Doctor of Physical Therapy Clinical Education

One of the outstanding features of the Doctor of Physical Therapy program at Samuel Merritt University is the number, variety and length of clinical experiences that are very closely integrated with academic coursework. There are a total of 41 weeks of full time clinical experiences in the program compared with the national average of 31 weeks.

Overview of Clinical Education at Samuel Merritt University

  Year One Year Two Year Three
Fall   Clinical Experience I
Spring Integrated Clinical Experience I
Inpatient, Orthopedics
Full time, 1 week

Integrated Clinical Experience III
Neuromuscular, pediatrics, or geriatrics
Full time, 1 week

Internship (22 weeks)

Integrated Clinical Experience II
Full time, 1 week

Clinical Experience II:
Neuromuscular, pediatrics, or geriatrics
Internship (22 weeks); ends early June

Integrated Clinical Experiences: Students spend 1 week, full time in local clinical facilities during three didactic trimesters, starting in the second trimester. During these integrated clinical experiences, the students are in the clinic working side-by-side with physical therapists seeing patients with the type of problems they are simultaneously learning about in the classroom.

Full-time Clinical Experiences: There are two, full-time, eight-week experiences interspersed in the curriculum, one following the majority of the musculoskeletal content in the fall and the other following the majority of the neuromuscular and pediatric content in the summer. Most of the eight week Clinical Experiences are in the Greater San Francisco Bay Area, but some of them are provided in other parts of California and the United States. The first full-time orthopedic clinical experience occurs in outpatient settings or a combination of outpatient and inpatient settings where the majority of time is spent managing patients with orthopedic problems. The second full-time clinical experience may occur in rehabilitation centers, acute care hospitals, skilled nursing facilities or outpatient centers in which at least 50% of the caseload includes adults and/or children with neuromuscular dysfunction. Students who would like a pediatric experience for this affiliation are placed in pediatric medical centers, school-based physical therapy programs or outpatient clinics.

Internship: Students begin a 22 week, full-time internship in January after the last academic trimester. Students progress from student to a mentored staff clinician role. Internships are available throughout the United States, with the highest concentration in northern California, and are provided in a variety of settings. The entire internship is typically within one clinical site or health system, but at times the student may have the internship split between sites or systems. Both inpatient and outpatient services are included in the internship. Additional experiences in home health, critical care, or other services may also be provided or substituted for the outpatient component of the internship. The typical pattern is two to three months in each clinical area included in the internship. Students will have the opportunity to work with a variety of patient populations in an interprofessional environment with experienced clinicians who are committed to clinical learning and teaching.

All clinical education experiences are typically provided by a core group of approximately 100 clinical centers in California and other states, as well as the District of Columbia. Additionally, the Department of Physical Therapy maintains partnerships with about 200 clinical sites to meet particular needs of students when they arise.

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