment available
  • Has the ability to set boundaries, negotiate, compromise, and set realistic expectations
  • Gathers data and effectively interprets and assimilates the data to determine plan of care
  • Utilizes community resources in discharge planning
  • Adjusts plans, schedule etc. as patient needs and circumstances dictate
  • Meets productivity standards of facility while providing quality care and completing non-productive work activities

Post Entry Level 

  • Advances profession by contributing to the body of knowledge (outcomes, case studies, etc)
  • Applies best evidence considering available resources and constraints
  • Organizes and prioritizes effectively
  • Prioritizes multiple demands and situations that arise on a given day

Committment to Learning

The ability to self direct learning to include the identification of needs and sources of learning; and to continually seek and apply new knowledge, behaviors, and skills.

Beginning Level 

  • Prioritizes information needs
  • Analyzes and subdivides large questions into components
  • Identifies own learning needs based on previous experiences
  • Welcomes and/or seeks new learning opportunities
  • Seeks out professional literature
  • Plans and presents an in-service, research or cases studies

Intermediate Level 

  • Researches and studies areas where own knowledge base is lacking in order to augment learning and practice
  • Applies new information and re-evaluates performance
  • Accepts that there may be more than one answer to a problem
  • Recognizes the need to and is able to verify solutions to problems
  • Reads articles critically and understands limits of application to professional practice

Entry Level 

  • Respectfully questions conventional wisdom
  • Formulates and re-evaluates position based on available evidence
  • Demonstrates confidence in sharing new knowledge with all staff levels
  • Modifies programs and treatments based on newly-learned skills and considerations
  • Consults with other health professionals and physical therapists for treatment ideas

Post Entry Level 

  • Acts as a mentor not only to other PT’s, but to other health professionals
  • Utilizes  mentors who have knowledge available to them
  • Continues to seek and review relevant literature
  • Works towards clinical specialty certifications
  • Seeks specialty training
  • Is committed to understanding the PT’s role in the health care environment today (i.e. wellness clinics, massage therapy, holistic medicine)
  • Pursues participation in clinical education as an educational opportunity