The Acute Care Internship: Outcomes of an Innovative Model Bridging Clinical Education and Employment


Various alternative models of clinical education have been explored. The purpose of this presentation is to describe the 9 year evolution of an acute care internship program. This mentorship model was developed to bridge clinical education and employment in the acute care setting. This program arose from a partnership between our large academic teaching hospital and a local Doctoral Physical Therapy (DPT) program. The internship's goal is to produce an entry level Physical Therapist that demonstrates accelerated competency, effective and autonomous decision-making capabilities and clinical excellence in the acute care setting.


The acute care internship is a program of structured mentorship that spans the final clinical education experience and entry-level period of employment. The internship spans 24 weeks that includes 10 weeks of clinical education as a student (pre-graduation phase) and 14 weeks as an employee (post-graduation phase. All interns begin with a ten-week module that emphasizes pathophysiology, care of the geriatric patient, discharge planning, and basic acute care skills. Upon completion of the ten-week pre-graduation phase, students return to the academic program for graduation and the licensure exam, then returns to complete the post-graduation phase, consisting of two eight-week modules (cardiovascular/pulmonary, oncology or neurology). Structured, time-dependent modules of objective goals and expected behaviors guide the Intern’s experience, using our facility’s yearly staff therapy performance appraisal as a guide. Our core group faculty is comprised of APTA Certified Clinical Instructors with a minimum of 5 years of clinical experience, clinical specialists and team leaders.


Retrospective review over the past nine years supports that this innovative model of education provides the interns with an accelerated competency in providing therapy to the medically complex patient population. The intern benefits from the intensive structured mentorship from expert clinicians in a challenging academic medical center, with access to medically complex patients with a variety of diagnoses. The institution benefits from an employee that demonstrates accelerated competency, autonomous decision-making capabilities and clinical excellence in acute care. Of the 5 interns who remained as employees, all possessed the skills and behaviors at 3 months that other entry-level employees exhibit after 1 year of employment. All demonstrated accelerated advancement in our facility’s career ladder. In addition, all 5 are actively engaged in professional associations, research and academic teaching.

Conclusions/Relevance to the conference theme: Shaping the Future of Physical Therapy Education

In conclusion, this innovative program has successfully produced highly skilled clinicians who have not only achieved advanced clinical competencies in a short duration, but also excelled professionally. Based upon our experience, we highly recommend an acute care internship program to other academic programs/clinical facilities as a model of clinical education.


Portney, LG, Knab, MS. Implementation of a 1-year paid clinical internship in physical therapy. J
Phys Ther Educ. 2001;15(4):31-35.
Weddle M, Sellheimer D. Linking the Classroom and the Clinic: A Model of Integrated Clinical
Education for First-Year Physical Therapist Students. J Phys Ther Educ. 2011;25(3):68-80.

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  • Control #: 2292280
  • Type: Posters
  • Event/Year: ELC2015
  • Authors: Ms. Colleen Chancler, Joe Adler
  • Keywords:

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