Curriculum

The Doctor of Physical Therapy Program curriculum is designed to provide you with a comprehensive understanding of physical therapy with a focus on its foundation, the human movement system.

See the DPT Program at a glance with our Curriculum Guide!

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Year 1, Fall

Diagnosis & Evidence Analysis I

Includes processes required for effective clinical decision-making such as the use of models for classifying patient problems, decision trees, diagnostic classification systems, patient interviewing, health histories, and outcome measures. Patient cases will be used to practice clinical decision-making skills. An introduction to basic research methods and systematic review of the literature.

Professional Issues & Skill Development I

An introduction to the profession of physical therapy, the APTA, professional behavior, and clinical activities, such as documentation and quality improvement. Includes ethics, legal issues, and policies that guide professional behavior. Interpersonal skills and issues related to human diversity will be addressed. Students will complete a personal and family health history. Students will learn and practice using principles of patient teaching, negotiation, and team building. Students will spend 80 hours at clinical sites.

Essential Skills in Physical Therapy I

Beginning skills for patient management including using systems screening and reliable assessment of impairments including visual appraisal, vital signs, sensation, reflexes, pain, range of motion, muscle strength, and infection control. Skill and safety in positioning, draping, and managing wheelchairs and other equipment during patient care activities, such as walking and transfers, will be developed.

Cells, Systems & Disease I

The first of a two-semester course, this course focuses on a comprehensive review of normal physiology of the organ systems: musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, respiratory, renal, gastrointestinal, endocrine, immune, and digestive. Regulatory mechanisms to maintain homeostasis will be emphasized throughout the course. Students will be introduced to pharmacology and to the relevance of clinical laboratory values. Patient case studies will be used to integrate information. Introduction to medical management will be provided for some diseases.

Neuroscience

Focuses on the study of structures, organization, and function of the nervous and muscular systems. Emphasis is placed on the sensory and motor systems involved in motor control and on basic knowledge required for clinical practice.

Kinesiology I

An introduction to the analysis of normal human movement activities through the application of mechanical concepts including displacement, velocity, acceleration, force, and torque. Emphasizes kinematic and kinetic concepts relevant to human movement and study of the structures involved in movement.

 

Year 1, Spring

Cells, Systems & Disease II

A continuation of the first semester. Physicians will discuss medical management of selected diseases including the etiology, diagnosis, medical management and prognosis of medical diseases frequently encountered in the practice of physical therapy. Three areas of clinical competency will be emphasized through assigned readings and case studies: 1) screening for medical referral including emergent medical referral; 2) clinical decision skills pertaining to pathological implications of underlying disease processes and their relevance to guiding physical therapy intervention; 3) clinical decision skills pertaining to implications of medical management and their relevance to guiding physical therapy activity and exercise prescription.

Human Anatomy

Emphasis is on 1) musculoskeletal, neural, and vascular systems of the extremities, head, neck, and trunk; 2) anatomical features relevant to current physical therapy practice. Lectures are complemented by student-performed dissection of human cadavers, instructor-prepared prosections, and computer assisted instruction.

Diagnosis & Evidence Analysis II

Continuation of research methods from the first semester. Includes descriptive, experimental and quasi-experimental research designs, and statistics; hypothesis testing; continuation of measurement issues; hierarchy of credibility for rating research articles.

Kinesiology II

Emphasizes principles of maturation and motor learning relative to the application of biomechanical principles to the analysis of human movement. Topics include developmental, anatomical, electromyographical, and physiological elements of kinesiology with regard to individual joints and common functional activities, such as gait and transitional movements.

Diagnosis & Management of Musculoskeletal Conditions I

Students will learn postural assessment and application of Movement Systems Balance. Analysis of functional activities, the essential components and compensatory strategies, will prepare the student to begin planning interventions for individuals with musculoskeletal problems. Skill in providing interventions of manual exercise, fitness training, and functional mobility training will be developed. Cases will provide use of diagnostic systems relevant to musculoskeletal conditions.

Professional Issues & Skill Development II

Students will be assigned to part time clinical experiences for 40 hours to allow practice of acquired skills in patient care, documentation, and communication. Additional class time allows students to role-play a clinical situation involving a patient examination and supervision by a clinical instructor.

