Clinical Education

The Clinical Education Program is designed to dovetail with and complement the didactic portion of the Program’s curriculum in developing student knowledge and skills to meet the needs of entry-level practice. The goal is to provide students with a breadth and depth of experiences that allow the student to practice as a competent generalist and begin to develop specialty areas of practice. To that end, we have a clinical education program that consists of a blend of 3 integrated, part-time clinical experiences and 3 full-time clinical experiences. We believe that the implementation of integrated part-time clinical experiences, where didactic material and models taught in the mornings can be reinforced in the clinic in the afternoons, in association with full-time clinical experiences that dove-tail with semesters of didactic/and integrated experiential learning, provide an optimum educational experience for our students. Our clinical education program also requires participation in community outreach and interprofessional interactions to promote professional development outside of traditional physical therapy training. At the conclusion of their clinical education, we aim to have students transition smoothly into professional practice, and become contributing members of their community while continuing to develop as a professional.

Affiliated Clinical Sites
Opportunities for clinical education exist through affiliations with over 200 clinical sites across the nation. Most affiliated clinical sites are located in the northwest and northern Rocky Mountain regions. These clinical sites determine availability for student placement on a year-to-year basis. Students may be able to request a new clinical site affiliation through a formal application process for the final clinical experience. Development of new clinical sites and assessment of existing sites is an ongoing process between the clinical faculty and the clinical sites.

The Clinical Education Program of the School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science at The University of Montana has the primary mission of providing students the requisite experiential learning opportunities to become proficient, entry-level practitioners upon graduation.

To meet this mission, the Clinical Education Program collaborates with academic faculty and administrators, clinical faculty and administrators, students and PT programs of the Northwest Intermountain Consortium of Clinical Education. We also provide clinical instructor development opportunities; teach and counsel students so as to maximize their learning during clinical experiences; and collect and analyze data on ourselves, students, clinical instructors and clinical facilities for continuous quality improvement. We ensure legal and administrative requirements are met and act as the primary liaison between the PT School and our clinical constituents. We value the concepts of fairness, compassion, equality, and respect when working with others.

Clinical Program Experiential and Placement Goals
Students enrolled in the School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science are required to complete a minimum of 1435 hours of clinical practice. PT 582: 15 hours; PT 587: 320 hours; PT 583: 90 hours; PT 589: 320 hours; PT 584: 90 hours; PT 680: 600 hours. Students’ clinical education consists of three full-time and three integrated/part-time experiences.
Integrated/part-time: Students seek out desired Alternative Clinical Experiences for PT 582 Clinical Clerkship, which may include a traditional physical therapy setting but may also be experiences such as observation of surgery, volunteering with a local non-profit, or shadowing another health care discipline such as OT or SLP for instance. For the 2nd and 3rd part-time integrated clinical experiences, students will be placed in the UMPT Clinic on or off campus, with a focus on a neurologic/complex medical, orthopedic, and/or underserved/complex medical patient population.

Full-time: For the first two full-time clinical experiences each summer, the goal is for students to have clinical experiences in two different settings, typically including one that is in-patient based (i.e., Acute care hospital, SNF, IR, home health, etc.) and the other in an out-patient environment, working with different patient populations. Variations from the above may occur, depending on student interest, availability, and assessment by the DCE or ADCE that determines the placements offer enough diversity to satisfy our goal of a broad, generalist education. Students work with the DCE to clarify professional goals and to be appropriately matched with a clinical site for PT 680, their final, full-time clinical experience.

For a detailed view of the CE program curriculum please view the link below.

Jennifer Jeffrey Bell, PT, ScD, COMT
Director of Clinical Education

Originally from Texas, Jenn joined the School in 2013 after 7 years of practice in rural and underserved areas throughout Alaska. Jenn received her bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology at the University of Texas, her MPT at UT Southwestern Medical Center and her Doctorate of Science in Physical Therapy at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. She brings considerable clinical experience and a love of teaching to our program. Jenn has been involved with clinical education on the regional and national level through the Academy of Physical Therapy Education and the Northwest Intermountain Consortium of Clinical Education. Jenn also teaches in Musculoskeletal Management, Clinical Medicine, Interprofessional Education and Global Health. Jenn, her husband, Darin, and daughters, Kaia and Makena, enjoy getting out in the mountains, whether it is summer or winter. 

Susan Ostertag, PT, DPT, NCS 
Associate Director of Clinical Education

Sue is a Montana native and graduate from the BSPT program at the University of Montana in 1993. She completed her DPT through AT Still University in 2007, and obtained APTA Board Certification as a Neurological Specialist in 2011. Sue worked in Spokane for several years post-graduation, in both in-patient and out-patient rehab as well as home health, long term care, and acute care. Once moving back to Montana she found herself balancing clinic management and clinical practice in skilled nursing and out-patient settings, finding her passion in the geriatric and neurological populations. Sue has been involved in Clinical Education as a clinical site coordinator and clinical instructor for over 22 years, and brings her love of student instruction and clinical practice to the UMPT Clinical Education program.She has been the clinic director and faculty at UM since 2005 and joined the clinical education team in 2018. She teaches the Neurological Rehabilitation and Lifespan courses, and helps with coordination of Service Learning and Interprofessional experiences on and off campus. 

Alyssa Waters
Administrative Associate IV

Alyssa earned her BA in English through the University of Montana Western in 2012, and has 10 years’ experience working in higher education in her previous roles as an Academic Advisor and Graduation Auditor at the University of Montana Western. She enjoys supporting students through their academic journey and success. Her outside interests include learning about other cultures, reading, concerts, and traveling. Alyssa is part of the Clinical Education Team, and will also be working on recruiting, pre-PT advising, and admissions.

For more information you can contact:

Jenn Bell, PT, ScDCOMT, Clinical Assistant Professor
Director of Clinical Education
Phone: 406-243-6727 or

Sue Ostertag, PT, DPT, NCS, Clinical Assistant Professor
Associate Director of Clinical Education
Phone: 406-243-2678 or