Residency Corner: SLU-SSM Health Physical Therapy Orthopedic Residency

The Saint Louis University-SSM Health Physical Therapy Orthopedic Residency is an ABPTRFE accredited 52 week post-professional program designed to advance the knowledge, skills, and attributes of licensed physical therapists in orthopedics as described by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialists’ Description of Specialty Practice (DSP).  Cohorts consist of 2 Residents who enter the Program in early August. Education encompasses didactic and psychomotor instruction at Saint Louis University and SSM Health Physical Therapy in face to face, online, and small group formats. Mentoring is during direct patient care with expert clinicians at both Saint Louis University and SSM Health Physical Therapy in orthopedic settings.  Our faculty numbers greater than 15 clinicians who are experts in the various aspects of orthopedic practice.  The residents divide their clinical practice between two clinical sites during the program, SSM Health Physical Therapy at Richmond Heights and the Saint Louis University Physical Therapy Clinic. 

We highly value the contributions of our Residents in each of their roles.  As fully benefited employees of SSM Health, our Residents enjoy a rich benefit package including paid time off.  Salary represents the hours within the clinical setting in direct patient care.  Additional roles include instruction in the Saint Louis University entry-level program, various shadowing opportunities and collaborations with SLUCare physicians, and scholarship with dissemination at the local and/or national level.  The mission is evident in the Resident’s commitments to the profession and to the education of future clinicians.  It is further evidenced through their service of physical therapy services of the underinsured via the SLU Health Resource Center Physical Therapy clinic. 

If you wish to learn more about our program, we welcome you to visit our website at slu.edu/doisy/degrees/ssm-residency.php OR > Visit slu.edu/doisy: > Click Degrees; > Select SLU SSM Health Orthopedic Residency. 

Or you are welcome to contact the Program Director, Dr. Chris Sebelski @ chris.sebelski@health.slu.edu.


What makes your residency program unique compared to other programs?

One factor that makes the SLU-SSM Health Physical Therapy Orthopedic residency unique is the pairing between Saint Louis University and SSM Health Physical therapy. This factor allows for a variety of mentoring opportunities with health care professionals such as over 15 physical therapy residency mentors, Orthopedic physicians within SLU and SSM Health facilities, and academic faculty within SLU’s entry-level DPT program. Additionally, this collaboration allows for personalized shadowing opportunities in niche practices each individual resident is interested in which are not included in a standardized residency program. Another rare characteristic of the SLU-SSM Health residency is the opportunity to be involved in SLU’s entry-level DPT program as a lab assistant in a variety of classes.

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

The SLU – SSM Health Residency is a multi-faceted experience.  I have had the role as a lab instructor helping to teach the PT students in SLU’s graduate program, facilitating learning for future PT’s.  I have also been placed in a position to advocate for not only the profession but for patients who are appropriate for PT by shadowing MD’s.   This residency program has provided me with a plethora of mentor’s who I not only can utilize while in the residency but for the rest of my career to continue to develop as a clinician but also as a professional healthcare provider.  I truly enjoy the diversity of this residency because it allows for exposure to two separate clinics as well as two different patient populations, which adds to the depth/breadth of the program and speaks to the well-balanced PT I am striving to become.  Lastly, the residency program serves as a strong platform to propel my career and accelerate my professional development with a project that will be submitted to different conferences (i.e. CSM) as a way to foster progression of continuing education for the PT profession.

What makes focused learning within a residency worth pursuing?

I am given opportunities to progress my skills in a structured learning environment in an area of PT that I am passionate about.  It helps to increase the level of depth and breadth of my knowledge while also innovatively progressing my clinical reasoning and thought process for every patient.  As a recent graduate from PT school and having a year of experience, I did not believe my skillset was as efficient or effective for treating patients.  I am maximizing the opportunities and participating in meaningful reflection to further develop my orthopedic skills and clinical decision making.   I would not have been able to achieve this level of detail and become so analytical to my process as a clinician if it was not for the focused learning provided by the residency.

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

Advice I would give to physical therapists who are interested in pursuing residency training would be to do your research. Take time to consider each individual program of interest, ask questions from current and past residents, and find the best program match for what you are searching for. There is a variety of styles of residencies and it is important to find one that will facilitate professional growth as a physical therapist. Lastly, reflect on why you would like to be a part of a residency program at this point in your professional career. It is paramount to begin applying for residency programs with a clear idea of what you are looking for and where you would like to be at the end of the post-professional training.

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

SLU-SSM Health Physical Therapy Residency Program graduates have pursued a wide breadth of career paths. Opportunities pursued by our graduates include ABPTS certification, clinical leadership, private practice ownership, military practice, University-level teaching, presentations to national and international conferences, and service to the community through pro bono care for the underinsured.

What do you look for in a quality candidate for your residency program?

A quality candidate for the SLU-SSM Health Physical Therapy Residency Program is a passionate, goal driven, self-disciplined physical therapist in her or his first three years of orthopedic practice who aspires to pursue specialization in orthopedic physical therapy practice through formal mentoring and training. Our Program emphasizes diverse experiences including teaching, service, professional advocacy, and evidence informed practice. A desire to grow in these areas also ensures a good fit. For each Resident to maximize the breadth and depth of knowledge of our faculty, strong skills in communication and flexibility are expected.


If you wish to learn more about our program, we welcome you to visit our website at slu.edu/doisy/degrees/ssm-residency.php OR > Visit slu.edu/doisy: > Click Degrees; > Select SLU SSM Health Orthopedic Residency. 

Or you are welcome to contact the Program Director, Dr. Chris Sebelski @ chris.sebelski@health.slu.edu.

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