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Journey of a DPT Student

How to Decide on a Clinical Placement

Published September 10, 2012 11:42 AM by Lauren Rosso

At the end of October, we start the interview process that will ultimately determine our clinical rotations during our third year. In my program, the final year of the program is entirely clinical with either two six- month placements or one 12-month placement. While everyone is required to attend two general interviews, one inpatient and one outpatient, we do have a lot of say in where we are placed. We can decide to complete all 12 months in one type of setting, or we can try two completely different settings.

The only thing I know at this point is that I do not want to stay in one place for 12 months. There is so much that I haven't yet been exposed to and thus I don't feel like I have enough experience to decide which setting I'd like to pursue for my career. Aside from that, I'm no closer to making a decision than I was when I started the program. I just can't figure out what the best option is. Inpatient? Rehab? Outpatient ortho? Or something more specialized?

For the most part, I do not see myself working in an outpatient orthopedic setting. However, that setting requires a great amount of knowledge and clinical skill and I could absolutely benefit from a six-month placement. Or would a rehab hospital be best? I spoke to some of my professors, and many of them seem to think that inpatient rehabilitation has the potential to be a great learning experience with a lot of carryover. One of them also mentioned the VA being a fantastic setting for students. I hadn't thought about working for the VA, but it's something I may want to consider.

I also have a strong interest in neuro, and could definitely see myself working in that setting. But where would I learn the most? I just want to be exposed to as much as possible while I'm still a student, before the greater burden of responsibility sets in. There's just not enough time to do everything! Despite these weighted decisions, this is a very exciting time. I'm just hoping to gather as much information as possible so I can make an informed decision when it comes time to interview.


It sounds as if your clinical rotations are chosen slightly differently than mine. Ours are chosen randomly from a list of our preferences. Yet we still have so many choices of places and settings to choose from. I always feel very stressed about selecting clinical rotation. Where will I learn the most should I try to get places out of state to help make connections there (since I have no idea where to work when I graduate). I want to experience every setting I possibly can and sometimes i feel as if I will never experience them all to make a decision about what setting I want to spend my career in! I hope you find the setting that works best for you!

Sarah Billings March 4, 2013 11:23 PM

It's definitely stressful trying to decide which clinicals to choose! My program has a 6 week, two 8 week, and one 10 week rotation throughout our curriculum. I cannot imagine being in one setting for 12 months straight. I agree with you that two 6 month rotations would be beneficial. I never had a "neuro" rotation, and that is something I regret. I am currently finishing up my last rotation, which is a split inpatient/outpatient rotation in pediatrics. Although I see some patients with neuro diagnoses, it is not the same as being in an inpatient rehab setting. So I hope you are able to have one of those! I hear from other PTs and students that you learn a lot there, which is beneficial not only in that setting but transfers to other settings as well!

Janell March 2, 2013 11:35 AM

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