Clinical Instructor Resources

Our clinical education program is focused on enhancing our students’ physical therapy education with clinical experience and a focus on professional preparation.


The clinical education program encourages students to think critically and integrate specific concepts and techniques into clinical care. Our clinical education courses involve the development of skills required for the practice of physical therapy including professional behavior, communication, patient examination, diagnosis, and intervention.

Students reach entry-level performance with development of:

  • Safe, efficient, complete, and accurate patient examination and evaluation including diagnosis and prognosis
  • Clinical reasoning skills
  • Individualized and creative patient intervention programs
  • Timely patient discharge and follow-up care
  • Effective teaching and communication skills

Clinical Education Evaluation

washington university physical therapy clinical education

Students complete clinical experiences in a variety of settings such as hospitals.

The Program in Physical Therapy is committed to maintaining the high quality of our clinical education program. Students are expected to participate in the clinical education program by sharing in the planning and evaluation of learning experiences.

The clinical education program is evaluated based on student and faculty performance and the activities of the Associate Director for Clinical Education and Clinical Education Team. Cooperation among clinical and academic faculty is promoted to ensure the every best education is provided to students – our future professional colleagues in physical therapy.

Clinical Course Overview

Early Clinical Experience (ECE)

ECE is part of Professional Issues & Skill Development I and II. Students are assigned to part-time clinical experiences in which they can practice patient management skills as they learn them during their first two semesters of curriculum.

Students practice these skills in ECE I: Systems screening, visual appraisal, vital signs, sensation, reflexes, pain, range of motion/goniometry, body substance isolation, muscle strength, positioning, draping, bed mobility, gait, transfers, and management of various mobility equipment.

In ECE II, students refine the skills practiced in ECE I while beginning to practice the skills associated with the examination and evaluation components utilized to determine a movement system diagnosis – posture analysis, muscle stiffness/length, and functional mobility and gait analysis.

Full-Time Clinical Experience

The full-time clinical experiences allow students to practice professional behaviors and examination and intervention skills.

  • Clinical Experience I (8 weeks): May-July
  • Clinical Experience II (8 weeks): January-February
  • Clinical Experience III (10 weeks): July-September
  • Clinical Experience IV (12 weeks): September-December


Learn more by downloading our Clinical Instructor Handbook!

Download the Handbook