Although not all DPT programs require physical therapy observation hours, it is strongly suggested that potential applicants complete at least one volunteer or shadowing experience. This provides an excellent opportunity for students to learn more about the physical therapy profession and evaluate if the particular field in physical therapy they wish to pursue is actually the best choice for a future career. In addition, students will observe the daily routines of physical therapist and how they interact with a team of physicians to provide the best possible care, help students become aware of the academic, technical, and personal skills required in the health-care professions, and make the students aware of the physical demands required by physical therapy positions.
There are different settings where students can complete their volunteer or shadowing experiences. They include hospitals, rehabilitation hospitals, extended care facilities, nursing homes, outpatient clinics, and wellness centers. Ideally, you should obtain experiences in both an out-patient and an in-patient clinical setting, in addition to any particular field of physical therapy that peaks your interest. This experience is instrumental gaining admittance into DPT program in three ways. One, it provides the applicant with the necessary information to intelligently discuss the job duties of a physical therapist on the essay portion of the application. Two, it demonstrates that the student fully understands and is committed to pursuing a career in physical therapy; and lastly, it provides the student the opportunity to request a letter of recommendation from the supervising therapist.
Additional information regarding the observation requirements of specific programs can be found here.