Chatham University

Entry-Level DPT Clinical Experience

As an experiential learning process, clinical education represents an integral part of the total physical therapy curriculum. Attainment of competencies as a physical therapist depends upon integration of didactic and clinical learning experiences. While didactic education provides a basis for the development of appropriate problem-solving abilities and a knowledge base, clinical education provides an opportunity for refinement of that knowledge, those skills and attitudes that characterize a competent entry-level practitioner. Clinical education requires mutual endeavors by the academic faculty, the clinical faculty, and the student to achieve the common goal of clinical competence.

The Chatham University DPT clinical experiences occur throughout the curriculum. Students participate in a total of thirty-six (36) weeks of full time clinical experiences. Affiliations with approximately 500 clinical facilities provide the students with a variety of selections. A large portion of the affiliations are concentrated in the Western Pennsylvania area, but many are located throughout the United States. The first clinical experience is a 10-week full-time experience that is scheduled at the completion of the study of the musculoskeletal system. Students will be placed in outpatient settings with an expectation that students see primarily patients with orthopedic impairments.

The second clinical experience is a 10-week experience that occurs at the completion of study of the neuromuscular and cardiopulmonary systems. Students will generally be placed in acute, sub-acute, rehabilitation or outpatient settings with the expectation that students evaluate and treat patients with acute/complex medical issues and whose physical therapy diagnosis includes: cardiovascular, pulmonary, integumentary, neurological dysfunction. Students may also complete an experience that includes exposure to niches practice to include pediatrics, women's health, oncology etc.

The third clinical experience occurs at the completion of all the didactic courses, providing an area of clinical experience need and/or special interest, and can be completed in one 16-week experience or two 8-week experiences. This flexible design is determined in collaboration with the Director of Clinical Education.

The Director of Clinical Education works closely with the students in the selection process for all clinical experiences. Student preferences and needs are given consideration. Frequently, job opportunities for students arise out of these clinical experiences.

Download the Clinical Education Manual