Health Care Essential Functions

Essential Function


Examples of Necessary Activities

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking ability sufficient for clinical judgment

Identify cause-effect relationships in clinical situations; develop nursing care plans; calculate medication dosage accurately; evaluate patient responses; synthesize data; draw sound conclusions.

Interpersonal Skills

Interpersonal abilities sufficient to interact with individuals, families, and groups from a variety of social, cultural and intellectual backgrounds.

Establish rapport with patients and colleagues. Use therapeutic communication (attending, clarifying, coaching, facilitating, teaching). Function (consult, negotiate, share) as a part of a team.

Communications Ability

Communication abilities sufficient for effective interaction with others in verbal and written form.

Explain treatment procedures; initiate health teaching; document and interpret nursing actions and patient responses. Listen attentively.


Physical abilities sufficient to move from room to room and maneuver in small spaces; full range-of-motion; manual and finger dexterity; and hand-eye coordination

Move around in patient's rooms, work spaces and treatment areas. Administer cardiopulmonary procedures. Stand/walk for extensive periods of time.

 Motor Skills

Gross and fine motor abilities sufficient to provide safe and effective nursing care.

Calibrate and use equipment; transfer and position patients; lift 50 pounds.

 Hearing Ability

Auditory ability sufficient to monitor and assess health needs.

Hear monitor alarms, emergency signals, auscultatory sounds and cries for help.

 Visual Ability

Visual ability (corrected to 20/40) sufficient for observation and assessment necessary in nursing.

Observe patient/responses, secretions, color. Read manometer, chart, computer screen, digital printouts, labels and gauges.

 Tactile Ability

Tactile ability sufficient for physical assessment.

Perform palpation, functions of physical examination and/or those related to therapeutic intervention, e.g. insertions of an IV catheter.

 Olfactory Ability

Olfactory senses (smell) sufficient for maintaining environmental and patient safety.

Distinguish smells which are contributory to assessing and/or maintaining the patient's health status or environmental safety (fire).

Professional Attitude and Demeanor

Ability to present professional appearance and implement measures to maintain own physical and mental health and emotional stability.

Work under stressful conditions and irregular hours. Be exposed to communicable diseases and contaminated body fluids. React calmly in emergency situation. Demonstrate flexibility. Show concern for others.

Adapted from: Red Alert: The Americans with Disabilities Act Implications for Nursing Education (March, 1993).
References: Program Minimum Skills for Eligibility to Participate in Educational Programs and Activities (Medical University of South Carolina)

Note: Students requiring reasonable accommodations should contact the Office of Counseling and Career Development Services, Counselor for Student with Disabilities, at 843.574.6131.