Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department or School

Health Sciences

Committee Member

Ruth Hansen, PhD, CoChair

Committee Member

Judith Olson, PhD, CoChair


Occupational therapy has evolved from its early inception in diversional therapy to incorporate technologically advanced modalities into the professional domain. Over the last thirty years the profession has increasingly incorporated physical agent modalities (PAMs) into the treatment process. Throughout this process there has been both opposition and support for the inclusion of PAMs in occupational therapy. There are concerns from both sides regarding the proper training of therapists in the use of PAMs, how competency should be assessed, who is responsible for ensuring competency, and the ethical concerns with the use of these modalities.

This phenomenological study analyzed six therapists’ views on competency testing and the clinical and ethical implications involved in the use of PAMs. The findings of this study are compared and contrasted to the core ethical principles of occupational therapy. These include principles of beneficence, nonmaleficence, autonomy, confidentiality, duty, procedural justice, veracity, and fidelity.