Careers & Education

Professionalism & Core Values

  • Applicants are expected to act professionally in all of their dealings with PTCAS and the physical therapist programs. Applicants are expected to properly follow instructions and meet deadlines. Responsibility, respect, good judgment, and cooperation are qualities valued by the physical therapy profession; applicants are expected to demonstrate these qualities beginning with the application process. Read the Applicant Responsibilities section.

    Core Values

    APTA has identified seven core values (.pdf) that define the critical elements of professionalism in physical therapy. These core values are listed below in alphabetical order with no preference or ranking given to these values. The seven values identified were of sufficient breadth and depth to incorporate the many values and attributes that are part of physical therapist professionalism.

    For each core value listed, the list that follows explicates these values by providing a core value definition and sample indicators (not exhaustive) that describe what the physical therapist would be doing in practice, education, and/or research if these core values were present.

    • Accountability
    • Altruism
    • Compassion/Caring
    • Excellence
    • Integrity
    • Professional Duty
    • Social Responsibility

    Accountability

    Accountability is active acceptance of the responsibility for the diverse roles, obligations, and actions of the physical therapist including self-regulation and other behaviors that positively influence patient/client outcomes, the profession and the health needs of society.

    1. Responding to patient's/client's goals and needs.
    2. Seeking and responding to feedback from multiple sources.
    3. Acknowledging and accepting consequences of his/her actions.
    4. Assuming responsibility for learning and change.
    5. Adhering to code of ethics, standards of practice, and policies/procedures that govern the conduct of professional activities.
    6. Communicating accurately to others (payers, patients/clients, other health care providers) about professional actions.
    7. Participating in the achievement of health goals of patients/clients and society.
    8. Seeking continuous improvement in quality of care.
    9. Maintaining membership in APTA and other organizations.
    10. Educating students in a manner that facilitates the pursuit of learning.

    Altruism

    Altruism is the primary regard for or devotion to the interest of patients/clients, thus assuming the fiduciary responsibility of placing the needs of the patient/client ahead of the physical therapist's self interest.

    1. Placing patient's/client’s needs above the physical therapists.
    2. Providing pro bono services.
    3. Providing physical therapy services to underserved and underrepresented populations.
    4. Providing patient/client services that go beyond expected standards of practice.
    5. Completing patient/client care and professional responsibility prior to personal needs.

    Compassion/Caring

    Compassion is the desire to identify with or sense something of another's experience; a precursor of caring. Caring is the concern, empathy, and consideration for the needs and values of others.

    1. Understanding the socio-cultural, psychological and economic influences on the individual's life in their environment.
    2. Understanding an individual's perspective.
    3. Being an advocate for patient's/client’s needs.
    4. Communicating effectively, both verbally and non-verbally, with others taking into consideration individual differences in learning styles, language, and cognitive abilities, etc.
    5. Designing patient/client programs/interventions that are congruent with patient/client needs.
    6. Empowering patients/clients to achieve the highest level of function possible and to exercise self-determination in their care.
    7. Focusing on achieving the greatest well-being and the highest potential for a patient/client.
    8. Recognizing and refraining from acting on one's social, cultural, gender, and sexual biases.
    9. Embracing the patient's/client’s emotional and psychological aspects of care.
    10. Attending to the patient's/client’s personal needs and comforts.
    11. Demonstrating respect for others and considers others as unique and of value.

    Excellence

    Excellence is physical therapy practice that consistently uses current knowledge and theory while understanding personal limits, integrates judgment and the patient/client perspective, embraces advancement, challenges mediocrity, and works toward development of new knowledge.

    1. Demonstrating investment in the profession of physical therapy.
    2. Internalizing the importance of using multiple sources of evidence to support professional practice and decisions.
    3. Participating in integrative and collaborative practice to promote high quality health and educational outcomes.
    4. Conveying intellectual humility in professional and interpersonal situations.
    5. Demonstrating high levels of knowledge and skill in all aspects of the profession.
    6. Using evidence consistently to support professional decisions.
    7. Demonstrating a tolerance for ambiguity.
    8. Pursuing new evidence to expand knowledge.
    9. Engaging in acquisition of new knowledge throughout one's professional career.
    10. Sharing one's knowledge with others.
    11. Contributing to the development and shaping of excellence in all professional roles.

    Integrity

    Steadfast adherence to high ethical principles or professional standards; truthfulness, fairness, doing what you say you will do, and "speaking forth" about why you do what you do.

