Local Experiential Learning, Community Service and Pro Bono Experiences

Pro bono experiences

The Department has developed "experiential learning" opportunities for all Physical Therapy students, which take place across both years of the curriculum. Experiential learning provides students with opportunities to interact with patients/clients in ways that augment their academic and clinical preparation for physical therapist practice.  First year experiences at West Oak Lane and Foulkeways Retirement Community give students the chance to work with community dwelling elders who live in an urban or suburban setting and desire to stay fit.

Because patient/client education is central to clinical practice, students also work in groups to design and present health and wellness educational programs to various support groups.

In the second year of the curriculum, all students participate for six weeks in the Dan Aaron Stay Fit Exercise Program, a group exercise program for  individuals who have either Parkinson Disease or Multiple Sclerosis. Students also rotate through the Mercy pro bono clinic in West Philadelphia. This clinic serves the uninsured and underinsured in the greater Philadelphia area.

The combination of these experiences broadens students’ understanding of health, wellness, fitness and physical therapist practice. They provide opportunities to meet people from different cultural backgrounds, and to expand their view of physical therapist practice.

Local Experiential Learning Sites

West Oak Lane Senior Center and Foulkeways Retirement Community

All DPT students are required to participate in two local experiential learning programs during the first year of their program.  Each student spends six afternoons at each of two locations, West Oak Lane and Foulkeways Retirement Community. West Oak Lane is an urban senior center day program serving primarily African-American clients. With faculty oversight, students participate in and take turns leading a chair aerobics exercise session at the center. Students spend time talking with participants and learning about their lives. Foulkeways is a continuing care retirement community in suburban Montgomery County. Under the guidance of the Fitness Director, students participate in pool volleyball and balance classes for the residents. They also engage in conversation with residents experiencing cognitive changes. The goals in both settings are to expose students to active, older adults and to broader aspects of Physical Therapy (e.g. health promotion and wellness). These experiential learning opportunities expand classroom knowledge into real-world settings and serve to augment the more formal clinical education experiences.

Health Promotion/Disease Prevention

Faculty members in the Physical Therapy Department work with students to research, plan, and conduct presentations on the benefits of exercise to chronic disease support groups and clinicians in the greater Philadelphia area. Students presented their information on the benefits of exercise to approximately 200 people at the various support groups.  Topics often addressed include:

  • Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Post-Polio Syndrome
  • Breast Cancer
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • End-Stage Renal Disease
  • Childhood Fitness
  • Down Syndrome
  • Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

Local Community Service and Pro Bono Experiences

Dan Aaron Stay Fit Exercise Program

Stay Fit Clinic 1

With funding provided by the Dan Aaron family, Janet Readinger, PT, DPT, Assistant Professor and Associate Director of Clinical Education, offers a fitness exercise program to persons with multiple sclerosis (MS) and Parkinson's disease. Since its inception in 2004, the program has grown remarkably, while positively influencing patients and enhancing the education of over 300 Physical Therapy students. Students are required to participate in this exercise class twice a week for five weeks, receiving practical education about Parkinson's Disease and MS through their work with the patient/participants. The students are overwhelmingly positive about this assignment and provide many comments on their new-found understanding of how individuals and family members cope with a chronic disease. More information about the Stay Fit Exercise Program.

Mercy Circle of Care Physical Therapy Sessions

In partnership with The Mercy Catholic Medical Center in Philadelphia, physical therapy pro bono services are provided as part of a comprehensive treatment program to patients/clients who have impairments, functional limitations or changes in function and health status and lack the means to pay for therapy. The goal is to assist patients with rehabilitation diagnoses to achieve an optimal level of physical function. Rich DiGiacomo, PT, DPT oversees the student program at Mercy. Kris von Nieda, PT, DPT, M.Ed., Associate Professor at Arcadia University, provides clinical supervision to Arcadia students. Each student in the entry-level D.P.T. program is required to participate in the clinic one evening per week for five to six weeks in their second year. Students often see two to four patients under the direction and supervision of licensed physical therapists. The lower caseload allows for longer one-on-one patient interaction and clinical problem-solving. This allows students to work on their clinical skills, improve their comfort level with patient interaction and case management, and develop as professionals.The feedback from the students indicates the success of this experience at meeting Arcadia's goals to refine clinical skills and increase knowledge and professionalism.

The feedback from the students indicates the success of this experience at meeting Arcadia's goals to refine clinical skills and increase knowledge and professionalism.


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