The UW-Madison Doctor of Physical Therapy Program requires completion of 42 weeks of full-time clinical education experiences. The program uses a non-concurrent clinical education design, where students are either in school full-time or immersed in a clinical environment full-time.

Research has shown improved clinical decision-making skills with this design as compared to a concurrent clinical education design, where students do part-time clinical work and have classes part-time.

Additionally, many courses require clinical observations and experiences, arranged by the course instructors, to provide continued clinical exposure.

When do clinical experiences occur?

The following is a list of required clinical experiences, totaling 42 weeks:

  • two weeks at the beginning of January after completion of the first fall semester
  • four weeks at the end of the summer semester of the second year
  • nine weeks after the three-week second summer and the beginning of the third fall semester
  • nine weeks during the third fall semester
  • nine weeks during the end of the third fall semester and the beginning of the third spring semester
  • eight weeks during third spring semester (ends mid-April)

Rotation types

Students are required to complete nine weeks each of these areas:

  • acute care hospital, most often involving patients who are critically ill and/or in the intensive care unit
  • orthopedics in out-patients clinics, private practices, and sports medicine settings
  • neurological rehabilitation in hospitals on inpatient rehabilitation units, skilled nursing facilities, spinal cord injury centers, or traumatic brain injury centers

Additionally, students are encouraged to gain exposure to both rural and urban settings. Students may also perform clinicals in special populations, such as pediatrics and women's health.

Where do clinical experiences occur?

UW-Madison contracts with approximately 450 organizations and facilities in 39 states, including Alaska and Hawaii, and an international site in Belize. Approximately 250 of our sites are in Wisconsin.

Because the program is over 75 years old, our alumni base is very strong and our alumni are more than willing to mentor our students, though all travel, lodging and meal expenses associated with clinical placements are the student's responsibility.