Clinical insight

Doctor of Physical Therapy program strengthens partnerships with clinical educators to prepare students for PT practice changes


Physical therapy, like most health professions, is expected to undergo several changes in the coming years. Health care reforms, a growing population of older adults, and new technology may all impact the way physical therapists treat patients. To help prepare physical therapy students, UF is reaching out in a new way to the clinical sites where students train.

“There is growing interest in ensuring that all students have a high quality clinical training experience, that the experience is done in a timely and cost effective manner, and that those supervising the clinical education process are more involved with the academic department,” said Steven George, Ph.D., P.T., an associate professor and assistant chair of PHHP’s department of physical therapy.

The department recently held the conference “Moving Forward Together: Excellence in Education and Practice” to bring together UF faculty in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program, clinical education coordinators at sites affiliated with UF’s program and national experts on physical therapy education. The attendees discussed challenges and opportunities for physical therapy clinical education and ways to optimize academic and clinical partnerships.

“I think what potentially made this meeting unique is that we hope to do more than just meet this one time to talk about it,” said George, who organized the conference. “We want to move forward with those who are interested in exploring actual implementation of these partnerships.”

The decision to partner more closely with clinical site educators comes at a time when national factors are causing physical therapy programs to revisit how they transition students from the academic to the clinical portion of their training, George said.

As health care delivery changes and the health needs of the population shift, some experts have called on therapists to take a “life stage” approach to patient care. The physical therapist would be active in disease and injury prevention across the life span. In this and other evolving areas of physical therapy, clinical educators can provide valuable insight to academic programs on the challenges and demands of physical therapy in the practice setting.       

One of the UF conference participants, Robert Rowe, P.T., D.P.T., D.M.T., director of clinical education at Brooks Rehabilitation in Jacksonville, believes the collaboration between the UF program and clinical sites may eventually become a model for other physical therapy education programs.

Physical therapy education nationwide has traditionally suffered from a lack of communication between academic programs and clinical educators, Rowe said.

“My perspective is that UF is seeking a true and equal partnership between the program and the clinical facilities,” Rowe said. “This is a revolutionary and absolutely necessary step to improve the quality of clinical education physical therapy students are currently receiving.” 


Photos by Maria Belen Farias

Dr. Andrea Behrman, associate professor, UF department of physical therapy
Dr. Krista Vandenborne, chair, UF department of physical therapy
Participants gathered for an evening reception at the UF President’s House
UF DPT Class of 2011 graduates Erienne Blanchard and Jen Prugh with Dr. Steven George
UF physical therapy faculty Dr. Gloria Miller and Dr. Carolynn Patten with Sonya Irons of Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Lincoln, Neb.