Physical Therapy

A page within Physical Therapy

The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Physical Therapy Program is dedicated to quality graduate education in Physical Therapy.  The entry-level Doctor of Physical Therapy program is designed to train therapists who can enter the profession as generalists. Program graduates are able to competently evaluate patients/clients, critically analyze new information, solve complex patient problems and have developed the skills to be life-long learners.  Our faculty represent the major sub-disciplines of physical therapy practice (musculoskeletal, neuromuscular, cardiovascular and pulmonary, integumentary and research) and the state of the art Health Science Center provides exceptional clinical lab and research facilities.  The Physical Therapy Program supports the La Crosse Institute of Movement Science (LIMS) and the Exercise Program for Adults with Neurologic Disorders (EXPAND).  In addition, The UWL Physical Therapy program is affiliated with the Gundersen Health System Sports Medicine Residency Program.


In Physical Therapy, You Can Make A Difference!!!

A factory worker with an injured elderly individual with arthritis...a recreational or elite individual who has had a stroke...a child or adult with a individual who works all day at a computer workstation...a middle aged adult who is experiencing shoulder individual recovering from elderly person living in a nursing home...a diverse group of people, yet each can benefit from physical therapy.

When individuals are recovering from injury or disease, the physical therapist evaluates and directs the recovery process to relieve pain, make them stronger, and help them to regain use of an affected limb. Physical therapists also teach patients and their families what to do so that healing continues through self-care at home.

Physical therapists have an opportunity to make a positive difference in people's quality of life. Their work often involves direct contact with people-with patients and other health care professionals.

Physical therapists also promote wellness and injury prevention. They teach the importance of personal fitness and explain how to prevent injury at work or at play.

Physical therapy attempts to meet an individual's health goals, whether a patient's goal is walking without assistance or running a marathon. A physical therapist is an integral part of the health care team that makes these goals a reality.

A Variety of Responsibilities and Settings

Physical therapists are part of the health care team. They work with other health care providers, such as physicians, occupational therapists, nurses, dentists, psychologists, social workers, podiatrists, and speech pathologists and audiologists.

Physical therapists many be self employed or work as an employee in many health care setting including hospitals, rehabilitation centers, community health centers, nursing homes, home health agencies, corporate or industrial health centers, sports facilities, research institutions, schools, pediatric centers, and colleges and universities.

Text Modified from the American Physical Therapy Website ( )

Employment Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of Physical Therapists is expected to grow 36% from 2012-2022, considerably faster than the national average for all occupations.  To learn more about the current employment outlook please visit – Bureau of Labor Statistics


A. Vision Statement
The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Physical Therapy Program will be a recognized leader in evidence-based, clinically integrated, physical therapy education through collaboration among uniquely specialized professionals and institutions, serving diverse student and community populations and the physical therapy profession.

B. Mission Statement
The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Physical Therapy Program will graduate Doctors of Physical Therapy who become licensed physical therapists competent in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of movement dysfunction, and who enhance the health and functional well-being of the communities they serve in the State of Wisconsin and beyond.

C. Philosophy
The faculty believes physical therapy education is complex, involving the student, faculty, academic institution, and professional community. The faculty further believes that the learning environment must be learner-centered to maximize the student’s performance based on their wide array of desires, past experiences, and learning capabilities. Therefore, the program promotes teaching styles that encourage active learning and student ownership of their success.

Professionalism is central to the educational process and will be modeled for and developed in physical therapy students as an integral part of their academic and clinical education. Therefore, the program promotes inclusion of professional behaviors into the curriculum as a required component for all academic and clinical courses.

Physical therapists are direct-access clinicians providing specialized care to optimize movement and improve the human experience. Therefore, the program uses a model where curricular content centered on strong foundational sciences is integrated with evidence-based clinical practice to promote clinician development based on the International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health for patient management.

D. Program Goals
In order to execute the mission statement that is consistent with the faculty philosophy on physical therapy education, the following goals have been established:

1. Recruit applicants from a variety of academic and geographic backgrounds.

2. Matriculate highly qualified applicants who demonstrate outstanding potential for success in academic, clinical and other professional environments.

3. Engage proficient students to completion of the program.

4. Develop contemporary practitioners who possess knowledge and skills necessary for entry-level practice of physical therapy.

5. Develop Physical Therapists who display the core values of professionalism and professional behaviors consistent with expectations of a doctoring professional.

6. Faculty will possess a variety of educational credentials and specializations who demonstrate effective teaching and serve as professional role models. 