    1. Abiding by the rules, regulations, and laws applicable to the profession.
    2. Adhering to the highest standards of the profession (practice, ethics, reimbursement, Institutional Review Board [IRB], honor code, etc).
    3. Articulating and internalizing stated ideals and professional values.
    4. Using power (including avoidance of use of unearned privilege) judiciously.
    5. Resolving dilemmas with respect to a consistent set of core values.
    6. Being trustworthy.
    7. Taking responsibility to be an integral part in the continuing management of patients/clients.
    8. Knowing one's limitations and acting accordingly.
    9. Confronting harassment and bias among ourselves and others.
    10. Recognizing the limits of one's expertise and making referrals appropriately.
    11. Choosing employment situations that are congruent with practice values and professional ethical standards.
    12. Acting on the basis of professional values even when the results of the behavior may place oneself at risk.

    Professional Duty

    Professional duty is the commitment to meeting one's obligations to provide effective physical therapy services to individual patients/clients, to serve the profession, and to positively influence the health of society.

    1. Demonstrating beneficence by providing "optimal care."
    2. Facilitating each individual’s achievement of goals for function, health, and wellness.
    3. Preserving the safety, security and confidentiality of individuals in all professional contexts.
    4. Involved in professional activities beyond the practice setting.
    5. Promoting the profession of physical therapy.
    6. Mentoring others to realize their potential.
    7. Taking pride in one’s profession.

    Social Responsibility

    Social responsibility is the promotion of a mutual trust between the profession and the larger public that necessitates responding to societal needs for health and wellness.

    1. Advocating for the health and wellness needs of society including access to health care and physical therapy services.
    2. Promoting cultural competence within the profession and the larger public.
    3. Promoting social policy that effect function, health, and wellness needs of patients/clients.
    4. Ensuring that existing social policy is in the best interest of the patient/client.
    5. Advocating for changes in laws, regulations, standards, and guidelines that affect physical therapist service provision.
    6. Promoting community volunteerism.
    7. Participating in political activism.
    8. Participating in achievement of societal health goals.
    9. Understanding of current community wide, nationwide and worldwide issues and how they impact society’s health and well-being and the delivery of physical therapy.
    10. Providing leadership in the community.
    11. Participating in collaborative relationships with other health practitioners and the public at large.
    12. Ensuring the blending of social justice and economic efficiency of services.

    References

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    2. American Physical Therapy Association. A Normative Model of Physical Therapist Professional Education: Version 2000. American Physical Therapy Association, Alexandria, VA; 2000.
    3. American Physical Therapy Association. Professionalism in Physical Therapy: Core Values. American Physical Therapy Association, Alexandria, VA; August 2003 (www.apta.org/documents/public/education/professionalism.pdf).
    4. Arnold, L. Assessing professional behavior: Yesterday, today and tomorrow. Acad Med. 2002;77(6): 502-515.
    5. Cary, JR, Ness, KK. Erosion of professional behaviors in physical therapist students. Journal of Physical Therapy Education. 2001;15(3):20-24.
    6. Cohen, CB, Wheeler, SE, Scott, DA and the Anglican Working Group in Bioethics. Walking a fine line: Physician inquiries into patient's religious and spiritual beliefs. Hastings Center Report 31.2001;5:29-39.
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    23. Mathews, Jane. Practice Issues in Physical Therapy: Current Patterns and Future Directions. Thorofare, NJ: Slack, 1989.
    24. May WW, Morgan BJ, Lemke JC, Karst GM, et al. Development of a model for ability-based assessment in physical therapy education: One program's experience. Journal of Physical Therapy Education, 1995, 9 (1):3-6.
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    27. Robins, LS, Braddock III, CH, Fryer-Edwards, KA. Using the American board of internal medicine's "elements of professionalism" for undergraduate ethics education. Acad Med. 2002;77(6):
    28. Sullivan, WM. What is left of professionalism after managed care? Hastings Center Report 29.1999;2:7-13.
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    30. Triezenberg, HL. Teaching ethics in physical therapy education: A Delphi study. Journal of Physical Therapy Education. 1997;11(2):16-22.
    31. Triezenberg, HL, McGrath, JH. The use of narrative in an applied ethics course for physical therapist students. Journal of Physical Therapy Education. 2001;15(3): 49-56.
    32. Weidman, JC, Twale, DJ, Elizabeth LS. Socialization of Graduate and Professional Students in Higher Education: A Perilous Passage? ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report Volume 28, Number 3. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass; 2001.
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