Clinical Education Information

Governance of Clinical Education
Time Frame for Selection of Practica
Communication & Management of Clinical Education Experiences
Types of Clinical Education Experiences
Clinical Site Information
Role of Clinical Education Faculty & Staff
Rights and Privileges of Clinical Instructors/Clinical Sites
Clinical Education Resources


The MWU Physical Therapy Program's philosophy of clinical education is to provide stimulating learning experiences within quality physical therapy facilities that utilize contemporary evidence based practice. Since its inception in 1995, the Physical Therapy Program has worked toward the objectives of preparing therapists to work in under-served areas, providing a strong foundation in health promotion and wellness, and addressing the needs of patients across the life span. The Physical Therapy Program works with clinical education sites in the greater Chicago urban area, in rural Illinois communities, and sites outside of Illinois to provide varied adult and early intervention experiences to our students. The MWU Physical Therapy Program has established clinical education relationships with over 700 facilities across the United States.

Governance of Clinical Education

Midwestern University's clinical education program is an essential part of the preparation of future physical therapists. The content of the clinical education program as well as the guidelines for implementation, evaluation, and documentation are regulated primarily by The Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE), but are also subjected to the guidelines set forth by the Illinois Physical Therapy Act, the American Physical Therapy Association, and the Midwestern University Physical Therapy Program Objectives. Midwestern University is also accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, a commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA).

Time Frame for Selection of Practica

In the spring quarter (March 1st) of each year, all affiliated clinical sites are sent commitment forms for possible student rotations for the upcoming year along with the other academic program members of the Illinois Physical Therapy Association (IPTA) Clinical Education Special Interest Group (CESIG). The Site Coordinators of Clinical Education (SCCE) check with their Clinical Instructors (CI) for the availability of possible student rotations. The completed commitment forms are due back to the Directors of Clinical Education (DCEs) by the end of April. During the summer and fall quarters, the DCEs contact sites to confirm student placements for the upcoming year. During the winter quarter, students choose from these clinical education offerings for Practicum II, III, and IV via the Practicum Experience Selection Process. First year students are assigned to PI sites by the DCEs. By the end of December, the DCEs mail out letters of confirmation to the clinical sites with student names and dates of specific rotations.

Communication and Management of the Clinical Education Experiences

The students receive the necessary clinical education paperwork prior to the start of each practicum. In addition, students can access the necessary clinical education paperwork via the MWU Blackboard website at anytime during their practica.

The DCEs send out the full clinical education packets to the SCCEs approximately 2 months prior to each student rotation. All of the following forms needed for the student rotation are included in this packet: student immunization form, training certificates for HIPAA, OSHA, Universial Precautions, etc., Practicum course syllabus, Clinical Instructor Midterm Fax to PT Program (Practicum I only), Staff Development Activity Feedback Form, Weekly Planning Sheets, a Treatment Planning Worksheet, and Documentation Made Simple. The Documentation Made Simple form describes the specific due dates for the completed paperwork.

In addition, SCCEs and CIs are encouraged to contact the DCEs (via email or phone) at any time before, during, or after student rotations for clarification of specific clinical education issues. When necessary, the DCEs can make site visits to meet in person with the SCCE, CI, and/or student.

Types of Clinical Educational Experiences

PTHED 1512 Health Professionalism I Field Experiences

Clinical field experiences provide an opportunity to directly observe professional behavior, health care delivery, and health care team members in a variety of practice settings. Field experiences begin the student's professional socialization in the context of the health care continuum and provide them the opportunity to exhibit professional behaviors in the physical therapy setting. During the summer quarter of the first professional year, students have the opportunity to spend 2-3 afternoons observing physical therapists in a variety of settings: acute care, subacute/skilled care facility/long term care, rehabilitation, outpatient-hospital, outpatient-private, and pediatrics. During these field experiences, students complete projects to learn about clinical practice, health care professional interactions, the variety of patient populations, and the resources available to physical therapists across the health care continuum.

PTHED 1685 Practicum I

This three week full-time, supervised clinical practicum enables physical therapy students to develop skills in communication, time management, patient evaluation and basic interventions, mobility training and patient education. This rotation takes place at the beginning of the students' second professional year.

PTHED 1686 Practicum II

This ten week full-time, supervised clinical practicum enables physical therapy students to further develop their patient care, evaluation, and intervention skills. Practicum II includes completion of a project focusing on serving underserved populations and/or cultural competence in health care. During this practicum, students gather patient information for a formal case study report that will be presented to University faculty and students at the end of their third professional year. IRB approval from MWU and the site are obtained prior to the practicum. This rotation takes place during the spring quarter of the students' second professional year.

PTHED 1787 Practicum III

This ten week full-time, supervised clinical practicum enables physical therapy students to apply the process of clinical problem solving in evaluation and treatment of clients at a variety of points along the health care continuum, display appropriate professional attitudes and behaviors, and effectively integrate current research into the clinical decision making process. The course includes an independent study component that utilizes evidence based practice to answer a clinical question. For either Practicum III or Practicum IV, students will also complete a written reflection regarding interprofessional collaborative practice within clinical education. 

