The Doctor of Physical Therapy program at Russell Sage College is a post-baccalaureate program where students enter the program in a summer semester. Students enrolled in the 3-year program complete 9 semesters of consecutive course work with integration of three full-time clinical experiences in the second and third summer semesters and from November–February of the third year. Part-time clinical experiences are also integrated to correspond with course work being completed in patient/client management courses.

Our mission and philosophy along with our student goals form the foundation for the physical therapy curriculum. Graduates of the Doctor of Physical Therapy program will be competent to practice physical therapy at an entry level consistent with the APTA Guide to Physical Therapist Practice, A Normative Model of Physical Therapist Professional Education, and the APTA Vision Statement for Physical Therapy 2020.

Patient/client-centered care is at the core of the curriculum design, which is based on the disablement model and the patient/client management model. The curriculum emphasizes a problem-solving approach for clinical decision-making, critical thinking skills, collaboration, communication, interpersonal interactions, and clinical research applications.

The curriculum has been developed along six organizing elements with six transcurricular themes:

Organizing ElementsTranscurricular Themes
Musculoskeletal SystemSafety
Neuromuscular SystemCommunication
Cardiovascular and Pulmonary SystemSocial Responsibility
Integumentary SystemEthical and Legal Behavior
Clinical Decision Making/Critical InquiryEvidence-Based Practice
Human InteractionLife Long Learning

Each of the Doctor of Physical Therapy courses is linked to at least one — and often more than one — organizing element. The organizing elements are based on the four preferred practice patterns in The Guide to Physical Therapist Practice with the additions of Clinical Decision Making/Critical Inquiry and Human Interaction. Course work associated with each of these elements progresses in depth and specificity through the curriculum. Basic knowledge, skills, and values are presented early in the curriculum and are then refined and reinforced in the later courses within the same organizing element.

The six transcurricular themes throughout the courses and co-curricular activities help prepare students to function in an increasingly complex social and health care culture. They are consistent with APTAs document on Professionalism in Physical Therapy: Core Values and reflect the mission of the School of Health Sciences that stresses preparation of students to become professional practitioners who are responsive to, and show concern for, the needs of the individual, community, and society.

The curriculum includes a variety of courses that prepare students for clinical practice as physical therapists. The foundational and behavioral sciences courses build on the undergraduate prerequisite courses. These provide the basis for the clinical sciences, patient/client management, and practice management content in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program.

The curriculum is structured to foster the development of students in the cognitive, psychomotor, and affective domains and a variety of teaching methods are used to accommodate individual learning styles. In many courses across the curriculum students have exposure to patients and clients. This helps reinforce the material learned and allows students to practice newly acquired skills. Concurrent with the corresponding patient/client management courses, the clinical applications component of the curriculum provides students with a part-time clinical education experience with patients in the cardiovascular and pulmonary, integumentary, musculoskeletal, and neuromuscular practice areas.

Evidence-based practice is emphasized throughout the curriculum. Each course includes evidence gathering, critical review of literature, or use of the scientific method to answer a question or make a decision related to practice. Students become proficient in accessing the professional literature, become critical consumers of the literature, and apply the findings to clinical decision-making.

In order to prepare students to become excellent consumers of research and beginning clinical researchers, the curriculum includes a three-course research sequence. This sequence culminates in a capstone project. Students choose to write a clinical case report or apply to work with faculty on their ongoing research projects. At the completion of the final year of the Doctor of Physical Therapy program, students present their capstone project at the annual Graduate Research Symposium.