DPT Program Technical Standards


The School of Health Professions at Stony Brook University offers a three-year graduate program in physical therapy leading to a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree. The curriculum sequences didactic and clinical experiences to develop cognitive, affective and psychomotor skills required to effectively provide physical therapy. To this end, all courses in the curriculum must be completed successfully. In order to successfully complete the required coursework and meet the program’s mission, applicants to the physical therapy program must have abilities and skills in five areas: observation, communication, sensory and motor coordination or function, intellectual-conceptual integrative and quantitative abilities, and behavioral attributes.

Stony Brook University (SBU) complies with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. If a prospective student who is otherwise qualified requires a reasonable accommodation, the student should contact Disability Support Services at SBU. Technical standards must be met with or without reasonable accommodations. A candidate must be able to perform in a reasonably independent manner. The use of a trained intermediary means that a candidate’s judgment must be mediated by someone else’s powers of selection and observation, and as such, is unacceptable.

Stony Brook University/SUNY is an affirmative action, equal opportunity educator and employer.

Behavioral Attributes

Students must possess personal behavioral attributes to effectively function as a health care provider. Empathy, integrity, honesty, concern for others, interpersonal skills, interest and motivation are all personal qualities that are required. Students must possess the emotional health required for full use of their intellectual abilities, exercise appropriate judgment, and complete all responsibilities related to patient care. At times, this requires the ability to be aware of and appropriately react to one’s own immediate emotional responses. For example, students must maintain a professional demeanor and organization in the face of long hours and personal fatigue, dissatisfied patients, and tired colleagues. Students must be able to develop professional relationships with patients, providing comfort and reassurance when appropriate while protecting patient confidentiality. Students must develop respect for individuals and cultural beliefs and practices even when these differ from their own. Students must be able to work in groups, adapt to changing environments, display flexibility, function effectively under stress and learn to function in the face of uncertainties inherent in clinical situations. Students are expected to self-assess, accept appropriate suggestions and criticism and, if necessary, respond by modification of behavior. 


Students must be able to relate effectively and sensitively with patients, conveying a sense of compassion and empathy. Communication includes oral and written domains including verbal and non-verbal skills as well as reading and writing. The physical therapy education program requires a challenging level of required reading in both volume and breadth and the need to share information formally and informally with others. Students must be able to communicate quickly, effectively and efficiently in oral and written English with all members of the faculty and health care team. Specific requirements include but are not limited to the following abilities: communicating rapidly and clearly with the medical team; obtaining and recording a thorough history from patients; and communicating complex medical findings in appropriate terms to patients, other team members and faculty. Students must learn to recognize and respond promptly to verbal and non-verbal expressions of emotion such as sadness, worry, agitation and confusion. Each student must be able to read and to record observations and plans legibly, efficiently and accurately in documents such as the patient record. Students must be able to prepare and communicate concise but complete summaries of individual encounters and complex, prolonged encounters such as hospitalizations. Students must be able to complete forms according to directions in a timely fashion.

Sensory and Motor Coordination or Function

Students must have sufficient sensory and motor function to perform a physical examination utilizing palpation, compression, retraction, resistance, auscultation, percussion, and other diagnostic maneuvers. In general, this requires the ability to sense touch, pain, temperature, position, pressure, movement, shape, and vibration. A student should be able to execute motor movements required to provide general care. Specific requirements include but are not limited to the following abilities: assisting a patient to move from one position to another; guarding a patient while walking on level and uneven ground, ramps and during stair climbing; providing appropriate resistance to all parts of the body; and mobilizing joints of the body. A student must be able to provide emergency care to patients. They must be able to measure blood pressure and pulse efficiently and accurately. Students must respond promptly to urgencies within the classroom, hospital or clinic, and must not hinder the ability of co-workers. A student needs to be able to measure angles and diameters of various body structures using a goniometer and a tape measure. Students must possess adequate strength and endurance to tolerate physically demanding workloads sustained over the course of a typical work or school day.

Intellectual-Conceptual Integrative and Quantitative Abilities

Students must have the cognitive abilities necessary to recognize, gather and process data from a variety of sources. These abilities include numerical recognition, measurement, calculation, reasoning, analysis, judgment, and synthesis. Problem solving, a critical skill of physical therapists, requires all of these intellectual abilities, and must be performed quickly, especially in emergency situations. Students must identify significant findings from history, physical examination, and laboratory data. Students must use this data to formulate an appropriate intervention using new information from peers, faculty and appropriate literature.


Students must be able to observe demonstrations and conduct experiments in the basic sciences and clinical sciences. A student must be able to observe a patient accurately at a distance and close at hand, noting nonverbal as well as verbal cues. Specific vision-related requirements include, but are not limited to the following skills: reading written and illustrated material; viewing of supplemental media in the classroom including projected slides, overhead material and video; viewing and discriminating findings on x-rays and other imaging tests; discriminating numbers and patterns associated with diagnostic instruments and tests, such as electrocardiographs, electromyographs, goniometers, hand-held dynamometers and force platforms in both hardcopy print and computer monitor formats; and observing and differentiating changes in postural alignment and body movement.