Physical therapy students practice hands-on learning

DPT Clinical Education

The UW–Madison Doctor of Physical Therapy program requires completion of 42 weeks of full-time clinical education experiences. We follow a non-concurrent clinical education model, which means you are immersed in a clinical environment full time during this part of your training. This doesn’t mean you won’t have clinical experiences through your courses. Many courses require clinical observations and experiences, arranged by the course instructors, to provide continued clinical exposure.

When Do Clinical Experiences Occur?

  • Year 1: Two-week experience at the beginning of January
  • Year 2: Four-week experience at the end of spring semester
  • Year 3: Four consecutive nine-week experiences

Course schedule and clinical dates

Rotation Types

Students are encouraged to explore both rural and urban settings. Students may have the opportunity complete clinical placements in specialized settings, such as high-level professional sports and pelvic health.

Students are required to complete nine weeks of clinical experience in each of these three areas:

Physical therapy students concentrate on working with a patient

Inpatient/Acute care
Hospital setting often including those who are critically ill and/or in the intensive care unit

A student helps a patient walk with support

Outpatient Orthopedics
Hospital-based clinics, private practices and/or sports medicine settings

DPT students observe pediatric movement using push toys

Neurological rehabilitation
Inpatient rehabilitation units, skilled nursing facilities, outpatient neuro-based clinics, or pediatric settings

Clinical Experience Locations

UW–Madison contracts with approximately 350 organizations in 41 states, including Alaska and Hawaii, and one international site in Belize.

Our long program history results in a large, wide-spread, and strong alumni base who are often eager to mentor students during their clinical education.

All expenses associated with clinical placements including, but not limited to, travel, lodging and meal expenses are the student’s responsibility.

Clinical education compliance requirements

Jeanne Duncan, PT, DPT, director of clinical education for the University of Wisconsin–Madison Doctor of Physical Therapy program, highlights clinical experience locations students can explore with partner organizations across the country.