Clinical Education

The Doctor of Physical Therapy program has a long history of delivering a comprehensive clinical education experience to students. We contract with clinical partners representing some of the finest medical institutions and private practices in the country and abroad. 

Meet the clinical education team:

Co-Directors of Clinical Education:


The clinical education team establishes and maintains relationships with clinical facilities that demonstrate excellence in patient care and clinical instruction. We build strong partnerships between the University and clinical sites, an essential element in preparing students for the challenges of contemporary healthcare.

Clinical education experiences are planned to expose the student to a variety of practice settings and experiences. During these experiences, students manage patients with health care needs at various levels of acuity and in different contexts, while interacting with other members of the health care team. For the First and Intermediate Clinical Experiences, students are usually assigned to two different clinical environments to work with a broad array of patients/clients in both inpatient and outpatient settings. The Terminal Clinical Experience typically allows students to have exposure to practice areas that align with their advanced track studies in the areas of orthopedics, adult neurorehabilitation, or pediatrics.

The listing below is not inclusive and sites vary year to year depending on staffing patterns and other factors associated with the ever-changing health care environment. Some sites accept students for every clinical experience. Other, more specialized sites,  may only be available for Clinical Education II or the Terminal Experience. The Directors of Clinical Education continually work with students to develop new affiliation sites to meet students' needs and interests, either geographically or in a specialty of practice.

Our DPT students engage in clinical experiences in settings like:

  • Hospitals: acute care, sub-acute, ICU/critical care
  • Out-patient clinics, private and corporate practices
  • Rehabilitation facilities
  • Skilled nursing facilities (SNF): long-term/extended care and acute
  • Home care
  • Schools: preschool, primary and secondary
  • Corporate or industrial health centers
  • Industrial, workplace or other occupational environments
  • Athletic facilities: collegiate, amateur and professional
  • Sports performance and training facilities

The number and types of clinical experiences vary yearly depending on the level of the student (first, second and terminal), the staffing patterns at a particular clinical site, and myriad other factors. Specialty experiences have included: dance medicine, sports teams, wound care, spinal cord injury, pediatrics, cardiopulmonary, neurological rehabilitation and international placements.

The clinical education team advises students regarding placement options and presents students with a list of available placements for a given period (options tend to increase from Clinical Education I to the Terminal Experience). As needed, we work with students to establish new sites.

Students are provided the opportunity to investigate available clinical placements for each experience, and they submit a ranked wish-list of preferences in consultation with their Clinical Education advisor as the first step in the placement process. The Columbia Clinical Education team then uses a purposeful placement methodology that considers student wish-list requests, professional behaviors, academic performance, goals/interests, and location requirements in order to match a student to an appropriate placement. The Directors of Clinical Education use this comprehensive approach to make all matches.

Clinical education is a key element in the professional education of physical therapists and we believe that the opportunity to practice and develop skills in a direct patient care environment is a privilege. Columbia University students are recognized by the clinical community as some of the most knowledgeable, well-prepared and skilled clinicians emerging from PT professional education programs in the country. While at Columbia, you will have a team of dedicated Clinical Education faculty supporting your clinical education experience throughout the program.

Learn more about our Clinical Education program from our Clinical Education Manual.