Clinical Education Program

Each clinical experience is designed to provide you with an opportunity to practically apply the knowledge and skills acquired in a specific area of the academic program. These experiences will increase your level of expertise in the evaluation and treatment of patients with varying diagnoses.

Your performance will be compared to predicted performance levels, set by faculty, across all three years of the DPT program. The aim of the clinical education program is that you will meet and exceed the performance level expected of an entry-level physical therapist during the third year of your DPT program. Your performance will be judged based on several clinical decision-making skills, hands-on performance and professional behaviors using the Clinical Performance Instrument (CPI).

DPT-I: The First-Year Experience

As a DPT-I, or first-year DPT student, you will complete a two-week practicum in the middle of your second semester and a six-week summer affiliation at the end of your first year.

The DPT-I curriculum includes:

  • Evidence for Physical Therapist Practice I
  • Cellular and Systems Physiology
  • Musculoskeletal Anatomy (gross anatomy)
  • Basics of Patient Management
  • Life Span Motor Control
  • Mechanics of Gait
  • Principles of Disease
  • Therapeutic Exercise
  • Analytical Anatomy (gross anatomy)
  • Evidence for Physical Therapist Practice II
  • Disorders of the Musculoskeletal System
  • Clinical Management of Musculoskeletal Dysfunction
  • Therapeutic Application of Physical Agents
  • Clinical Biomechanics
  • Special Topics in Therapeutic Exercise
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DPT-Is are prepared to evaluate and treat general medical and musculoskeletal disorders. As a result, you will be assigned to clinical education centers where you will work with numerous general medicine and orthopedic patients.

DPT-II: The Second-Year Experience

As a DPT-II, or second-year DPT student, you will complete a two-week practicum in the middle of the first semester of your second year and an eight-week summer affiliation prior to returning for the summer coursework to complete your second year.

You will complete most of your required didactic courses. The DPT-II curriculum includes:

  • Neuroanatomy
  • Pathology of Cardiovascular, Pulmonary and Medical Conditions
  • Clinical Pharmacology
  • Clinical Exercise Physiology
  • Clinical Management of Cardiovascular, Pulmonary and Medical Conditions
  • Evidence for Physical Therapist Practice III
  • Neuropathology
  • Fundamental of Neuroscience
  • Clinical Management of Neurologic Dysfunction
  • Clinical Electrophysiology
  • Evidence for Physical Therapist Practice IV and V
  • Clinical Imaging
  • Differential Diagnosis in Physical Therapy
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In addition to managing patients with orthopedic dysfunction, DPT-IIs will also be prepared to evaluate and treat patients across the life span with various medical issues, including cardiopulmonary and neurologic dysfunctions across the settings (e.g., outpatient, acute care, acute rehab).

DPT-III: The Third-Year Experience

As a DPT-III, or third-year DPT student, you will complete two 16-week extended clinical experiences, one in a full-time setting and one in a part-time setting. In addition, you will take Integrated Patient Management Seminars.

The purpose of the extended clinical experience is to give you the opportunity to manage a full caseload over an extended period of time. Consequently, DPT-IIIs focus on the improvement of manual skills, clinical reasoning, pattern recognition, differential diagnosis, prognosticating, development of plan of care, goal-setting, interprofessional communication and comprehensive patient management.

Student Requirements

As a student in the DPT program, you must:

  • Attain a cumulative GPA of 2.75 or higher at the end of any academic year in order to participate in the clinical education program. If you earn a cumulative 2.75 GPA but receive a final grade of "D" in a clinical procedure course, then you must repeat the course and receive at least a "C" grade prior to continuation in the clinical education program.
  • Have a physical examination that includes appropriate immunizations and titers prior to entering the program.
  • Have biannual tuberculosis clearances while in the program.
  • Subscribe annually to professional liability insurance available through the USC Risk Management Division.
  • Be covered by major medical insurance while in the program.
  • Have a current certification from the American Heart Association in Basic Cardiac Life Support for the Healthcare Provider (CPR) while in the program.
  • Meet the requirements for any clinical education experience and complete and submit all required paperwork within one week after completion of the clinical experience in order to receive a grade of "CREDIT."

Clinical Placements

Specific clinical placements are dependent on numerous variables and constraints. These may include geographic location and/or available student housing, transportation issues, your area of interest, facility availability or faculty recommendations. While specific requests for sites and rotation schedules are strongly considered, they cannot always be accommodated. Special facility needs are always considered, but not guaranteed.

Interested in applying to the USC residential DPT program?

Learn More — Application Requirements