 

Year 1, Summer

Clinical Experience I

An eight week long full-time clinical experience supervised by clinical faculty. Allows the student to practice evaluation and treatment skills acquired in the classroom and laboratory. Also emphasizes development of professional behaviors.

 

Year 2, Fall

Exercise Physiology

A study of the responses of various physiological systems to exercise. Includes application and integration of these systems to various diseases and to human performance. Content will be coordinated with Diagnosis and Management of Cardiopulmonary Conditions in PT.

Diagnosis & Management of Cardiopulmonary Conditions

Students will learn to assess, diagnose, and treat movement-related cardiopulmonary conditions. Treatment techniques will include exercise and conditioning, breathing techniques, postural drainage, and percussion. Interpretation of laboratory tests and pharmacology will prepare students to work with patients safely. Case studies will prepare students for general practice.

Orthopedic Medicine

Physician lectures will provide students with information on surgical and non-surgical procedures and post-operative management of patients with orthopedic conditions. Physicians will discuss medical diagnosis, clinical signs and symptoms, and management of selected conditions to prepare the student to use this information in Diagnosis and Management of Musculoskeletal Conditions.

Diagnosis & Management of Musculoskeletal Conditions II

Students will acquire the skills needed to manage and prevent movement-related musculoskeletal problems of the spine, hip, knee, and shoulder. Acute and post-acute care will be addressed. Integration of information from previous and concurrent courses will be stressed with emphasis on screening, examination, analysis of findings, and diagnosis, as well as design and implementation of intervention programs for patients with increasingly complex problems. Functional activities across the life span also will be addressed.

Neurology Medicine

Physician lectures will provide students with information on the medical management of patients with neurological conditions. Physicians will discuss medical diagnosis, clinical signs and symptoms, natural progression, and management of selected conditions to prepare the student to use this information in Diagnosis and Management of Neuromuscular Conditions in PT. Students attend class with occupational therapy students and work independently to meet the objectives of the course.

Essential Clinical Skills II

Skill in providing interventions including massage and mobilization, and the application of thermal, mechanical, hydro, and electrotherapeutic modalities will be developed. Students will learn the basic indications for and prescription of adaptive equipment and wheelchairs.

Case Integration

Paper, video, and live patient cases provided by faculty and students will be completed to provide practice in managing patients with varying movement-related diagnoses. Students participate in faculty-facilitated small groups to discuss their own patient cases and to develop skill in asking clinical questions, as well as using the literature to support, practice, and write a modified case report.

Diagnosis & Management of Neuromuscular Conditions I

Students will acquire the skills to examine patients with neuromuscular disorders. Emphasis will be on screening, selecting tests and measures, examination, determining impairments and functional loss, and making a movement system diagnosis. Students will practice examining both adult and pediatric patients. Content related to motor control and motor learning will be integrated into the course. Course content will be integrated with the concurrent Neurology Medicine course.

 

Year 2, Winter

Clinical Experience II

An eight week long full-time clinical experience supervised by clinical faculty. Allows the student to practice evaluation and treatment skills acquired in the classroom and laboratory. Also emphasizes development of professional behaviors.

 

Year 2, Spring

Moderators of Health, Wellness & Rehabilitation

Designed to explore individual attitudes toward health, illness, disability, and death. Emphasizes the effect of these attitudes on individual goals, motivation, expectations, interpersonal relationships, and exercise adherence. Investigates individual health attitudes, personal values, family interaction, stress management, and concepts of wellness. Age-related issues will be addressed.

Professional Issues & Skill Development III

Focuses on clinical application of compliance and motivation principles. Peer teaching, communication, consultation skills, leadership skills, lobbying legislation, documentation, and negotiation in the clinic will be practiced. Students will practice decision making, supervision, and delegation. Students will prepare résumés and begin career planning.

Diagnosis & Management of General Medical Conditions

Students will acquire the skills needed to manage movement-related problems in patients with diabetes, burns, arthritis, wounds, amputation, obesity, oncological problems, incontinence, pregnancy, pain, genetic conditions, and orthotic needs. Students will become familiar with care in both the neonatology unit and emergency room. Integration of information from previous and concurrent courses will be stressed with emphasis on screening, examination, analysis of findings, and diagnosis, as well as design and implementation of intervention programs for patients with increasingly complex problems. Functional activities across the life-span will be addressed.

