Residency Corner: Cleveland Clinic Rehabilitation and Sports Therapy Orthopaedic Residency

At Cleveland Clinic Rehabilitation and Sports Therapy, we offer an orthopaedic physical therapy residency focused on all aspects of orthopaedic physical therapy practice that strives to help create the next generation of orthopaedic experts.

The residency program offered through our Rehabilitation and Sports Therapy Department consists of 10 structured didactic learning sessions with 10 lab intensives to reinforce the didactic material. There is a written midterm and final exam, with a corresponding lab practical. Also, prior to each lecture, a short quiz is given to the residents prior to the start of class. Residents also participate in regular journal club discussions and periodically work with physicians and surgeons, either observing surgery or attending medical fellow or radiology conferences.

Residents also participate in mentorship under an APTA board-certified orthopaedic clinical specialist (OCS). They will lead treatment under the direct supervision of the mentor and participate in advanced orthopaedic discussion regarding the management of that patient.


Answers were provided by Dr. Craig Giambattista, Dr. Jessica Waters, and Dr. Michael Harrington (shortened to CG, JW, and MH respectively)

What makes your residency program unique compared to others?

MH – Residencies can be broken down into distance based or onsite models. Distance based models afford you flexibility, but are not always associated with a large public health systems. Often times you may be responsible for finding your own mentorship and will not have access to the same opportunities a large institution can provide. Onsite models provide you access to a large institution that may afford you teaching and research opportunities, but they also typically require you become a full time employee for 12-18 months, sacrificing your flexibility.

The Cleveland Clinic Orthopedic Residency is a hybrid allowing internal and external candidates. This model allows enough flexibility that external candidates can maintain their current positions and living arrangements, but still maintains all the benefits of a large highly reputable institution. 

The combination of internal and external candidates also allows for diversity of practice. You won’t learn the Cleveland Clinic way, instead you will see varying perspectives based on the background of the residents. 

What would you consider the strengths of your program to be?

MH -The clinical mentorship is the strongest component of the residency. Faculty members have advance credentials including orthopedic and sports specialists, MDT diplomats, and Fellow’s, who have trained at different institutions. This provides a diverse and eclectic education.

What makes focused learning within a residency worth pursuing?

MH – Some of the arguments against residency are that there are no outcomes to show it improves clinical practice and the clinicians who choose residency are self-directed learners and would likely be better clinicians anyway. Maybe this is the case, but I have not spoken to anyone who regrets doing a residency. If you think you can learn the same material and gain the same clinical skills on your own look at the data on law apprenticeship programs. These self-directed programs have a drastically lower pass rate on the bar exam. Focused learning in a residency demands you learn the material in depth and allows discussion with other residents and mentors that challenges your clinical skill set and reasoning in a way you cannot duplicate independently.

What advice would you give to students that are seriously interested in pursuing residency training?

CG – I would recommend practicing for a 6 month to 1 yr period. I think that gives you some experience so you have a better idea about what you need to work on and relevant questions to ask. I would also be sure that you have time available – there is enough outside work that requires the resident to budget time for projects/coursework outside of scheduled classes and meetings. Most importantly I would recommend knowing what you want to get out of the experience – i.e. do you want to be a better clinician, improve manual skills, be an educator, and try to tailor your experience to meet those goals.
JW – Residency training is a fantastic opportunity, but one I was not ready for immediately upon graduating. Don’t be afraid to wait a year (or 3) to further your learning and use it as an opportunity to rediscover your passion.

What additional opportunities do your residents pursue after completing their training?

CG- The next step for me is to consider a manual therapy fellowship or look into teaching (potentially down the PhD/Dsc route). I think the residency gets you thinking more about important concepts in patient care and the PT field in general. Some people may stop after the OCS, while others use it as a stepping stone. As stated above, it depends on your goals.
JW- Now I am looking forward to getting involved in research and teaching. I feel more confident in my clinical reasoning and have plenty of questions that require further research to answer. I hope to also contribute and assist in the program that helped me develop as a PT. 
Please follow and like us:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.