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The mission of the UNC School of Medicine Department of 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 55-week program that starts a new cohort in September. 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)
  • Didactic day (Tuesday) — this may be independent or an organized session
  • 4 hours 1:1 mentor time (Thursday a.m.)

Didactic work is organized into various modules over the course of the residency:

  • Orientation, Evidence Based Practice, Teaching & Learning, Clinical Reasoning, Pain Science, Practice Management, and Pharmacology/Imaging
  • Lumbar spine and lower quarter (include Lumbar Spine and pelvis, Hip, Knee, foot/ankle and running
  • Upper quarter: includes Cervical and thoracic spine,  Shoulder, Elbow/Wrist/Hand, TMD/Head/Face
  • Scholarship project (research elective or case reports)

Content modules vary in length and are 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, act as a clinical instructor for a 3rd year DPT student (60 hours), present a clinical case in student grand rounds, 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.

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%
  • OCS Exam 1st time pass rate = 93%

View the Residency and Fellowship Financial Fact Sheet

Admission Information

The application process is open from October 1 through December 15, 2023. We will invite strong candidates for an interview in early February 2024. Residents must have a North Carolina PT license prior to the start of residency (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.

Additional Resources:

For more information about the UNC Orthopedic Physical Therapy Residency program, please contact Jeffrey O’Laughlin

ABPTRFE Accreditation Status:

The UNC Orthopedic Physical Therapy Residency program is accredited by the American Board of Physical Therapy Residency and Fellowship Education as a post-professional residency program for physical therapists in orthopedics.