Skip to Content
Learn what the PACT Act means for your VA benefits

Acute Care Physical Therapy Residency

The James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital (JAHVH) is a tertiary care facility classified as a Clinical Referral Level 1 Facility with over 499 total patient beds. Located in Tampa, Florida, this center provides comprehensive services to more than 116,000 Veterans. One of the largest VA hospitals and one of five Polytrauma facilities in the nation, JAHVH utilizes state-of-the-art technology to provide extensive health care, research, and education across a variety of clinical settings.

The JAHVH Physical Therapy Department offers an Acute Care Physical Therapy Residency Program that has been granted candidacy status by the American Board of Physical Therapy Residency and Fellowship Education (ABPTRFE).

This exciting and innovative program is designed to offer the recently licensed Doctor of Physical Therapy an opportunity to advance their knowledge and skills in acute care physical therapy and evidenced based practice.

Residents are employed full-time by the JAHVH for the year long program and thus must be U.S. citizens. Residents are eligible for health benefits and earn annual leave, sick leave and have 11 paid federal holidays. Clinical training consists of managing a caseload of patients across various medical wards, mentoring sessions with highly experienced clinical staff (2 to 4 hours/week), as well as a didactic curriculum. Clinical training opportunities/rotations exist within the following clinical areas: General Medicine, Orthopedics & Surgery, Cardiovascular & Pulmonary, Neurology/Neuroscience, and Oncology.  Additional experiences within other clinics/practice areas will also be coordinated and available to further augment learning during the residency. Residents will also have opportunities to participate in interdisciplinary patient rounds, journal clubs, in-service/poster presentations, scholarly activity, and may teach doctoral students.

Program Mission Statement

The program prepares qualified physical therapists for acute care specialty practice who provide exceptional rehabilitative service for Veterans with acute health care needs. The faculty cultivate highly skilled, independent clinical specialists utilizing diverse clinical experiences in complex medical settings, meaningful mentorship, and comprehensive didactic education. This leads to the development of clinicians who are critical consumers of evidenced based research, consider the whole person, value teaching & learning, and uphold the program’s core values.

Program Goals

  1. To recruit and passionately mentor residents equipping them to deliver exemplary specialty rehabilitative care for those with acute health care needs.
  2. Critically assess and appraise the current literature and integrate the latest relevant evidence into advanced acute care practice.
  3. Exhibit the skills and knowledge to be competent mentors, instructors and advocates of acute care physical therapy practice.
  4. To provide opportunities through direct patient care and specialty observation for residents to excel in acute care practice for a diverse patient population and within a complex practice setting.
  5. To graduate caring and compassionate residents who are prepared and committed to practice in the acute care setting.
  6. The program maintains ‘good standing’ and full ABPTRFE accreditation.
  7. The program will maintain financial stability and program sustainability.

Program Curriculum

The program’s didactic curriculum is primarily based on an ABPTRFE approved Acute Care Physical Therapist Practice Analysis1, and integrates didactic learning activities from MedBridge, journal clubs, APTA Learning Center, lunch and learns, case studies and assigned webinars.

Clinical mentoring will occur weekly with faculty in each of the clinical practice settings which include but are not limited to General Medicine, Orthopedics & Surgery, Cardiovascular & Pulmonary, Neurology/Neuroscience, and Oncology. It is estimated that approximately 30-32 hours a week will be dedicated to clinical practice with the remaining hours available for educational experiences such as journal clubs, scholarly activity, teaching opportunities, interprofessional experiences, observation in specialty clinics, and teaching doctoral physical therapy students.

The resident will also be encouraged to frequent Internal Medicine Grand Rounds/Conference gatherings to champion learning, professional development, and interdisciplinary collaboration.


Varied and dependent on the clinical setting. Formal clinical mentoring will be performed weekly with direct resident supervision, assistance, and feedback to enhance clinical practice for an average of 3 hours a week.

