Collaborating to Integrate Education and Practice: A Model of a Physical Therapy Academic Clinical Partnership

Sally M. Taylor*, Peter J. McMenamin, Marjorie Johnson Hilliard

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background and Purpose.: Strong academic-clinical partnerships have been advocated to optimize the training of the next generation of health professionals and to best meet the needs of patients and society. Despite the benefits of partnerships, there is a lack of literature describing successful models for collaboration between physical therapist (PT) schools and academic medical center hospitals. The purpose of this article was to describe the formal partnership between the Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine, Department of Physical Therapy and Human Movement Sciences (DPTHMS) and Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in Chicago, Illinois. Method/Model Description and Evaluation.: The partnership is presented through the lens of D'Amour's 4-dimensional model of collaboration highlighting 4 critical dimensions of collaboration: shared goals and activities, internalization, formalization, and governance. Outcomes.: The establishment of this partnership has fostered the institutions' achievement of mutual goals supporting their interconnected visions and missions. Examples of the collaboration's shared goal and activities include: The tripling of clinical education experiences for professional Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) students; establishment of 2 post professional PT residency programs; proliferation of DPT teaching opportunities for Shirley Ryan AbiltyLab clinical PTs with formal university academic appointments for 6 Shirley Ryan Ability Lab PTs; and clinical appointments for 7 of 34 eligible DPTHMS faculty members. The internalization dimension is evidenced by regularly scheduled communications; promotion of opportunities for mutual acquaintanceship through shared boards and teams; socialization opportunities; and trust-building across institutions. The primary example of formalization is the legal collaboration agreement signed in 2013 and amended in 2019. Partnership governance is achieved through a structure of designated liaisons, shared boards, and regular interinstitutional leadership meetings. Discussion and Conclusion.: D'Amour's structuration model describes predictors for successful interinstitutional clinical-Academic partnerships. The model's 4 collaboration dimensions facilitate the assessment of partnership success for both established partnerships and for institutions in the planning stage of such collaborations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)139-145
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Physical Therapy Education
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2022


  • Academic-clinical partnerships
  • Collaboration
  • Physical therapist
  • Practice-based learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Rehabilitation
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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