DPT Clinical Education

SMU DPT students benefit from sequencing our clinical placements so they are timed and integrated with patient populations and practice settings covered in coursework completed during the previous term. To prepare students to maximize their learning during clinical placements, student's academic preparation includes multiple simulation-based learning experiences and providing services to our community with faculty mentorship.

One outstanding feature of our program is our clinical education, with a total of 36 weeks of full-time clinical experiences. The clinical education team at Samuel Merritt University is committed to student learning and works closely with students and clinical instructors to promote successful learning in the clinic. Students are prepared to be proactive learners. After every clinical experience, students meet in small groups with a faculty supervisor to debrief and reflect on their clinical experiences. This allows students to gain more insight regarding their experiences and adds depth to their clinical experiences and overall learning.

Samuel Merritt University places students in clinical settings including, but not limited to, academic teaching hospitals, community hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, acute rehabilitation facilities, California Children’s Services, home health agencies, private practice and hospital-based outpatient clinics, Veteran’s Affairs medical centers and clinics, adult day centers or programs, and school-based pediatric settings. All students will graduate with at least 10 weeks of full-time experience in both an inpatient and an outpatient practice setting. Additional placements provide exposure to the broad array of potential physical therapist practice settings.

Our placements include practice settings in the Greater San Francisco Bay Area, with some placements throughout California and the United States. International placements are not offered for clinical experiences; however, students may participate in volunteer opportunities organized through SMU’s International Healthcare Club.

There are two, full-time, ten-week experiences interspersed in the curriculum, one following the majority of the musculoskeletal content and the other following the majority of the neuromuscular and pediatric content.

  • The first full-time clinical experience occurs in outpatient settings or a combination of outpatient and inpatient settings where students spend most of their time managing patients with orthopedic conditions.
  • The second full-time clinical experience occurs in more complex care settings, including 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 (e.g., stroke, Parkinson’s disease, cerebral palsy, spinal cord injury).
  • Students who would like pediatric experiences are placed in pediatric medical centers, school-based physical therapy programs, or outpatient pediatric clinics.

The final 16-week terminal clinical experience occurs after students complete their academic coursework. The final clinical experience may include all of the settings listed above, with the addition of complex medical care or other specialized settings, such as wound care or pelvic health. The Director of Clinical Education works with each student to help guide them towards the clinical experience that best meets their goals and learning needs prior to graduation and the transition to clinical practice.