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Policies & Procedures for Competency Testing


     The focus of all health related professions is the patient.  As health care providers and educators, we are striving to assure that the safety of our patient is not compromised in any way by the actions of our student/learners.  All PTA program laboratory courses involve direct interaction between the students and the PTA faculty. All PTA program student/learners both administer and receive care with fellow classmates as both “patients” and “clinicians”.


PTA laboratory courses also involve individualized competency testing for specified skills that have been identified as entry level skills student/learners should possess.  Competency testing presents a method of assuring the clinical community that the PTA student/learner is competent and safe to perform procedures and techniques with patients. Competency tests for these skills take place prior to the beginning of the clinical education course in each of the semesters so that a minimal level of competence can be established prior to the start of the clinical education component for that semester.


What is a competency test?

• a 15 or 30 minute “appointment” by the student/learner with a clinician tester
• an opportunity for the student/learner to demonstrate skill level by performing the identified procedures on a fellow classmate in the presence of a tester
• a method for the clinician tester to assure competence, safety, and skill level for a specific procedure or technique.


Competency Tests consist of:
1. course #
2. course title
3. title of the test
4. objectives for the test which include

• preparation of the patient and the treatment area
• observation of the indications, contraindications & precautions
• implementation of the procedure or technique
• termination or completion of the technique or procedure
• documentation of what was observed, performed, and or measured and

  pre/post assessments
• “What if?” questions: clinical or medical complications and the impact

    that they might have on the procedure or technique to be performed.


How do student/learners “sign up” for Competency Tests?
• A notebook labeled “PTAP Competency Testing” is located on the bookshelf inside MS352. The notebook has a calendar of available testing times for student/learners to select from.
• Appointments may be made by other means at the discretion of the PTA Program faculty member.

How do student/learners prove that they have been tested and are “competent” to perform a particular task?

• Student/learners have a “Sign Off Sheet” (blank copies are located in the competency testing notebook) that the clinician tester must sign once the objectives for the test have been satisfied. It is the responsibility of each of the student/learners to obtain the signature of their tester once the objectives have been met.

  • It is NOT the responsibility of the tester to remind the student/learner to supply the form to be signed.

• Once the “Sign Off Sheet” is complete for a given course, it must be handed in to the Course Instructor for that course.


• Receipt of the completed “Sign Off Sheet” establishes eligibility to take the practical exam for a course.

• Failure to hand in the completed form will result in one or more of the following penalties dependent upon the circumstances and discretion of the PTA program coordinator.


• In PTA 106, the student/learner is capable of retaking the competency test up to 2 times as needed to ensure competence without penalty.

However; for subsequent laboratory courses within the professional phase of the PTA program, points will be deducted for each unsuccessful attempt. Penalties are outlined as follows:



For PTA 210, PTA 211, &  PTA 212

If the student/learner requires a:

Second attempt  to successfully complete a competency test

  • 5 points deducted from competency grade for that course


It is the responsibility of the student/learner to contact the course instructor if more than a second attempt is required for competency testing.


If the student/learner requires a:

Third attempt to successfully complete a competency test

  • 10 points deducted from competency grade for that course


No more than 3 attempts are permitted for competency tests. Failure to perform at a level of competent indicates that there is a problem and a need for program counseling.


What is the difference between a practical exam and a competency test?

During a competency test:

  • the tester interacts freely with the student/learner being tested.
  • the student/learner may ask for clarification from the tester.
  • the student/learner may submit their documentation the day after the test has been completed.(dependent upon the course requirements)
  • Student/learners sign up for competency tests when they feel that they are ready to take them.
  • Student/learners know exactly what test they will be demonstrating competence with.


During a practical exam:

  • the tester does not interact with the student/learner, they take notes.
  • the tester provides no additional information to the student/learner being tested.
  • the documentation for the test is due at the completion of the test.
  • Student/learners are assigned a specific testing time.
  • Student/learners select a patient problem at the time of the test. They do not know the content of the problem in advance.


Responsibilities of the PTA student/learner:

  • signing up in advance to take a competency test, once they feel that they have mastered the skill.   
  • providing a suitable patient to perform the skill with.  This is most often a fellow PTA program student, who is dressed in a manner that allows the technique to be performed unrestricted by jewelry or extraneous clothing.
  • preparing and cleaning up the appropriate treatment environment.
  • having the competency tester sign off that he or she performed the test in a safe and competent manner.


Circumstances and Penalties that Will be Imposed:

Tests completed, failed to hand in form on time 5 point penalty from practical exam final score for that course
Tests completed, failed to hand in form 10 point penalty from practical exam final score for that course
Tests not completed Ineligibility to participate in practical exam in any capacity



Where would a student/learner find information about competency tests for a particular course?


• Each course's handbook has a copy of the requirements for the course

including the competency tests for that course.
• A listing of the competency tests and their content can be found in every
course that has a laboratory component to it.
• The competency testing notebook in MS352 has a copy of all of the

competency tests for all of the lab courses.


What remedy is there for a student/learner who does not successfully complete a competency test on the first try?

•   Student/learners are encouraged to sign up for a test only when the

individual feels competent.
•   Clinician testers work with student/learners to help them refine skills if the
basics are there, but a little rough around the edges”.
•   The responsibility for successful completion of the tests increases as the
student/learner progresses through the PTA curriculum.
•   In PTA 106 Therapeutic Measurement, student/learners may retake a

competency test a total of 3 times without penalty. However; he or she must consult with the course instructor subsequent to the second unsuccessful attempt for additional instruction and guidance.

• In subsequent PTA laboratory courses, the student/learner is capable of retaking the competency test up to 2 times as they need to however, points will be deducted for each unsuccessful attempt.