American Physical Therapy Association

Department of Physical Therapy Education

1111 North Fairfax Street

Alexandria, Virginia 22314

Copyright © 2013 American Physical Therapy Association.

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In 2000, the House of Delegates adopted Vision 2020 and the Strategic Plan for Transitioning to A Doctoring Profession (RC 37-01). The Plan includes six elements: Doctor of Physical Therapy, Evidenced-based Practice, Autonomous Practice, Direct Access, Practitioner of Choice, and Professionalism, and describes how these elements relate to and interface with the vision of a doctoring profession. In assisting the profession in its transition to a doctoring profession, it seemed that one of the initiatives that would be beneficial was to define and describe the concept of professionalism by explicitly articulating what the graduate of a physical therapist program ought to demonstrate with respect to professionalism. In addition, as a byproduct of this work, it was believed that practitioner behaviors could be articulated that would describe what the individual practitioner would be doing in their daily practice that would reflect professionalism.

As a part of the preparation for this consensus conference, relevant literature was reviewed to facilitate the development of the conference structure and consensus decision-making process. Literature in medicine3, 18, 19, 25, 27 reveals that this profession continues to be challenged to define professionalism, describe how it is taught, and determine how it can be measured in medical education. The groundwork and advances that medicine laid was most informative to the process and product from this conference. Physical therapy acknowledges and is thankful for medicine’s research efforts in professionalism and for their work that guided this conference’s structure and process.

Eighteen physical therapists, based on their expertise in physical therapist practice, education, and research, were invited to participate in a consensus-based conference convened by APTA’s Education Division on July 19-21, 2002. The conference was convened for the purpose of:

1) Developing a comprehensive consensus-based document on Professionalism that would be integrated into A Normative Model of Physical Therapist Professional Education, Version 2004 to include a) core values of the profession, b) indicators (judgments, decisions, attitudes, and behaviors) that are fully consistent with the core values, and c) a professional education matrix that includes educational outcomes, examples of Terminal Behavioral Objectives, and examples of Instructional Objectives for the classroom and for clinical practice.

2) Developing outcome strategies for the promotion and implementation of the supplement content in education and, where feasible, with practice in ways that are consistent with physical therapy as a doctoring profession.

The documentation developed as a result of this conference is currently being integrated into the next version of A Normative Model of Physical Therapist Professional Education: Version 2004. The table that follows is a synopsis of a portion of the conference documentation that describes what the physical therapist would be doing in his or her practice that would give evidence of professionalism.

In August 2003, Professionalism in Physical Therapy: Core Values was reviewed by the APTA Board of Directors and adopted as a core document on professionalism in physical therapy practice, education, and research. (V-10; 8/03)

We wish to gratefully acknowledge the efforts of those participants who gave their time and energies to this challenging initiative; a first step in clearly articulating for the physical therapist what are the core values that define professionalism and how that concept would translate into professional education.


The Self-Assessment that follows is intended for the user to develop an awareness about the core values and to self-assess the frequency with which he or she demonstrates the seven core values based on sample indicators (behaviors not intended to be an exhaustive list) that describe what the practitioner would be doing in daily practice. These seven core values were identified during the consensus-based conference that further defined the critical elements that comprise professionalism. Core values are listed in alphabetical order with no preference or ranking given to these values. During the conference many important values were identified as part of professionalism in physical therapy, however not all were determined to be core (at the very essence; essential) of professionalism and unique to physical therapy. The seven values identified were of sufficient breadth and depth to incorporate the many values and attributes that are part of professionalism.

For each identified core value, (ie, accountability, altruism, compassion/caring, excellence, integrity, professional duty, and

social responsibility) a definition and sample indicators (not intended to be exhaustive) are provided that describe what the physical therapist would be doing in practice, education, and/or research if these core values were present.

Complete the Self-Assessment

Review each core value indicator and check the frequency with which you display that sample indicator in your daily practice based on the rating scale provided (1-5). It is not expected that one will rate himself or herself as 5 (always) or 1 (never) on every item. Be candid in your response as this is a self-assessment process with an opportunity for personal learning and insight, identification of areas of strength and growth, and assessment of your development in the professionalism maturation process.

Analyze the Completed Self-Assessment

Once you have completed the Self-Assessment, you may want to reflect as an individual or group on the following questions:

· On what sample indicators did you or the group consistently score yourself/themselves on the scale at the 4 or 5 levels?

· Why did you or the group rate yourself/themselves higher in frequency for demonstrating these sample behaviors?

· On what sample indicators did you or the group score yourself/themselves on the scale at level 3 or below?

· Why did you or the group rate yourself/themselves lower in frequency for demonstrating these sample behaviors?

· Identify, develop, and implement approaches to strengthening the integration of the core values within your practice environment.

· Establish personal goals for increasing the frequency with which you demonstrate specific sample behaviors with specific core value(s)

· Conduct periodic re-assessment of your core value behaviors to determine the degree to which your performance has changed in your professionalism maturation.


For each core value listed, a definition is provided and a set of sample indicators that describe what one would see if the physical therapist were demonstrating that core value in his/her daily practice. For each of the sample indicators listed, check only one item that best represents the frequency with which you demonstrate the behavior where 1= Never, 2= Rarely, 3= Occasionally, 4= Frequently, 5= Always.