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Occupational Therapy Physical Rehabilitation Fellowship Program

The Zablocki VAMC offers a 12-month American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) approved fellowship of didactic and clinical education. Our fellowship is dedicated to advancing the knowledge and skills of an occupational therapy (OT) practitioner pursuing AOTA Board Certification in physical rehabilitation occupational therapy


To provide a post-professional clinical and educational experience that will facilitate and accelerate the attainment of advanced knowledge and skills in physical rehabilitation OT practice. The program will incorporate the VA ICARE core values of Integrity, Commitment, Advocacy, Respect and Excellence. These values are promoted daily through our clinical care and are fundamental philosophy for this OT fellowship program.


Promote the development of physical rehabilitation OT fellows into exemplary providers of innovative, patient-centered, evidence-based occupational therapy. In addition, we aim to develop practitioners who will advance the profession of OT through teaching, research and mentored patient care experiences.

Program Goals

To provide a post professional, specialty defined (physical rehabilitation) educational experience to occupational therapists who will:   

  • Acquire knowledge and clinical skills to become advanced practitioners in the field of physical rehabilitation. 
  • Demonstrate advanced clinical expertise and clinical reasoning, performance and interpersonal skills with the goal of improving patient outcomes.  
  • Consistently and effectively utilize current evidence-informed practice throughout the clinical decision-making process of patient care and in providing consultation/education to other members of the team. 
  • Exhibit understanding of the AOTA ethical principles and demonstrate professional behaviors in the delivery of skilled occupational therapy services which are consistent with those of an advanced professional in the area of physical rehabilitation . 
  • Participate in the development and execution of scholarly and/or professional activities with a focus in physical rehabilitation . 
  • Appreciate the process of scientific inquiry through participating in clinical research and contributing to the body of knowledge in the field of physical rehabilitation occupational therapy. 
  • Effectively engage in an interdisciplinary approach to care when providing consultation/education on physical rehabilitation medical issues in efforts to enhance collaboration, delivery of care and patient outcomes. 

Clinical Experiences

The Zablocki VAMC Occupational Therapy Physical Rehabilitation Fellowship selects one candidate from a pool of applicants annually. The fellow will rotate through three areas of clinical practice: Inpatient Acute Care/Rehabilitation, Spinal Cord Injury/Disorders and Outpatient OT Clinic. 

Program design is in accordance with the AOTA 2021 standards of continuing competence and fellowship program criteria/guidelines.  The foundation of the program is over 1400 hours to include didactic and clinical education, mentored service delivery (≥350 hours), and non-mentored service delivery. Additional experiences include, but not limited to:  staff in-services, interdisciplinary care plan development and journal club implementation. The program also focuses on in-depth experience in clinical practice skills, education and research.

The fellow will have the opportunity to instruct in the MSOT program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM). The fellow will receive adjunct faculty status for instruction in both the Physical Rehabilitation I/II class and lab of the Fall and Spring semesters.


The development of the curricular content was completed by referencing the AOTA Board Certification in Physical Rehabilitation Overview Certification Criteria. Skills and didactic knowledge described as requirements for advanced clinical practice are included in the curricular modules and UWM teaching material.


The ZVAMC Occupational Therapy Physical Rehabilitation Fellowship will focus on the fellow’s development of knowledge, competency, and advanced practice skills in the following core areas:

  • Advanced Knowledge
  • Reasoning and Performance Skills
  • Ethical Practice Skills
  • Interpersonal Skills
  • Scholarly and/or Professional Activities

Program Benefits

  • One-on-one clinical mentoring
  • Opportunity to participate in clinical research
  • Leadership skills development
  • Continuing education opportunities
  • Unique didactic and scholarly experiences
  • Salary and full-time benefits, including paid time off and sick leave

Application Criteria/Process

  • U.S. Citizen
  • AOTA Member
  • Graduate of an accredited occupational therapy program
  • Passed the NBCOT Board examination
  • Maintain a current CPR certification through the American Heart Association
  • Completed application form including resume/curriculum vitae
  • 3 letters of recommendations from individuals who can speak to their clinical skills
  • Current occupational therapy license
  • Evidence of physical rehabilitation interest and pursuit of additional training/experiences in this area 
  • Not be on probation or under a learning contract at their current facility or program
  • Complete a personal statement using the questions below to guide your response
    • Essay Question #1: What are your goals for participation in a physical rehabilitation fellowship program?
    • Essay Question #2: Describe how you have demonstrated leadership in the past and how your participation in a fellowship program will enable you to become a leader in the field of physical rehabilitation occupational therapy.
    • Essay Question #3: Describe your approach and thought process when you are evaluating new patients. How do you use clinical reasoning to complete a comprehensive and successful exam and determine the appropriate recommendations and/or treatment plan? You may provide a patient example if needed.


  • One-year commitment: July 29, 2024 - July 25, 2025
  • Physical rehabilitation clinical exposure and experiences in outpatient and inpatient care occupational therapy settings
  • Coordinated teaching experience with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Dates to Remember

  • Start Date for Submission of Applications: Jan. 1, 2024
  • Application Deadline: March 31, 2024
  • Interview Days: April 15-19, 2024
  • Notification Date: April 30, 2024
  • Notification of Acceptance: May 15, 2024
  • Fellowship Start Date: July 29, 2024
  • Fellowship End Date:  July 25, 2024

Application Review

The Fellowship Admissions Committee (program director/coordinator, mentors, department manager/supervisor, university staff) carefully review each application. Applicants are evaluated by the committee based on these criteria:

  • Academic education and degrees obtained
  • Clinical education and/or mentoring experiences
  • Clinical experience
  • Letters of reference

Interview Process

Superior applicants will be chosen to participate in the interview process with members of the Fellowship Admissions Committee. Interview criteria used in assessing the applicant during the interview include the following:

  • Applicant’s presentations
  • Communication/Leadership skills
  • Ability to clearly verbalize their goals and objectives
  • Reasons for applying to the fellowship

Following the interview process, members of the Fellowship Admissions Committee will rank their choices and discuss together in person or via teleconference at the end of the interview week. Applicants will be ranked and the top candidate will be notified within a week following the interviews. If an applicant declines or withdraws from consideration, the next applicant on the list will be notified.  Once the position has been filled, letters will be mailed to the remaining candidates notifying them that they have not been selected for the fellowship program.


For more information about the program, contact:

Melissa Ward-Healy,

Fellowship Program Coordinator

5000 W. National Ave.

Building 123, Room E100B

Milwaukee, WI 53295