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Physical Therapy Neurologic Residency Program

A 12-month comprehensive clinical care residency experience that is coordinated through patient care rotations primarily at the Durham VA Health Care System outpatient and inpatient settings. Over the course of the program structured rotations are designed to maximize exposure to a broad range of neurologic diagnoses.

Program Director

Shella J LoBianco, PT, MSPT, NCS

Program Mission

The mission of the Durham VA Neurologic Physical Therapy Residency program is to provide comprehensive, post-professional specialist training and mentorship in neurologic physical therapy to develop Neurologic Clinical Specialists and future leaders in providing exceptional neurologic patient care based on best-care models, peer-reviewed evidence integration and inter-professional approach to patient management. 

The Physical Therapy Residency Program in Neurology was proposed and ultimately approved for funding by the Veteran’s Health Administration’s Office of Academic Affiliations in March 2021. The program is currently undergoing candidacy review with ABPTRFE, with an anticipated start date of August 14, 2022. The Durham VAHCS Neurologic Physical Therapy Residency program seeks to develop physical therapists with advanced clinical skills who will contribute to the physical therapy profession and support the VA Mission, Vision and Values through specialized practice, professionalism, lifelong learning, teaching and service. This residency will feature various didactic course series which our residents may complete alongside other trainees within the medicine, pharmacy, and occupational therapy professions and promote an interdisciplinary approach to caring for patients with multiple neurological diagnoses. This is a well-rounded and robust year-long paid-experience that occurs primarily at the main campus in Durham, North Carolina with adjunct experiences at Duke University Medical Center and optional opportunities at the Richmond VA in the polytrauma, SCI/D and Emerging Consciousness programs. 

  • To prepare post-professional physical therapists to become advanced clinical specialists in the practice of patient-centered care in neurology. 
  • To develop human resource capabilities and systems to drive improved performance and outcomes to advance the field of neurologic physical therapy within clinical, professional, and academic settings and within the community. 
  • To graduate physical therapy residents who demonstrate ongoing pursuit of professional excellence within neurologic physical therapy. 
  • To maintain ABPTRFE accreditation.

Program Overview

Didactic

MedBridge Curriculum to supplement instruction in each module as well as preparation for clinical specialty examination 

On-site learning experiences including specialty clinics, grand rounds, case presentations, and journal clubs 

Interdisciplinary observations including (but not limited to) swallowing evaluations, Vestibular Function Testing, neurological surgeries, medical rounds with physician-led teams, and respiratory care practitioners 

Duke Multidisciplinary Geriatric Fellowship Program 

Opportunity to attend conferences or workshops that support the objectives and mission of the residency including APTA Combined Sections Meeting, ANPT Annual Conference, Emory Vestibular Rehabilitation Competency Course and North Carolina Physical Therapy Annual Conference Specialty Clinics 

Exposure to wide range of diagnoses included in the APTA Neurological Description of Specialty Practice o Stroke, Brain Injury, Spinal cord injury, Guillain-Barre, Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, ALS, Vestibular 

Opportunities to observe specialty clinics within the Durham VAMC, Duke Health system and/or Richmond VAMC (Hunter Holmes McGuire Hospital) 

Movement Disorders, vestibular and dizziness, Multiple Sclerosis (Center for Excellence), ALS, Polytrauma/TBI, SCI, neuro-optometry, wheelchair and adaptive equipment, EMG/NCV, Emerging Consciousness 

Rotations

Intensive 12-month program anchored in the outpatient setting with rotations within each module to include:  

  • Acute Care, ED, Community Living Center (SNF), Home Based Primary Care 
  • Telehealth integrated when appropriate 
  • Observation Duke University Hospital (Neuro ICU and Step down units) 
  • Observation Hunter Holmes McGuire 

Mentored Time

Receives greater than 150 hours of 1:1 patient-centered mentored time with residency faculty 

  • Structured mentoring time allows the resident and mentor to reflect on achievements made towards resident’s goals 
  • Focus on professional growth and development and improvements in neurological examination, evaluation and plan of care 

Core Clinical Faculty Mentors

Shella LoBianco, PT, MSPT, NCS, LSVT Big cert. 

