Technical Standards & Essential Functions

Technical Standards and Essential Functions of a UNMC Occupational Therapy Student

Receiving an entry-level doctoral degree in occupational therapy from the Division of Occupational Therapy Education indicates the graduate is eligible to take the national certification examination and is prepared to enter the profession. This document outlines technical standards and essential functions required for students to complete their education and training in the Occupational Therapy (OT) program. Technical standards and essential functions apply to academic and clinical settings, as well as civil public behavior. Technical standards and essential functions are stated to ensure that all students are aware of the expectations of the program.


Students must meet essential functions in five categories across academic and clinical settings in order to progress in and complete the occupational therapy program. The categories include

  1. behavioral and professional standards and ethics;
  2. intellectual, conceptual, and integrative skills;
  3. sensory-motor coordination and function;
  4. communication; and
  5. observation.

1. Behavioral and professional standards and ethics

Technical standards
The entering student must

  • Demonstrate honesty, integrity, responsibility, compassion, ethics, and respect for others
  • Respect for others' rights and property
  • Maintain privacy and confidentiality of peers, faculty, staff, and clients
  • Adhere to safety precautions
  • Recognize potentially dangerous situations and equipment and proceed safely in order to minimize risk of injury to self or others
  • Accept and give constructive feedback
  • Maintain work areas, equipment, and supplies
  • Maintain personal appearance and hygiene in a professional manner
  • Complete required assignments and tests within required timelines
  • Attend class approximately 35+ hours per week including large groups, small groups, and integrated clinical experiences
  • Participate in additional activities outside of class time that enhance learning experiences
  • Demonstrate culturally competent interactions
  • Effectively manage multiple demands
  • Apply judgement for professional boundaries

Essential requirements
The graduating student will

  • Adhere to the Occupational Therapy Code of Ethics (2020)
  • Demonstrate honesty, integrity within and outside of didactic, clinical environments
  • Complete client interventions, assessments, and documentation within required timelines
  • Create client-centered context
  • Apply universal precautions, infection control
  • Collaborate with peers, faculty, colleagues, team
  • Take responsibility for professional competence, conduct, and growth through self-assessment
  • Demonstrate consistent, professional work behaviors in classroom, clinic, and fieldwork
  • Actively engage in a supervisory process
  • Consent to health tests and immunizations required by the program or fieldwork settings, or provide documentation of exempt status (immunization status may delay graduation)
  • Complete and pass state and federal criminal background checks
  • Maintain current CPR certification
  • Adhere to HIPAA regulations






2. Intellectual, conceptual, and integrative skills

Technical standards
The entering student must

  • Receive, process, and comprehend text, oral presentation, numbers, and graphs displayed in print, lecture, and audio-visual formats and store information for self-reference
  • Use intellectual skills: attention, comprehension, measurement, mathematical calculation, reasoning, integration, analysis, critical thinking, comparison/contrast, problem-solving, planning
  • Critically evaluate own performance and the performance of others
  • Effectively use technologies including computer, tablet, and ability to interface with supporting software programs (e.g., learning management system, electronic health records, Exxat)
  • Articulate rationales for decision making
  • Produce legible, concise, and grammatically correct written communication (handwritten and electronic)









Essential requirements
The graduating student will

  • Analyze and synthesize copious information in a short period of time from a variety of sources
  • Apply critical thinking and reasoning in didactic and fieldwork activities
  • Integrate occupation-based theories and models with other information during OT process
  • Identify and interpret affect, nonverbal cues, and response to intervention for individuals, groups, and populations
  • Select relevant screening/evaluation methods
  • Assess clients and modify activity or contexts as needed
  • Accurately interpret evaluation results
  • Use statistics, tests, measurements, research
  • Develop and implement intervention plans
  • Update, modify, and terminate interventions
  • Plan scope, frequency and duration of service
  • Supervise, select, and delegate tasks
  • Collaborate with faculty, supervisors, peers, teams, and colleagues
  • Refer clients to professional services prn
  • Follow all policies and procedures of program and fieldwork sites

3. Sensory-motor coordination and function

Technical standards
The entering student must

  • Participate in fine motor tasks
  • Participate in gross motor tasks
  • Apply senses for assessment, intervention
  • Participate in exploratory learning involving handling objects of various size and weight
  • Travel in a timely fashion to classrooms, labs, clinics
  • Manage self in classrooms, labs, clinics, for extended periods of time
  • Process sensory information from people and the environment
  • Produce concise, explicit, understandable, and legible communication
  • Effectively use computer, Internet, and other electronic devices

Essential requirements
The graduating student will

  • Participate in active experiential learning performing and/or demonstrating ability to instruct others in manual and skilled tasks in classroom, lab, and clinical (e.g., orthotic fabrication, client transfers, art/craft activities, patient handling, equipment management)
  • Perform assessments and interventions that require palpation, manipulation of clinical tools, positioning of client and self, and demonstration of assistive devices and techniques
  • Initiate emergency responses and/or assist others to provide prompt care
  • Tolerate and safely handle body fluids
  • Interpret and utilize sensory information from people and the environment
  • Effectively administer emergency procedures




4. Communication

Technical standards
The entering student must

  • Address problems or questions in timely fashion
  • Communicate meaning to others
  • Demonstrate awareness of own non-verbal communication and interpretation by others
  • Communicate quickly, effectively, and efficiently in a recorded format
  • Read, write, understand oral and written English
  • Participate effectively in small groups, class discussions, and presentations
  • Receive and process technical and professional materials
  • Follow instructions and processes
  • Report to others concerns in adhering to instructions/processes

Essential requirements
The graduating student will

  • Read and record efficiently, accurately, and legibly in client record (graphics, tests)
  • Communicate concisely assessments, progress notes, changes in client behavior and function, discharge summaries, and recommendations
  • Build rapport and elicit information
  • Interpret verbal and nonverbal communication
  • Produce professional quality educational materials, adjusting for intended audience
  • Communicate with supervisors and healthcare professionals involved in educational activities and client care
  • Communicate respectfully with others from diverse backgrounds and varied abilities


5. Observation

Technical standards
The entering student must

  • Observe lab demonstrations and specimens, including those in which biologicals (e.g., donor bodies, living human limbs) are manipulated








Essential requirements
The graduating student will

  • Assess context for accessibility and safety
  • Monitor equipment, emergency alarms
  • Evaluate clients’ level of function and safety (physiologic, emotional, cognitive, contextual)
  • Observe demonstrated clinical techniques
  • Differentiate changes in client factors, habits, roles, routines
  • Observe clients' interaction with environment
  • Observe emotional affect, nonverbal cues, and response to intervention of both individual clients and groups of clients
  • Synthesize observed data for plan of care

Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE®)

The 2018 ACOTE® Standards and Interpretive Guide state the following expectations of program graduates.

The dynamic nature of contemporary health and human services delivery systems provides opportunities for the occupational therapist to possess the necessary knowledge and skills as a direct care provider, consultant, educator, manager, leader, researcher, and advocate for the profession and the consumer.

A graduate from an ACOTE-accredited doctoral-degree-level occupational therapy program must


Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education. (2018). 2018 ACOTE
standards and interpretive guide (effective July 31, 2020).
American Occupational Therapy Association. (2020). AOTA 2020 Occupational therapy
code of ethics. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 74, 7413410005