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Occupational therapy fellowship in physical rehabilitation

Minneapolis VA Health Care system offers a full time, 12-month occupational therapy fellowship in physical rehabilitation. Clinical experiences include diverse settings with rotations in acute/sub-acute inpatient polytrauma, outpatient Comprehensive Pain Center, spinal injury and disorders, and outpatient rehabilitation with an emphasis on neurological conditions.

Fellowship core elements

Minneapolis VA Health Care system offers annually, from August to August, a full time, 12-month occupational therapy (OT) fellowship in physical rehabilitation. Note: This program is currently undergoing review for initial accreditation by the American Occupational Therapy Association.

Fellowship core elements include:

  • Advanced, evidence-based occupational therapy practice across the continuum of care including diverse clinical diagnoses and presentations
  • Mentorship from a team of clinical specialists across the spectrum of occupational therapy services
  • Experiences and growth in areas of leadership, ethics and service
  • Development and execution of a research, education and/or scholarly project focused on OT in physical rehabilitation
  • Interpersonal communication and inter-professional practice and education including opportunities to partner and learn alongside post-professional trainees in OT, physical therapy (PT), and other physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R) disciplines

Fellowship overview

This fellowship has been designed with curriculum consistent with adult learning principles including elective options throughout the program to allow fellows to focus on areas of particular interest.

Physical rehabilitation is viewed in a holistic sense, incorporating a true biopsychosocial lens to all learning experiences and approaches. The learning objectives and didactic content was developed consistent with the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) Board Certification in Physical Rehabilitation blueprint and with expertise from Board Certified Physical Rehabilitation specialists.

Program features:

  • Our facility is located in an urban area but also serves many rural Veterans; this experience provides clinical exposure to diverse populations and treatment strategies including the use of traditional video telehealth and other virtual care delivery models unique to the VA.
  • 1-to-1 mentoring by subject matter experts across four clinical rotations as well as 500 program hours including didactic content, experiential learning activities, and scholarly experiences with an emphasis on:
    • Acute/Sub-acute polytrauma: Environmental modifications; functional mobility; functional cognition; occupation and task-based training; caregiver education; preparatory methods including physical agent modalities; emerging consciousness
    • Spinal cord injury/disorder: Seating/positioning; ADL; sex and intimacy; caregiver education; wound care/prevention; leisure and social participation
    • Outpatient neuro: Functional cognition; assistive technology; self-regulation, coping skills and integrative health; health and sleep management; IADL/work/education neuromuscular re-education; visual and perceptual training and compensation; driving rehabilitation
    • Pain Center: Neuromuscular re-education; patient education; self-regulation, coping skills and integrative health; motivational interviewing; therapeutic exercise; activity modifications; health and sleep management; sensory retraining/integration; trauma informed care; pain neuroscience education, graded motor imagery, and biofeedback

Program benefits

  • Stipend and health insurance, not to exceed 1 year in duration
  • Accrued sick and annual leave
  • Paid federal holidays
  • Continuing education opportunities
  • Successful completion of the program will make the fellow eligible to apply for AOTA Board Certification in Physical Rehabilitation after obtaining two years of experience as an occupational therapist (rather than the typical three-year requirement)

Fellowship goals

The fellowship goals are designed to be consistent with the guidelines and standards set by AOTA Physical Rehabilitation Board Certification and the mission of the Veterans Health Administration to develop occupational therapists who will:

  1. Acquire knowledge and clinical skills for client conditions, client factors and clinical activities to become advanced practitioners in the field of physical rehabilitation.
  2. Apply advance reasoning and performance skills to promote culturally relevant, holistic, evidence-based interventions to optimize functioning for Veterans.
  3. Assess and create treatment plans for Veterans using evidence-based outcome measurement tools to implement client-centered, high-quality care.
  4. Exhibit reasoning and professional behaviors consistent with the AOTA ethical principles in the delivery of OT services.
  5. Collaborate with referral sources and stakeholders to positively influence services, advocacy, and leadership to advance the field of occupational therapy.
  6. Engage in inter-professional learning and practice applications to support physical rehabilitation services across the continuum of care.
  7. Participate in quality improvement, case study development/ presentations, project management, leadership, and/or research to contribute to the scholarly advancement of occupational therapy.


To apply for the hand and upper extremity occupational therapy fellowship program you must meet the following criteria:

  • U.S. Citizen
  • Graduate of an ACOTE accredited occupational therapy program.
  • Passed the NBCOT Board examination prior to the first day of the program. Anticipated exam dates or scheduled exam date for new graduates.
  • State occupational therapy licensure, from any state in the U.S.
  • Two letters of recommendations from individuals who can speak to their clinical skills.
  • Evidence of hand therapy interest and pursuit of additional training/experiences in this area.
  • Not be on a probation or under a learning contract at their current facility or program.

Application process

To submit an application, email and the following documents by April 30.

Application deadline: April 30

Dates to remember

  • Start date for submission of applications: January 1
  • Application deadline: April 30
  • Interview days: mid May
  • Notification date: June 1
  • Notification of acceptance: June 10
  • Fellowship start date: August 12, 2024
  • Fellowship end date: August 12, 2025

Application review process

The Fellowship Admission Committee carefully reviews each application. Applicants are evaluated by the committee based on these criteria:

  • Academic education and degrees obtained
  • Clinical, education, and/or mentoring experience
  • Memberships/awards/achievements
  • Responses to application questions
  • Letters of reference

Please note applications reviews are holistic and consider all factors listed above and communicated to the committee through the application process.

Interview process

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 Interview performance
  • 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 Admission Committee rank their choices; and an offer for appointment to the fellowship will be made.