Clinical Education

Clinical education is an essential part of your training to become a physical therapist, allowing you to apply what you’ve learned in the classroom to actual patient care experiences. It also provides opportunities to explore different physical therapy specialties and settings.

Clinical Experience

students work with patient in wheelchairUniversity of Washington Doctor of Physical Therapy students participate in a total of four clinical experiences:

  • One four-week clinical experience, in any setting, at the end of the first year
  • Three 11-week clinical experiences, in a variety of settings and geographic locations, in the third year

To prepare to work as physical therapist generalists, you are required to pursue a range of internship experiences. The program maintains affiliation agreements with a wide variety of clinical sites, including outpatient and in-patient facilities serving patients across the life span and those in urban and nonurban areas. The majority of sites are concentrated in the Pacific Northwest, with some sites in other parts of the United States.

Integrated Clinical Education

students work with patient in hospital room

Integrated clinical education (ICE) complements classroom instruction by giving you opportunities to apply your knowledge and skills. ICE experiences range from working with simulated and actual patients in the classroom to simulation labs and observation experiences at clinical sites.

In the UW School of Nursing and at Northwest Hospital simulation labs, you'll interact with simulated patients and/or high-tech mannequins in a closely mentored setting. 

You'll also participate in ICE experiences at the UW and Harborview Medical Centers. During one quarter, you’ll work with a mentor at a teaching clinic to evaluate and treat underserved individuals. During another quarter, you'll help clients in the Spinal Cord Injury Transitions and Wellness Program perform their exercise program.

Some integrated clinical education experiences are interdisciplinary in nature, providing opportunities to work collaboratively with students in occupational therapy, prosthetics and orthotics, speech language pathology and nursing.

Credentialed Clinical Instructor Program

During your clinical education experiences, you'll be mentored by licensed physical therapists who serve as clinical instructors (CIs). The UW Doctor of Physical Therapy program strives to train all clinical instructors who work with UW students through the American Physical Therapy Association’s (APTA) Credentialed Clinical Instructor Program (CCIP). The CCIP provides CIs with strategies to effectively design and facilitate PT clinical learning experiences, evaluate performance and provide feedback, and apply communication strategies to diverse situations.

Cyndi Robinson, the UW DPT director of clinical education, is one of just four APTA-credentialed trainers in the state of Washington and has credentialed more than 1,200 clinical instructors in Washington, Oregon and Montana.