APTA Vision 2020 envisions physical therapists as autonomous providers of musculoskeletal care. Screening for conditions not amenable to treatment by a physical therapist or that requires consultation/referral to other providers is a key skill. This exciting interactive course will describe a pragmatic approach to the medical screening process that can be immediately implemented by physical therapists that is designed for safe and efficient patient management.

Through the use of pertinent patient case examples, an emphasis will be placed on describing pertinent patient history and physical examination findings that may prompt the physical therapist to hypothesize about the existence of medical conditions presenting as musculoskeletal conditions and facilitate appropriate medical evaluation and management strategies. An emphasis of this course will be on clinical decision making principles in an outpatient, direct access physical therapy setting. However, the principles presented will be applicable to any clinical setting.


Michael Ross, PT, DHSc, and Julie Whitman, PT, DSc, developed this course in a modular, web-based, faculty-directed format that uses the Moodle Learning Management System. The course is interactive and media-rich to help make the e-learning environment both engaging and convenient for the participant. Learning activities will focus on a series of online video presentations, web-based tutorials, interactive forum discussions, and journal articles to present and discuss key concepts. Weekly online quizzes, forum discussions, and an intake form project serve as graded activities to reinforce course objectives and assess learning.

Successful completion of this course requires a final passing grade of 80% on all learning activities. This course is designed to be completed in a 6-week time period.

Target Audience: Intermediate level course open to licensed physical therapists and occupational therapists.

Credits: 30 contact hours from EIM Institutes of Health Professions

EIM Program Applicability: OMPT Fellowship, Orthopaedic Physical Therapy Residency, and Transition DPT programs (EIM R108; 2 credits)

Prerequisites: None

Appropriate dress: This is an online course.


Upon completing this course, you’ll be able to:

  1. Utilize a medical screening form to guide a review of systems across the life span.
  2. Recognize red flags for potentially serious conditions not amenable to treatment by a physical therapist or that require referral to other providers.
  3. Recognize potentially serious conditions that can mimic musculoskeletal conditions.
  4. Recognize yellow flags: such as depression or fear avoidance and incorporate these findings into clinical decision-making.
  5. Communicate effectively with referring providers regarding signs/symptoms suggestive of non-musculoskeletal disorders or conditions potentially needing referral or consultation with medical providers.
  6. Demonstrate clinical decision making skills, including clinical reasoning, clinical judgment, and reflective practice.

And most importantly, be able to apply this stuff to your clinical practice next week!

References Required and supplementary articles are listed in each weekly module and can be downloaded from the Moodle Learning Management System.