Diagnosis & Management of Musculoskeletal Conditions III

Students will acquire the skills needed to manage and prevent movement-related musculoskeletal problems of the spine, neck, elbow, wrist, hand, ankle. and foot. Integration of information from previous and concurrent courses will be stressed with emphasis on screening, examination, analysis of findings, and diagnosis, as well as design and implementation of intervention programs for acute and post-acute patients with increasingly complex problems. Functional activities across the life span will be addressed.

Case Integration Lab II

Students will be updated on the use of movement-related diagnostic systems and hear a practice case from a faculty member. Using data on a patient studied during CE II, students will work in small groups with a faculty mentor to 1) orally present the case in five minutes using a rounds fashion; 2) develop a clinical question; 3) search the literature for 6-8 articles that will address the clinical question, summarizing the articles and completing a systematic review using matrix method; and 4) complete a modified case report.

Diagnosis & Management of Neuromuscular Conditions II

Students will build on their skills for examining patients with neuromuscular disorders and diagnosing movement system dysfunction. Additional skills acquired will be designing and implementing intervention plans to address impairments and functional loss in patients of all ages. To aid in selecting appropriate interventions, students will consider patient prognosis. Students will learn to prescribe wheelchairs and orthotics, fabricate splints, apply kinesiotape, and use a variety of medical equipment. Motor control and motor learning principles will be integrated into the course.

 

Year 2, Summer

Clinical Experience III (10 weeks)

A full time clinical experience supervised by clinical faculty. Allows the student to practice evaluation and treatment skills acquired in the classroom and laboratory. Also emphasizes development of professional behaviors.

 

Year 3, Fall

Clinical Experience IV (12 weeks)

A full time clinical experience supervised by clinical faculty. Allows the student to practice evaluation and treatment skills acquired in the classroom and laboratory. Also emphasizes development of professional behaviors.

 

Year 3, Spring

Diagnosis & Evidence Analysis III

Students will prepare written case reports based on patients seen during their clinical experiences. Students will defend the use of diagnostic classifications and integrate the literature to support their case. Students will practice selecting appropriate outcome measures, designing clinical research questions, and using data to make decisions about individual and group treatment. Students will apply concepts of reliability and validity to assess their measurements.

Organizational & Management Issues

Dynamics of organizations and departments will be discussed using case examples. Focuses on the knowledge and skills needed by physical therapists early in their careers. Principles of administration and management that enable the physical therapist to supervise supportive personnel, to understand fiscal issues including reimbursement, and to recommend staffing schedules and patterns will be addressed. Students will learn marketing and public relations strategies.

Alternative Skills & Practice Environments

Physical therapy practice in work and community settings will be addressed. Special PT tests and the interpretation of other tests will be integrated into cases. Students also will be introduced to care in the ER, issues related to genetics and genomics, and the importance of changes in medical care on PT. A unit on ergonomics is included. Alternative medicine and alternative PT practice (using an evidence-based practice approach) will be studied. PT topics may include craniosacral therapy, pilates, tai-chi, functional stabilization, therapeutic horsemanship, muscle energy, magnets, and others. Student will learn about chiropractic, acupuncture, functional capacity evaluation, and focus more on chronic pain. Students will also explore recreational options for disabled populations.

Health, Fitness & Prevention

Emphasis will be on critiquing and designing fitness and wellness programs for well and special populations. Programs will focus on those for employee fitness, diabetes, arthritis, obesity, and the elderly. Students will participate in and evaluate group treatments and recreational exercise. Use of exercise equipment will be addressed.

Case Integration Lab III

A variety of teaching methods, including rounds format, assessment centers, and student presentations will enable students to integrate information from across the curriculum to complete complex case studies. Emphasis will be on pharmacology, other tests, moderators, establishing time frames, and setting priorities for care. Age-related issues will be addressed.

Professional Issues & Skill Development IV

Focus will be on the professional skills students need to function in entry-level practice in a variety of settings. Students will study licensure, as well as participate in lobbying and a mock House of Delegates. Skills in serving as an expert witness, a leader, peer instructor, and clinical instructor will be developed. Students will be expected to participate in a service project and activities of the APTA. Cultural and race issues will be actively explored.