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Being a Student at the University of Saskatchewan

“The Mission of the University of Saskatchewan is to achieve excellence in the scholarly activities of teaching, discovering, preserving and applying knowledge. The pursuit of this Mission requires an adherence to high standards of honesty, integrity, diversity, equity, fairness, respect for human dignity, freedom of expression, opinion and belief, and the independence to engage in the open pursuit of knowledge. The achievement of the Mission of the University also requires a positive and productive living, working and learning environment characterized by an atmosphere of peace, civility, security and safety.” Every student of the University of Saskatchewan is obligated to adhere to the Standards of Student Conduct of the University of Saskatchewan (http://www.usask.ca/university_secretary/honesty/StudentNon-AcademicMisconduct.pdf)

Being a Master of Physical Therapy (M.P.T.) graduate student and a Physical Therapy Professional

Entry-level education in physical therapy includes the acquisition of a unique body of knowledge and skills, the application, analysis and integration of principles, and the acceptance of physical therapy professional behaviors and values. The role of the physical therapist is expanding within a changing healthcare system and graduates must be prepared for all responsibilities and privileges of autonomous practice.

Every Master of Physical Therapy student, when identified in association with the School of Physical Therapy, represents the School. Entrance into the University of Saskatchewan Master of Physical Therapy or other graduate program offered at the School of Physical Therapy indicates that you are prepared to assume the responsibilities of a graduate level student and a physical therapy professional. These responsibilities include a commitment to personal and professional growth and a willingness to accept responsibility for one’s professional and personal actions. Physical Therapy faculty are committed to the concept of graduate-level education, which includes the principles of adult learning, self-directed learning, and reflective practice. Within this context, the student holds the ultimate responsibility to determine the quality of his or her educational experience, and instructors serve as facilitators of the learning process.

Every physical therapist, when identified with this professional title, represents the profession. Physical therapists promote and adhere to a common set of values and an understanding of ethical conduct, either assumed or articulated. For example, “physical therapists shall conduct themselves in such a manner as to merit the respect of the society for the profession and its members.” (Saskatchewan College of Physical Therapists, Regulatory Bylaws, Bylaw XVI – Standards, Section 1 – Code of Ethics and Rules of Conduct #17). “Each physiotherapist (is) to act with integrity, accountability and judgment in the best interests of the client, society and the profession.” (Canadian Physiotherapy Association, Code of Ethics and Rules of Conduct, June 1989).

Professional behaviours and values are consistent with the Canadian Physiotherapy Association “Code of Ethics and Rules of Conduct,” are core elements in the effective and appropriate practice of all health care delivery, and form the basis for all interactions. Each graduate student is expected to demonstrate a commitment to learning and professional behaviors regardless of setting (academic or clinical) throughout the program.

Generic Abilities

Professional behaviors are dependent on a core set of generic abilities. Generic abilities are behaviors, attributes, or characteristics that are not explicitly part of a profession's core of knowledge and technical skills, but that are nevertheless required for successful professional practice. Generic abilities specific to the practice of physical therapy were originally identified by the faculty of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, have been validated and have been accepted as defining physical therapy professional behavior. Professional behaviors expected of M.P.T. students are exemplified by the following ten physical therapy specific generic abilities1

  1. 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.
  2. Communication - The ability to communicate effectively (i.e. verbal, non-verbal, reading, writing, and listening) for varied audiences and purposes
  3. Problem Solving – The ability to recognize and define problems, analyze data, develop and implement solutions, and evaluate outcomes.
  4. Interpersonal Skills – The ability to interact effectively with patients, families, colleagues, other health care professionals, and the community in a culturally aware manner.
  5. 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.
  6. Professionalism – The ability to exhibit appropriate professional conduct and to represent the profession effectively while promoting the growth/development of the Physical Therapy profession.
  7. 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.
  8. Effective Use of Time and Resources – The ability to manage time and resources effectively to obtain the maximum possible benefit.
  9. Stress Management – The ability to identify sources of stress and to develop and implement effective coping behaviors; this applies for interactions for: self, patient/clients and their families, members of the health care team and in work/life scenarios. 
  10. Commitment 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. 

Steps in the Process

The U of S School of Physical Therapy faculty considers professional development to be just as crucial a component of a student's physical therapy education as his or her academic knowledge base and psychomotor skills. The process of becoming socialized into a profession and the internalization of professional behaviours requires hard work and develops over time.

In order to assist students develop and evaluate professional behaviors, the physical therapy program has instituted a systematic approach that assumes general stages of learning, in which the student reaches progressively higher levels of development: a beginning level, a developing level, an entry level, and post-entry level (May et al., 1995). When the entry level has been reached, the student is ready to function independently as a physical therapist; in other words, the student is ready to graduate. 

Each student will be expected to complete a self-evaluation based upon the ten generic abilities listed above and will review the evaluation with his or her faculty advisor. The evaluation will serve as a starting point for discussion of progress to date in the MPT program.

Generally students are expected to reach the beginning level of generic abilities by the end of Module II, the intermediate level by the end of Module VII, and the entry level by the end of Module X. 

Definitions of Behavioral Criteria Levels

  • 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

The steps in the process include:

  1. Expectations regarding professional development are explained to students early in the M.P.T. program (Professional Practice I).
  2. The student learns to assess whether they have achieved these expectations. At certain time points (above) students complete a self-evaluation and submit the evaluation to his or her faculty advisor. 
  3. The faculty advisor reviews each student's self-evaluation. The student and the faculty advisor meet to discuss the self-evaluation. If the self-evaluation is not considered reflection or representative of performance to date, the student will be required to redo the self-evaluation.
  4. If the student does not meet the required criteria by a particular time point, a plan of action is developed by the student and approved by the faculty advisor.

Successful completion of the above process will be required for promotion and advancement through the program. Because of the sequential structure of the curriculum, remediation of professional behavior may result in the student having to wait a full year before resuming coursework. The reason for this is, as noted above, graduation from the program implies that the student is prepared to function as an autonomous physical therapist and health care professional.

The Importance of Self-Evaluation

Self-evaluation is a skill of a reflective practitioner. Evaluation refers to a process of assessing performance related to set of specific criteria, in this case generic abilities. Evaluation is carried out by considering examples of how an individual demonstrates the particular ability in specific contexts, judging example behaviors against identified criteria for performance, and attempting to construct as full as possible a picture of a particular generic ability. 

The initial evaluation is completed by the student, and the faculty advisor will assist the student in this process through discussion and validation the self-evaluation carried out by the student. Thus, students learn to assess their performance according to established criteria.

1 Professional Behaviors were developed by Warren May, Laurie Kontney and Annette Iglarsh (2010) as an update to the Generic Abilities.