Professional Behaviors for the 21st Century

Doctor of Physical Therapy

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

Intermediate Level 

Entry Level 

Post-Entry Level

 Communication

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

Beginning Level

Intermediate Level 

Entry Level

Post Entry Level

Problem Solving

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

Beginning Level

Intermediate Level 

Entry Level 

Post Entry Level 

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 

Intermediate Level 

Entry Level 

Post Entry Level 

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 

Intermediate Level 

Entry Level 

Post Entry Level 

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 

Intermediate Level

Entry Level 

Post Entry Level 

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

Intermediate Level 

Entry Level 

Post Entry Level 

Effective Use of Time and Resources

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

Beginning Level 

Intermediate Level 

Entry Level 

Post Entry Level 

 

Stress Management

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

Beginning Level 

Intermediate Level 

Entry Level 

Post Entry Level 

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 

Intermediate Level 

Entry Level 

Post Entry Level