Essential Performance Standards for Clinical Nursing Education


The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 was instituted by Congress to prohibit discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities. The ADA defines a qualified individual with a disability as an individual with a disability who, with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of the employment position that such individual holds or desires. In addition, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination in admissions of a qualified person with disabilities.

ADA and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 eligibility requirements vary depending on the type of services, activities, and functions needed in particular areas. Because the practice of nursing is an applied discipline with cognitive, sensory, affective, and motor components, students must be able to perform the functions necessary for the safe practice of nursing and essential to the licensing requirements for nursing. Students must be capable of meeting the following nine essential performance standards with or without reasonable accommodations in order to be admitted to and remain in the WGU prelicensure nursing program. Students must immediately notify Student Accessibility Services of any condition/changes in condition that may affect their ability to perform in the clinical setting.


The Performance Standards

  1. Ability to think critically and focus on patient care priorities in order to make clinical decisions, identify cause-and-effect relationships with clinical data, and develop nursing care plans.
  2. Ability to demonstrate interpersonal abilities in order to interact appropriately and maintain professional boundaries with individuals, families, and groups from a variety of social, emotional, cultural, and intellectual backgrounds.
  3. Ability to clearly communicate in verbal and written forms in order to communicate nursing actions, interpret client responses, initiate health teaching, document and understand nursing activities, and interact with clients, staff and faculty supervisors.
  4. Ability to maneuver in small spaces and move from one place to another in order to move around in clients' rooms and bathrooms, into and out of work spaces, access treatment areas, and run short distances quickly to procure needed emergency materials when indicated, within a time frame acceptable for patient safety. While health care agencies must meet ADA physical access standards, potential clients and equipment may limit the amount of available space in which to move.
  5. Ability to demonstrate gross and fine motor skills sufficient to provide safe and effective nursing care in order to move and position clients in and out of bed, calibrate and use equipment, and perform patient care procedures such as IV insertion and cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
    • Walk 5 miles per day
    • Lift 50 pounds
    • Reach above shoulder level
    • Bend and stoop/squat
    • Grasp/grip
    • Ascend and descend stairs
  6. Ability to hear well enough to monitor and assess clients health needs in order to hear cries for help, alarms on equipment, emergency signals, breath and heart sounds on auscultation, and various overhead announcements and cues.
  7. Ability to distinguish colors and see well enough to observe and assess the health status of clients and changes in condition in order to see grimacing, movement, changes in skin color, rashes, and other observed client changes or responses.
  8. Tactile capabilities sufficient for physical assessment such that a student can successfully perform palpation, note changes in skin temperature, perform skills related to therapeutic activities and identify by touch other changes in client condition.
  9. Physical and mental stamina necessary to adapt to requirements of 12-hour shift work, including rotations on the 24-hour clock.  
    • Sit for long periods of time
    • Stand for long periods of time
    • Ability to walk at a reasonably quick pace for extended period of time

The procedure for requesting ADA accommodations is located in the Students with Disabilities Policies and Procedures (opens new window) article. Students may self-disclose on the University portal at: (opens new window).




Article Number: 20512, 2479

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Last update:
‎09-17-2019 05:42 PM
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