Skip to main content


The mission of the UNC School of Medicine Department of Allied Health Sciences and UNC Hospitals Rehabilitation Services Residency Programs is to provide a superior, comprehensive specialist training and mentorship to licensed physical therapists to meet the health and wellness needs of the people of North Carolina and beyond. For the UNC Orthopedic Physical Therapy residency, this mission is applied to physical therapists and their work with patients with musculoskeletal conditions.

Resident Program Philosophy

The faculty and staff of the Division of Physical Therapy and UNC Hospitals are committed to developing residents who are recognized leaders within orthopedic physical therapy. Residents will develop excellence in examination, diagnosis, intervention, consultation, teaching and the integration of best evidence into the patient care they provide. They will develop as a resource for the community in orthopedics and will contribute to the profession through teaching, writing, and leadership. Graduates of the residency program will be prepared to sit for the ABPTS Orthopedic Certified Specialist (OCS) examination.

Program Structure

The UNC Orthopedic Physical Therapy Residency is a 12-month program that starts a new cohort in August. Residents are full-time employees (with benefits) who work 30 hours per week independently in the clinic. Additionally residents complete weekly learning activities in a mixed format (reading, researching, discussion, observation, online posts, lab practice and teaching). An example of a typical week may be:

  • 30 hours clinic work (M, W, F all day and ½ day Thursday)
  • 8 hours didactic time (Tuesday) — this may be independent or an organized session
  • 4 hours 1:1 mentor time (Thursday a.m.)

Didactic work is organized into 15 modules over the 12 month residency:

  • Orientation, Evidence Based Practice, Teaching & Learning, Clinical Reasoning, Pain Science, Practice Management, and Pharmacology/Imaging
  • Spine, Shoulder/Upper Quarter, Hip & Knee, Elective, Foot & Ankle, Elbow/Wrist/Hand, TMD/Head/Face
  • Final Case Report Manuscript

Content modules are typically two-to-four weeks in length and led by the highly qualified mentors from Division of Physical Therapy and UNC Hospitals. In addition to the above activities, residents will write quarterly patient case reports, supervise PT students in the pro bono clinic, have access to cadaver lab* and teach within the DPT and other clinical programs. The program’s curriculum is designed to address all the areas of the Orthopedic Description of Specialty Practice (DSP) and the ABPTS examination in orthopedics.
*Due to COVID-19 residents have not been able to get into the cadaver lab, we hope to resume this activity when normal class patterns resume*

Program Outcomes

Since our initial cohort starting in January 2013, the Orthopedic PT Residency with UNC at Chapel Hill experienced excellent success. Here is a brief summary of program outcomes

  • Graduation rate = 100% (13/13)
  • OCS Exam 1st time pass rate = 92% (11/12) — one graduate opted to not take the exam

Admission Information

The application process will open in mid-September 2021, the deadline is December 31, 2021. We will invite strong candidates to visit Chapel Hill for an interview and tour of the residency work and education sites. Interview day will be Friday, January 28, 2022. Decisions will be made in February 2022, the residency program will begin in early August. Residents must have a North Carolina PT license prior to August 1 (in NC, take July exam at latest).

Your three reference letters must include at least one from a physical therapist who knows the applicant professionally. We also recommend one be from an academic faculty member. There is a supplemental application fee of $95. Checks should be made payable to “UNC Department of Allied Health Sciences” and mailed to: UNC Department of Allied Health Sciences, ℅ Michael McMorris, Campus Box 7135, Chapel Hill, NC, 27599-7135.

Additional Resources:

For more information about the UNC Orthopedic Physical Therapy Residency program, please contact Michael McMorris.