Mary Thompson, PT, DPT 

Tasala Rufai, PT, DPT, GCS 

Casey Turner, PT, DPT, GCS, OCS, Cert DN 

Carrie Frede, PT, DPT, CCS 

Deanna Baldassari, MS, OTR/L, ATP, Wheeled Mobility/Assistive Technology Clinical Specialist 

Duke University Clinical Faculty Mentors

Mary Beth Osborne, PT, DPT, NCS 

Dana Lott, PT, DPT, NCS 

Richmond VA Faculty 

John Sharpe, MSPT, MBA, FACHE, Director SCI&D Rehabilitation Services 

Ann Gulyas, PT, Polytrauma Rehab Center Program Director

How to apply

All applications are completed on the RF-PTCAS website between November 1st and March 31st. Please contact the Program Director with any specific questions regarding the application process.

Frequently Asked Questions

We accept one (1) resident into the program each year. Applicants must have USA Citizenship, be proficient in the English language, and have successfully completed a Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) accredited physical therapy program. Personal interviews and references are also required. Selected residents are required to obtain licensure prior to starting the residency year in August. 

This is a one-year, 366-day temporary appointment. 

The resident’s tour of duty has traditionally been 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday but may be altered based on mentors' schedules and patient care needs. Residents will have clinical duties including direct patient care for approximately 30 hours per week and 6-10 hours per week will be designated for didactic education and individualized mentoring. 

“Mentoring is a professional relationship where a more experienced mentor guides a less experienced mentee to promote professional growth in a clinical setting. It is not the same as providing clinical instruction to the entry-level Physical Therapy student. It is pre-planned to meet specific educational objectives and facilitate the development of advanced professional behaviors, clinical decision making, proficiency in communications, and consultation skills.” (APTA 2012).

Our program has a minimum of 150 hours of 1:1 mentoring. 

The Durham VAMC is a tertiary referral hospital which allows us to provide a wide variety of clinical experiences for our residents. Clinical rotations allow for experience within the acute care, outpatient, home-based primary care, and skilled nursing settings.  Experiences include exposure to diseases and conditions affecting the neuromuscular, musculoskeletal, cardiovascular and pulmonary systems as well the physiologic response to trauma and stress and the impact of neurologic conditions on other body systems.

Telehealth will be integrated into patient care in outpatient rotations and potentially home-based primary care.

Residents typically have several hours of self-directed study each week outside of the typical work hours. This is often reading and preparation for required professional presentations. Residents will have access to the VA onsite library and interlibrary loan services as well as MedBridge courses.

Yes. The stipend is determined by the VA Office of Academic Affairs and is currently $45,284 (2022-2023).

Yes. Benefits include health insurance and options for vision and dental insurance. Residents receive ongoing accrual of four (4) hours of paid annual leave and four (4) hours of sick leave per pay period. In addition, residents receive 10 paid federal holidays per year.

Residents are encouraged to attend the APTA Combined Sections Meeting (CSM), ANPT or NC Annual PT meeting. Funding to attend professional meetings and/or continuing education courses may be available, but is not guaranteed through the Durham VAMC. Authorized absence is available for continuing education opportunities. Residents typically attend one professional meeting each year. 

 The residency program is scheduled to begin on August 15, 2022.

Yes. We encourage all applicants to communicate with our graduates as they can provide a personal perspective on participation in this residency program. Contact information will be provided by the Program Director on an individual basis. 

Yes. Our goal is for all residents completing the program to take the NCS exam and become Board-certified clinical specialists in neurologic physical therapy. The NCS exam is taken in March of the year following graduation from the residency and residents are responsible for all application and testing fees.

For more information on application deadlines, testing dates, and costs please see the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialty website. 

Residents in good standing will be encouraged to apply for job vacancies within the VA system, but a job is not guaranteed. We will help support residents during the spring of the residency as they search and apply for potential post-graduation employment opportunities. 

For additional information

Shella LoBianco, PT, MSPT, NCS
Program Director
Durham VA Medical Center 
508 Fulton Street Durham, NC 27705 
shella.lobianco@va.gov