Clinical Observation

Each applicant to the Washtenaw Community College Physical Therapist Assistant Program is required to complete 12 hours of volunteer and/or clinical observation of a licensed physical therapist (PT) or physical therapist assistant (PTA) in two (2) different types of physical therapy settings. 

The purpose of this requirement is to:

  • Give the applicant an understanding of the relationship between the PT and the PTA.
  • Give the applicant an understanding of the role the PTA in patient care.

By requiring different settings, the applicant gains a better understanding of the vast skill set needed by a PTA to treat a wide variety of patients.

Observations are to be documented on the Clinical Observation Form (a PDF document) and submitted to the Health and Second Tier Admissions Office as part of the application packet.

Where will my clinicals observations take place?

A minimum of three (3) hours at two (2) different settings is required for a total of 12 hours.  Some facilities or organizations may contain more than one type of setting (for example a hospital with an outpatient clinic on the same campus).  In that case, submit one form for each area in which at least 3 hours has been spent.

Choose at least 3 different types of settings from this list:

  • Hospital: Adult, Pediatrics, Burn Unit, Cardiac/Telemetry Unit, Oncology Unit
  • Inpatient Rehabilitation Facility
  • Skilled Nursing Facility
  • Extended Care Facility/Long Term Acute Care
  • Home Health
  • Outpatient Adult Neuro
  • Outpatient Pediatrics
  • Outpatient Orthopedics
  • School-based
  • Hippotherapy/therapeutic riding

Note: If the applicant is currently working in the field or is undergoing physical therapy treatment themselves, they may contact the PTA Program Director to determine if and how many hours of this experience will qualify towards your total required observation hours in one setting.  The applicant will still need to satisfy the requirement of additional hours in an additional setting.

How do I arrange clinical observations?

It is the responsibility of the applicant to locate and schedule observation experiences.  You are required to have reliable transportation to and from all clinical sites.

  1. Call physical therapy departments and/or sites.  Explain that you are applying to a PTA program and that you would like to observe either a PT or PTA at their facility.
  2. Dress appropriately.  Ask if there are specific dress requirements.  No shorts, jeans, T-shirts, sandals (open toe or heel), tennis shoes, excessive perfumes, body piercing, or dangling jewelry.  Slacks/nice pants, dress shirt, and closed-toed business casual shoes are usually acceptable.
  3. Be punctual.  Be sure to contact the department/clinician if you unable to keep the appointment.
  4. Remember this is an observation.  You are NOT allowed to assist with treatment.  Do NOT ask personal questions about the patient during the physical therapy treatment.  The PT or PTA may choose to share relevant information with you before or after the treatment sessions.  Maintain confidentiality.  Never mention a patient’s name, or medical diagnosis, outside of the facility.
  5. Complete the Observation Verification Form.
  6. Have the clinician complete their section of the form.  This form must be completed by a licensed physical therapist or physical therapist assistant.  No other health care provider observation will be accepted.
  7. Thank the clinician for allowing you to observe at their facility.
  8. Forms from each observation setting should be submitted with your completed program application.