Technical Standards for Students in Occupational Therapy

The goal of the University of Tennessee, Health Science Center, College of Health Professions (COHP) is to prepare students for the practice of the professions of cytotechnology, dental hygiene, health information management, medical technology, occupational therapy, and physical therapy. This includes undergraduate education and graduate education, where applicable. Modern health professions education requires that the accumulation of scientific knowledge be accompanied by the simultaneous acquisition and essential skills, functions and professional attitudes and behavior. The faculty of the College of Health Professions have a responsibility to graduate the best possible practitioners and graduate students; therefore, admission to educational programs in the College is offered only to those who present the highest qualifications for education and training in the art and science of the respective health professions.

Applicants to programs of the College must possess the following general qualities: critical thinking, sound judgment, emotional stability and maturity, empathy, physical and mental stamina, and the ability to learn and function in a wide variety of didactic and clinical settings. Graduates of the College must have the minimal skills, essential functions and knowledge to function in a broad variety of clinical settings, while rendering a wide spectrum of healthcare services.

The faculty of the COHP have a responsibility for the welfare of the patients treated or otherwise affected by students enrolled in the College as well as for the educational welfare of its students relative to the educational programs of the College. In order to fulfill this responsibility the Committees on Admissions for the various professional programs of the College maintain that certain minimal technical standards must be present in applicants to the various educational programs of the College. Candidates for the bachelor or science degree, as well as those enrolled in any graduate education programs of the College, must have the following essentials: motor skills; sensory/observational skills; communication skills, intellectual-conceptual, integrative, and quantitative abilities; and behavioral/social skills and professionalism.

The Committees on Admissions, in accordance with Section 504 of the 1973 Vocational Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (PL101-336) have established the aforementioned essential functions of the students in the educational programs offered by the COHP.

These Committees on Admissions will consider for admission applicants who demonstrate the ability to perform, or to learn to perform, the essential skills listed in this document. The College must ensure that patients are not placed in jeopardy by students with impaired intellectual, physical or emotional functions. Students will be judged not only on their scholastic accomplishments, but also on their physical and emotional capacities to meet the full requirements of the College’s curricula and to graduate as skilled and effective practitioners.

The essential abilities listed in this document can be accomplished through direct student response, the use of prosthetic or orthotic devices, or through personal assistance, e.g., readers, signers, note-takers. The responsibility for the purchase of prosthetic or orthotic devices serving a student in meeting the abilities noted remains with the student and/or agency supporting the student. The College will assist with this accomplishment, as required by law and institutional policy.

Upon admission, a student who discloses a properly certified disability will receive reasonable accommodation but must be able to perform the essential functions of the curriculum and meet the standards described herein for the program in which the student is enrolled. Possible accommodations include opportunities for individual and group counseling, peer counseling, linkages with community services, faculty advisory committees whose members are aware of disabled students and their needs, career counseling, assistance with job searches and interview skills, and extended test taking time, if and when appropriate. Students seeking accommodations should initiate their request in the Office of the Dean, COHP at 930 Madison Ave., 6th Floor or the Office of Students with Disabilities, Student Academic Support Services at 8 S. Dunlap, Room BB9, General Education Building.

Additional Standards For Occupational Therapy Students

In addition to the general standards described above, each professional program requires additional specific standards as follows:

Motor Skills

Candidates for admission to Occupational Therapy must have sufficient motor function to elicit information from patients by palpation, auscultation, percussion, and other standardized and non-standardized evaluative procedures. Candidates must be able to execute motor movements reasonably required to provide general occupational therapy, including the occupational strength to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation, lift and transfer patients, and be able to stand/sit long periods of time.

Occupational therapy procedures require coordination of both gross and fine muscular movements, equilibrium, and functional use of the senses. For this reason, candidates for admission to occupational therapy must have manual dexterity including function of wrists, hands, fingers, and arms. Candidates must have the ability to engage in procedures involving grasping, manipulating, pushing, pulling, holding, extending, and rotation.

Sensory/Observational skills

Candidates must be able to observe demonstrations and participate in laboratory experiments as required by the curriculum. Candidates must be able to observe patients and be able to obtain an appropriate past and present history directly from the patient. Such observation necessitates the functional use of the senses and other sensory modalities. Candidates must have visual perception, which includes depth and acuity.

Communication Skills

Candidates must be able to communicate in English effectively and sensitively with patients. In addition, candidates must be able to communicate in English in oral and written form with faculty, COHP personnel, and peers in the classroom, laboratory, and clinical settings. Such communication skills include not only speech, but also reading and writing. Candidates must be able to acquire information developed through classroom instruction, clinical experiences, independent learning, and consultation. Candidates must have the ability to complete reading assignments and search and evaluate the literature. Candidates must be able to complete written assignments and maintain written records. Candidates must have the ability to complete assessment exercises. Candidates must also have the ability to use therapeutic communication, such as attending, clarifying, coaching, facilitating, and touching. These skills must be performed in clinical settings, as well as the didactic and laboratory environments.

Intellectual/Conceptual, Integrative, and Qualitative Skills:

Candidates must have the ability to measure, calculate, reason, analyze, and synthesize data. Problem solving and diagnosis, including obtaining, interpreting and documenting data are critical skills demanded of occupational therapists, which require all of these intellectual abilities. These skills allow students to make proper assessments, sound judgments, appropriately prioritize therapeutic interventions and measure and record patient care outcomes. Candidates must have the ability to use keyboards and accessories and computers for searching, recording, storing, and retrieving information. In addition, candidates must be able to comprehend three-dimensional relationships and understand the spatial relationships of anatomic structures.

Behavioral/Social Skills and Professionalism:

Candidates must demonstrate attributes of empathy, integrity, concern for others, interpersonal skills, interest, and motivation, as such qualities are assessed not only during the admissions process but throughout occupational therapy education. Candidates must possess the emotional well being required for use of their intellectual abilities, the exercise of care of patients, and the development of mature, sensitive, and effective relationships with patients. Candidates must be able to adapt to ever-changing environments, display flexibility, and learn to function in the face of uncertainties and stresses which are inherent in the educational process, as well as the clinical problems of many patients.

Candidates must have the ability to be assertive when required, delegate responsibilities when desirable, and function as part of a multidisciplinary treatment team. Such abilities require organizational skills necessary to meet deadlines and manage time.

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