Scholarly Activity

A scholarly activity in the form of contribution to the physical therapy evidence will be performed by each resident. Examples include but are not limited to case studies, case series, literature reviews, or program development strategies. The scholarly activity will consist of a written paper and a poster presentation given during a formal hospital-wide annual Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Research Day. Opportunities to publish or submission for conference poster presentations will be given as needed/desired by individual residents.

Journal Clubs

Each resident will be responsible for participation in monthly journal clubs. These department-wide meetings are opportunities for residents to explore current evidence and develop case-based presentations. These will be presented to the resident faulty, mentors, and staff for development of case-based critical literature appraisal and public speaking skills.

Lunch and Learns

Each resident will be responsible for participation and leading monthly lunch and learn discussions. These meetings are performed in conjunction with the online learning assigned in MedBridge, webinars and case studies to facilitate discussion for examination, evaluation, differential diagnosis, and treatment of various neurologic specific topics.

1 Gorman, SL, Hakim, EW, Johnson, W, Bose, S, Harris, KS, Crist, MH, Holtgrefe, K, Ryan, JM, Simpson, MS, & Coe, JB. (2010). Nationwide Acute Care Physical Therapist Practice Analysis Identifies Knowledge, Skills, and Behaviors That Reflect Acute Care Practice. Physical Therapy, 90(10), 1453–1467

Program Outcomes

  1. Demonstrate advanced knowledge, skills, and abilities described in the current Acute Care Analysis of Practice. Perform patient examination, evaluation, diagnosis, prognosis, intervention and clinical reasoning consistent with advanced level acute care physical therapy practice.
  2. Demonstrate skills necessary to locate and critically review the current scientific literature and the ability to consistently and appropriately apply and integrate current acute care physical therapy evidence into patient care.
  3. Demonstrate the ability to self-reflect and collect ongoing assessment/ input from self and others to use as a tool for professional growth and ongoing development.
  4. Demonstrate effective interpersonal and communication skills (written and oral) to communicate information pertinent to patient management and facilitate coordination of care with interdisciplinary team members, while demonstrating the highest level of professional behavior and integrity.
  5. Promote advancement in the field of acute care physical therapy through championing advanced practice, interdisciplinary collaboration, and research.
  6. Demonstrate the ability to clearly explain and model acute care physical therapy and patient management principles to interns, colleagues, peers and other healthcare professionals.

How to Apply

Admission Requirements:

  • US citizen
  • Applicant must have a degree from CAPTE accredited program
  • Successful/satisfactorily completed National Physical Therapy Examination
  • Applicant must obtain PT license prior to beginning the program (may be obtained from any state). A temporary license is sufficient to begin the program but the applicant must obtain their permanent license while in the program.

Health Professions Trainees (HPTs) are appointed as temporary employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs. As such, HPTs are subject to laws, policies, and guidelines posted for VA staff members.  There are infrequent times in which this guidance can change during a training year which may create new requirements or responsibilities for HPTs.  If employment requirements change during the course of a training year, HPTs will be notified of the change and impact as soon as possible and options provided. The VA Training Director for your profession will provide you with the information you need to understand the requirement and reasons for the requirement in timely manner.

Application Procedures

If you have or will meet requirements prior to residency start date you may apply by contacting Residency Director, Dr. Amy Firestone at

Faculty & Staff Acute Care Residency

Dr. Amy Firestone,  DPT, SCCE, Residency Program Director, PT Supervisor received a Master of Science in Physical Therapy from the University of South Florida in 2006 and joined on with the James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital as a staff physical therapist immediately following her graduation.  She went on to complete a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from Temple University in 2010.  Her clinical experience has included: Polytrauma/TBI, acute care, spinal cord injury, inpatient rehabilitation, orthopedics, and locomotor training.  Dr. Firestone has served as a Neurologic PT residency faculty member since its establishment in 2012 and has been a clinical specialist in locomotor training since 2013.  In 2016 she became the Site Coordinator of Clinical Education (SCCE) and Orthopedic & Neurologic Residency Program Director for the physical therapy department. She continues to serve at the JAHVH in these manners in addition to other duties including being a PT Supervisor, Chair of the Hospital Affiliations Committee, and a member of the hospital education committee. She also serves as an adjunct faculty and member of the Curriculum Committee at the University of South Florida School of Physical Therapy.

