Education in the clinical setting is essential for future physical therapists to learn how to translate knowledge gained in the classroom to clinical practice. The clinical education curriculum of the DPT Program at Emory & Henry College is divided into two components: Clinical Immersion Experiences and Full-Time Clinical Experiences. These clinical experiences help students in the Program meet the Mission of the College and Department by allowing them to serve those in need. The Program does have a goal for all students to complete at least one clinical experience (either Clinical Immersion or Full-Time Clinical) in a rural area of southwest Virginia and/or northeast Tennessee.
Clinical Immersion Experiences
Students complete two Clinical Immersion Experiences (one two-week and one four-week) during the first two years of the program (specifically during semesters 3 and 5) prior to their three Full-Time Clinical Rotations in the third year of the program. The Clinical Immersion Experiences are specifically designed to prepare the students to perform confidently and knowledgeably in the subsequent clinical settings during their Full-Time Clinical Experiences. This sequential structure ensures that each student receives supervision and feedback appropriate for his/her progression through the program.
The first Clinical Immersion is a two-week experience that occurs during semester 3 of the program, while the second Clinical Immersion is a four-week experience that occurs during semester 5 of the program. Both Clinical Immersions involve the students completing hours in a physical therapy setting under the supervision and instruction of a licensed physical therapist. During the first six semesters of the program, students will also have opportunities to observe the role and scope of clinical practice of various healthcare professionals (physicians, nurses, occupational therapists, athletic trainers, social workers, etc.) within the local community, as well as experience the interactions among these various disciplines.
Full-Time Clinical Experiences
Students complete three Full-Time Clinical Experiences during the third year of the program. The three Full-Time Clinical Experiences (12 weeks each) are chosen/assigned based on the student’s previous clinical experiences and areas of interest. One Full-Time Clinical Experience focuses on the care of individuals within an acute care or long term acute care environment; one focuses on the care of patients across the life span with problems encompassing any of the body systems and at any phase of care or rehabilitation (experiences occur in various settings in which physical therapy is commonly practiced); and one focuses on the care of patients with a wide variety of diagnoses in settings encompassing the health care continuum, including primarily neurological rehabilitation (minimum of 50% of caseload). The experiences vary according to the student’s previous clinical experiences and areas of interest serving as a guide for selection and assignment. By the end of the third Full-Time Clinical Experience, students are expected to be functioning at the level of an entry-level physical therapist. Of importance to note, if any student must relocate during any of these clinical experiences, it will be at the student’s expense.
Clinical Affiliation Contracts/Agreements
Currently, the clinical affiliation agreements/contracts signed with the program are adequate both in number and variety to meet the Clinical Immersion and Full-Time Clinical Experience requirements of its students. Furthermore, the program is continuously recruiting additional clinical sites to provide for more general experiences, as well as more specialized experiences for students, including such services as those for a pediatric population, patients who have sustained a traumatic brain injury or spinal cord injury, etc. Because of the added relocation expense associated with some clinical experiences, the program works closely with students to establish clinical experiences that meet their needs.