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Core Competencies for PTs and PTAs
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Core Competencies for Entry-Level Practice in Acute Care Physical Therapy

Acute care practice encompasses the knowledge and skills suitable to thoroughly examine and appropriately intervene with patients in medically compromised situations encountered in any acute care hospital environment across the lifespan, from children to adults. In the acute care environment, there is a need for all healthcare members to provide safe, efficient and effective care for their patients. Physical therapists (PTs) are essential members of the healthcare team, providing therapy in acute care settings and responsible for making high-level clinical decisions, in a rapid and dynamic environment, for the care of their patients.

To prepare future PTs for these environments, academic and clinical educators are tasked with teaching students as part of entry-level clinical practice on how to efficiently make complex decisions for any patient in the acute care environment with any diagnosis. While this task has previously been guided by core documents and literature, no single guiding document has existed. The Minimum Skills Task Force was convened in response to this need from acute care clinicians, educators, and – most importantly – patients receiving physical therapist services in the acute care environment. The focus of this task force was to create a guiding document to clarify to all stakeholders the unique and overlapping skills required for an entry-level clinician to be independent, safe and effective on day one of practice. The outcome of this task force is the “The Core Competencies for Entry-level Practice in Acute Care Physical Therapy,” which identifies the necessary knowledge, actions and behaviors that are required of a clinician in the acute care environment. 

Core Competencies for Entry-Level Physical Therapy Assistants in the Acute Care Setting

Acute care physical therapist assistants (PTAs) must possess the knowledge and skills suitable to thoroughly and appropriately provide physical therapy interventions according to a physical therapy plan of care (POC) under the direction and supervision of a physical therapist (PT) for patients in medically compromised situations across the lifespan in any acute care hospital environment. There is a need for all members of the interprofessional team to provide safe, efficient, and effective treatment for patients in acute care. PTAs are essential members of the interprofessional team, providing physical therapy interventions in acute care settings through implementation of a physical therapy POC. To prepare future PTAs for these environments, academic and clinical educators are tasked with teaching students how to adequately treat a patient with any diagnosis admitted to the acute care environment as part of entry-level clinical practice. The focus of the Academy of Acute Care Physical Therapy (AACPT) PTA Task Force was to clarify the necessary skills required for an entry-level PTA to be safe and effective on day one of employment. The outcome of this task force is the following document: “Core Competencies for the Entry-Level Physical Therapist Assistant in the Acute Care Setting.”

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