PTHED 1788 Practicum IV

This ten week full-time, supervised clinical practicum enables physical therapy students to apply the process of clinical problem solving in evaluation and treatment of clients at a variety of points along the health care continuum, display appropriate professional attitudes and behaviors, effectively integrate current research into the clinical decision making process, and effectively plan, implement, and evaluate educational programs/interventions. The course includes an independent study component that utilizes evidence based practice to answer a clinical question. For either Practicum III or Practicum IV, students will also complete a written reflection regarding interprofessional collaborative practice within clinical education. 

Additional Field Trips

Throughout the 34 months of academic preparation, students will have multiple opportunities to visit various clinical sites for short ½ day field trips to enhance the classroom coursework.

Role of Clinical Education Faculty and Staff

Director of Clinical Education (DCE)

The DCE(s) are the course coordinators for all Clinical Education Practica and are responsible for all aspects of the courses. The DCE(s) are responsible for recruiting sites, establishing legal clinical affiliation agreements, assigning students to sites, and providing grades based on information from the clinical sites and completion of all coursework. The DCE(s) serve as the liaison between the Midwestern University Department of Physical Therapy and the clinical education sites, and are responsible for the development and implementation of the clinical education program.

The DCE(s) work with the students to provide information, consultation, and facilitation of appropriate clinical site selection. The DCE(s) communicate with the students, SCCE, and CI prior to, and during each clinical education experience to provide support and to foster a positive clinical education learning experience.

Site Coordinator of Clinical Education (SCCE)

The Site Coordinator of Clinical Education (SCCE) is responsible for coordinating assignments and activities of students at a clinical education site. Most often, a physical therapist or physical therapist assistant is designated as the SCCE; however, nonphysical therapy professionals may possess the skills to organize and maintain a clinical education program.

Duties of a SCCE are to:

  1. Initiate contact with the DCEs if site is interested in hosting Midwestern University DPT students.
  2. Facilitate the completion of a clinical affiliation agreement. The DCEs at Midwestern University will provide the clinical site with a standard agreement. If the clinical site utilizes its own legal agreement, then it should be submitted to Midwestern University for review by the risk management and administration teams.
  3. Complete Clinical Site Information Form (CSIF) and update annually.
  4. Indicate the number of students the clinical site will be able to accommodate during each practicum and what types of experiences the clinical site can offer the students on the annual commitment form. This commitment may change from year to year.
  5. Provide orientation to the students about the clinical site. First contact may be by phone, letter, or email. Comprehensive orientation on first day of experience is recommended.
  6. Establish/update a student handbook of pertinent information including clinical site policies for student experiences.
  7. Facilitate education and training for clinical instructors.
  8. Direct and delegate clinical supervision of students.

Clinical Instructor (CI)

The Clinical Instructor (CI) is the physical therapist responsible for instruction, supervision, and evaluation of the student at the clinical education site. The CI must hold a physical therapy license within the state that they practice. One year of clinical experience is strongly preferred as minimal criteria for serving as the CI. At some sites, more than one CI may share a student (2:1 model), or one CI may supervise more than one student (1:2 model).

Guidelines for Clinical Instructors (based on the APTA Clinical Instructor Guidelines, 2009)

The CI demonstrates:

  1. Clinical competence, and legal and ethical behavior that meets or exceeds the expectations of members of the profession of physical therapy.
  2. Effective communication skills.
  3. Effective behavior, conduct, and skill in interpersonal relationships.
  4. Effective instructional skills.
  5. Effective supervisory skills.
  6. Performance evaluation skills.

Rights and Privileges for Clinical Instructors/Clinical Sites

In appreciation of the time, effort, and support our clinical education sites provide to Midwestern University PT students, Midwestern University's Physical Therapy Program is pleased to be able to offer the following benefits to clinical facilities who serve as clinical education sites:

  1. Participating in clinical education provides a source of professional stimulation for clinical staff. It provides a context for clinicians to examine their approach to practice regarding such issues as clinical decision making, evaluation methods, and intervention strategies. Participating in student programs can help stimulate challenging discussion and inquiry regarding clinical practice.
  2. Physical Therapy Program faculty members are available as a resource for clinical practice questions, educational questions and research questions.
  3. Clinical site is entitled to a maximum of 1 in-service per year provided by MWU faculty. Clinical sites will be eligible for a MWU faculty in-service after hosting at least 3 clinical education students.
    • Once your facility is eligible to receive an in-service, you must submit a request stating your needs and specify the objectives for the in-service to the Co-Directors of Clinical Education. The DCEs will determine if there is a faculty member available to meet the stated objectives. First consideration will be given to those facilities who have not previously requested an in-service program. After that, requests will be considered based on faculty availability and order of receipt of request for an in-service. No honorarium will be expected for the in-service presentations. Reimbursement of travel expenses will not be expected for distances less than 200 miles round trip.
    • Large, corporate facilities may request a larger group "regional" in-service.
  4. Library benefits:
    • Clinical Educators may acces the Midwestern University Library from an offsite location via a special login and password. Please contact the DCEs for more information.
  5. Clinical sites will have the opportunity to send their staff to continuing education courses spnsored by Midwestern University at a reduced cost.
  6. Midwestern University's Department of Physical Therapy will offer 3 scholarships per year for CCCE or CI attendance at an APTA sponsored Clinical Instructor Training Course. Requests for scholarships will be submitted to the Director(s) of Clinical Education and will be considered in the order that they are received.
  7. Midwestern University PT Program provides the APTA Credentialed Clinical Instructor Program (CCIP) for clinical education sites who have a consistent record of hosting MWU DPT students for Practica.