Dr. Joseph J. McCarthy, DPT, Program Coordinator Inpatient Acute Care received a Master of Science in Physical Therapy from Thomas Jefferson University in 1996 and joined the James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital as a staff physical therapist shortly following his graduation.  He went on to complete a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from Temple University in 2016. His clinical experience has included: Polytrauma/TBI, acute care, spinal cord injury, inpatient rehabilitation, orthopaedics, and amputee training.   Dr. McCarthy served as the Polytrauma Transitional Rehabilitation Program Director since its establishment from 2007 to 2017.  From 2007 to 2017, he also served as Chairman of the PMR Service CARF Steering Committee and led 12 PMR CARF programs to successful accreditations.  In 2017, Dr. McCarthy became the Supervisory Rehabilitation Medicine Coordinator/Administrative Office for the PMR Service and guided the administrative functions for over 170 rehabilitation staff.  Since 2019, Dr. McCarthy has served as the Inpatient Acute Care Program Coordinator.

Dr. Juan Jose Villeda, PT, DPT, Board Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist, is a graduate of the University of South Florida with a Master of Science in Physical Therapy.  In 2010 he became an APTA orthopedic certified specialist and re-certified in 2020.  He completed his Doctor of Physical Therapy from Temple University in 2015.  In 2012 he served as one of the founding orthopaedic faculty members of the residency program at the JAHVA.  He remains active in the Florida Physical Therapy Association and has served as its treasurer in the past.  Dr. Villeda is an APTA Certified Advanced Clinical Instructor and has taught and mentored students and residents for over 10 years.

Dr. Cynthia Barros, PT, DPT, Board Certified Geriatric Clinical Specialist, ACEEAA, graduated from the University of Delaware with a Doctorate of Physical Therapy. She is recognized as a Board Certified Geriatric Clinical Specialist by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialists and she is also an APTA Credentialed Clinical Instructor. Dr. Barros has been a clinician at the James A. Haley’s Acute Care, Spinal Cord Injury, Polytrauma/Traumatic Brain Injury, and Outpatient Physical Therapy clinics. She is also credentialed in LSVT BIG, and as an Advanced Certified Exercise Expert for Aging Adults; she is passionate about successful and optimal aging in the veteran population.

Dr. Penny M. Reynolds, PT, DPT, Board Certified Neurologic Clinical Specialist, received her Doctorate of Physical Therapy from the Boston University in 2015. Following graduation, she practiced at a level II trauma center in both the acute care and inpatient rehabilitation settings. Dr. Reynolds transitioned to the James A. Haley VA in 2017. She has worked in the Acute Care, Spinal Cord Injury, and Polytrauma clinics. She received her Board Certification Specialty in Neurologic Physical Therapy from the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialists in 2019.  Dr. Reynolds is credentialed as an APTA Certified Clinical Instructor and is an active mentor in the James A. Haley VA Neurologic Physical Therapy Residency Program for the acute care setting.

Dr. Stephen Brock, PT, DPT, Board Certified Clinical Specialist in Orthopedic Physical Therapy, CSCS, received his Doctorate of Physical Therapy from the University of South Florida, followed by the completion of an orthopedic physical therapy residency at the James A. Haley Veteran’s Hospital.  He currently champions innovative treatment approaches for veterans who present to the Emergency Department, serving on the National Emergency Medicine Program Office’s ANNIE project team.

Dr. Joanna Tabisz, PT, DPT, CCS, Board Certified Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Clinical Specialist, received her Doctorate of Physical Therapy from Florida Gulf Coast University. After practicing in a Level I Trauma Centers for 7 years, Dr. Tabisz joined the James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital as a Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Specialist. Additionally, she serves as adjunct faculty in the University of South Florida DPT program. Areas of particular interest include early intervention, cardiovascular rehabilitation, and preventive care.