7. Faculty will contribute to evidence-based practice through faculty and student scholarly activity.

8. Faculty will facilitate lifelong learning within the physical therapy community.

E. Expected DPT Student Outcomes (Student Learning Outcomes)

DPT graduates will:
1. practice professionalism as observed through their ethical, moral and legal actions.
2. displays cultural competence through words and actions.
3. examine patients of all ages by obtaining a history, performing a systems review, and administering selected tests and measures.
4. evaluate data from the examination in order to render evidence based clinical decisions and determine a diagnosis that guides patient/client management.
5. prepare a patient plan of care that is safe, effective, considers available resources, and client centered.
6. perform physical therapy interventions and monitor patient outcomes.
7. promote prevention, health and wellness at the individual, community, and societal level.
8. display ability to utilize information technology to access scientific literature to support clinical decisions.

The Doctor of Physical Therapy Program at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE), 3030 Potomac Ave., Suite 100, Alexandria, Virginia 22305-3085; Telephone: 703-706-3245; Email:; Website: If needing to contact the program/institution directly, please call 608-785-6623 or email Patrick Grabowski, MPT, PhD at

Complaints regarding the program can be submitted directly to the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) using this link: CAPTE Testimony

Complaint Procedures From Clinical Sites, Students or Community Members 
Any person (e.g. prospective and currently enrolled students, clinical instructors, employers of graduates and the general public) can file a signed complaint about the Physical Therapy Program with the Program leadership, the Department of Health Professions Chair, or the University administration. The complaint must be in writing and must identify the complainant. The complaint must clearly identify and describe the specific nature of the complaint, provide supporting data, and specify the requested response to the complaint. 
In general, a formal complaint should be initiated with the person who is the next level higher than the target of the complaint. For example: a complaint against a faculty member should be addressed to the Program Director ( 608-785-6623); a complaint against the program director should be addressed to the Department Chairperson ( 608-785-8468); and a complaint against the Department Chairperson should be addressed to the Dean of the College of Science and Health ( 608-785-8218). Such complaints should be lodged either orally or in writing within 90 days of the last occurrence.

All students complete five internships throughout the curriculum.  The first internship, held during the student's first J-Term, is a two week experience to practice basic skills such as patient interviewing, muscle testing, documentation, etc.   The second experience occurs at the end of the student's second summer semester and lasts four weeks.  Emphasis is placed on rural/ primary care hospitals, home health, SNF, subacute settings.  After completing two years of study in La Crosse the program concludes with three 12 week internships – inpatient rehab or acute care, outpatient general orthopedics and a niche setting of the student’s choice (rural medicine, pediatrics, sports, schools, research) which models the values characterized by autonomous practitioners.

Please be aware that a felony charge may affect your ability to obtain fieldwork placements and/or sit for the board examination.

University of Wisconsin La Crosse Doctor of Physical Therapy Student Outcomes

The University of Wisconsin- La Crosse Doctor of Physical Therapy Program’s outcomes reflect the collective efforts of a diverse academic faculty and committed clinical educators who challenge and support our students through a rigorous 34 month curriculum.  The following tables reflect a sample of objective outcome measures which describe our graduates for the Classes of 2012 - 2022.

University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Physical Therapy Graduation Rates

(does not include students who elected to withdraw for personal reasons)

Class of Students Enrolled Graduation Rates
Recent Two-Year Average: 98% (Class of 2021 & 2022)
2022 44 100%
2021 43 96%
2020 44 98%
2019 91%
2018 98%
2017 93.3%
2016 97.8%
2015 100%
2014 100%
2013 100%
2012 97.8%

First Time NPTE Pass Rate for University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Graduates

Year Graduates UWL Pass Rate National Pass Rate
Recent Two-Year Average: 97% (Class of 2020 & 2022)
2022 44 93% 86%
2021 43 100% 88%
2020 43 100% 92%
2019 100% 91.4%
2018 98% 92.3%
2017 100%  93.9%
2016 100%  94.3%
2015 100% 91.3%
2014 100% 91%
2013 100% 90%
2012 100% 89%

Ultimate 3 year pass rate


Ultimate 3 year pass rate *




* Ultimate pass rate for graduates of US accredited PT Programs


University of Wisconsin- La Crosse Physical Therapy Program  Employment Rate

(within one year for graduates eligible for and seeking employment)

Class of UWL Employment Rate
Recent Two-Year Average: 100% (Class of 2020 & 2021)
2021 100%
2020 100%
2019 100%
2018 100% 
2017 100%
2016 100%
2015 100%
2014 100%
2013 100%
2012 100%