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History and Growth of Orthopaedic Residency

December 2016


The SAU residency program in Orthopaedic Physical Therapy began with its first cohort of two residents in 2006-07 as one of only 15 programs in the country. They worked four days per week in the clinic and were on campus one day a week for class and to assist with DPT Musculoskeletal Therapeutics course labs. Today, we continue to make steady progress toward expansion of not only the number of students, but also in the number of facilities supporting orthopaedic residency.

The initial plan was to someday grow to 5-7 residents. During the second year of the program (2007-08) there were two residents, which then grew to three in 2008-09. In subsequent years, we had four residents in the program, again, each working about 32 hours per week while also completing other requirements such as being teaching assistants and completing projects. This allowed the residents to work and learn, but since they were only in the clinic four days each week, they had always been on a reduced salary scale.

mark levsenIn 2013-14, the overall structure of the program changed so that residents could work full-time and thus earn a salary that was more competitive and close to what a new graduate would make. In order to accomplish this, faculty introduced a new format for the didactic material. The residents would complete two home study modules from the APTA Orthopaedic Section as well as take a series of weekend classes to cover the needed material. These classes were presented as a series of five weekend courses that residents took throughout the year, Mark Levsen (left) and Kevin Farrell (below) being the two primary instructors. Residents would no longer have to be on campus during the week which also allowed freedom to be at off-site locations.

kevin farrellWhen the program first began, it operated in conjunction with Rock Valley Physical Therapy, where our residents gained clinical experience and preparation under the guidance of recognized mentors. In the following years, discussions continued with several other facilities wanting to serve as clinical sites for the residents. In 2015-2016, two more facilities, Genesis Health System in Davenport and Edward-Elmhurst Health in Naperville, Ill., began hosting residents. Both facilities also employ residency graduates who are committed to advancing the practice of physical therapy.

Rock valley physical therapyWith the added clinical sites and residents working in different cities, a weekly video chat between the residents, mentors, and SAU faculty bridged the communication divide. It helps maintain person-to-person interaction that is so important to their learning, which include topics such as recently attended courses, journal club reviews, discussion of patients, and review of assignments.

With expansion to new sites, we are now looking at growing the program with other facilities. We hope to continue to be able to slowly grow and develop the program in this manner.

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