Clinical Observation

Each applicant to the Washtenaw Community College Physical Therapist Assistant Program is required to complete a minimum of 20 hours of volunteer and/or clinical observation of a physical therapist assistant or licensed physical therapist (a minimum of three hours in at least three different types of physical therapy settings).

The purpose of this requirement is to:

  • Give the applicant an understanding of the relationship between the physical therapist and the physical therapist assistant.
  • Give the applicant an understanding of the role of the physical therapist assistant in patient care.

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.

It is the responsibility of the applicant to locate and schedule observation experiences. Please contact the PTA program before attempting to schedule observations with a University of Michigan or Saint Joseph Mercy Hospital site as there are specific guidelines for those facilities.

A minimum of three hours at least three different physical therapy settings is required. Some facilities or organizations may contain more than one type of setting (e.g., acute care hospital with out-patient clinic). In that case, submit one form for each area in which at least three hours have been spent. Choose at least three different types of settings from the list below:

Settings for Job Shadow/Observation Requirement:

  • Home health
  • Hospital, Adult, Acute, In-patient
  • Hospital, Pediatric, Acute, In-patient
  • Outpatient
  • Extended Care Facility (long term care, sub-acute/skilled care)
  • School
  • In-patient Rehabilitation
  • Other (Ex: Therapeutic Riding, Burn Camp, Pediatrics)

Note: If the applicant is currently working in the field of Physical Therapy or is undergoing physical therapy treatment themselves, he/she should contact the PTA Program Director to determine if and how many hours of this experience will qualify towards your total required observation hours.

Steps for Arranging Observations:

  1. Call physical therapy sites. Explain that you are applying to a PTA program and that you would like to observe either a PTA or a PT at their facility.
  2. Dress appropriately. Ask if there are specific dress requirements. No shorts, jeans, T-shirts, sandals (open toe or open heel), excessive perfumes, body piercing or dangling jewelry. Slacks, shirt, and tennis shoes are usually acceptable.
  3. Be punctual. Be sure to contact the department/clinician if you are 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 Clinical Observation Form.
  6. Have the clinician complete their section of the Clinical Observation 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. Submit one form for each facility you observe. No more than two PT/PTA’s can sign a single form for an individual facility. Forms should be submitted with your completed program application to the Health and Second Tier Admissions Office.