Wheeling University (WU) is home to a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program which embraces educational excellence. The program follows a unique Problem-Based Learning curriculum in the preparation of physical therapists for clinical practice, ethical leadership, the betterment of society and service to others, including areas underserved by the health care system. This provides the students with many opportunities for professional and personal growth. One of which is the opportunity to engage in structured service learning experiences at a local, regional, and international level, throughout their course of study. These experiences bring the student in contact with people from various cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds, exposing them to the inconsistency of the availability, access, and utilization of basic health care and public services in a community. They are also guided to reflect on their civic responsibility and role as a health care provider and citizen to affect a change in the lives of the underserved populations.
The local program has sites located throughout Wheeling, WV, and its surrounding areas. Students provide a variety of services to underserved citizens such as physical therapy screens at a local free clinic, home visits to shut-ins, caregiver assistance for those working with children and adults with developmental disabilities, assisting in childcare facility conducting screening, and exercise instruction for patients undergoing dialysis. Students focus on acquiring interview, examination and advocacy skills as well as skills that specifically pertain to the delivery of physical therapy services.
The regional program is an opportunity for students to immerse themselves into the Appalachian culture. Students learn about these resilient people and the health care needs of local individuals who tell the story of their lives in Appalachia.
The international experience is an opportunity for students to immerse themselves in an area outside of the United States and reflect on a global aspect of health care and their role on a much larger scale. This program is offered to sites in Central and South America where students interact with various people and community’s who share their story, needs, and wisdom with our students. The focus is to help those who do not have access to the basic health care or rehabilitation services, to make students aware of the fundamental reason why they live a life of service, and to provide an opportunity for the participants (both from the US and abroad) to share their knowledge and skills.
All of the service experience opportunities provide the participating students with opportunities to develop and enhance clinical skills, interpersonal skills and health care advocacy skills. The program gathers both qualitative and quantitative information on the influence these experiences have on the student. Statistically there is a significant difference in clinical performance evaluative items related to patient advocacy, consultation, screening and communication for students who attended the international service learning experience when compared to students who had not.
WU physical therapy graduates are prepared to practice a holistic approach in delivering physical therapy services to diverse populations throughout the continuum of health, wellness, injury and disease. Through the use of a unique learning style, WU physical therapy graduates demonstrate exemplary skills in problem solving and a commitment to life-long learning.