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Everything You Want to Know About a Pediatric PT Residency

by Shanon Fronek


Physical therapy is a profession of many opportunities. One of the coolest aspects of our profession is the ability to work in a multitude of settings and specialize in different areas. NGPT has shared the experiences of some outstanding past and present residents in specialty areas of cardiopulmonary, etc. Today we highlight the wonderful world of peds with Dr. Thiel and Dr. Quirin who have shared some insight about their pediatric PT residency experiences and dropped some stellar advice!


Dr. Katie Thiel, PT, DPT graduated from Marquette University in 2015. She is currently in the Saint Francis University Pediatric PT Residency program with partnership at Positive Steps Therapy in Gibsonia, PA.

“This program gives me the opportunity to gain experience in outpatient and Early Intervention settings. I also appreciate the mission and values of Positive Steps Therapy and knew I would learn a lot being at this clinical partnership.” - Dr. Thiel

Dr. Bryelle Quirin, PT, DPT graduated from Saint Francis University in 2016. She is also currently in the Saint Francis University Pediatric PT Residency program with partnership at Kids First Affiliated Services in Altoona, PA.

“This program gives me a variety of experiences in different settings within the pediatric population such as school-based, early intervention, and outpatient services.” - Dr. Quirin

What made you decide to pursue a pediatric PT residency?

KT: I decided to pursue a pediatric PT residency to be able to work regularly with a mentor who is a pediatric specialist so that I can receive specific feedback on my own clinical decision making in order to grow my skills as a clinician rapidly. It is also important to me to be surrounded by passionate therapists in order to continue to foster improved patient care.

BQ: I decided to pursue this residency to gain a better knowledge base for pediatric physical therapy. I feel this specialty practice is only briefly covered in DPT school and I wanted to learn more to ensure I was using evidence-based treatment and advanced critical thinking with each patient. It was also very important for me to have experienced mentors that could provide guidance and help me develop my skills as a pediatric physical therapist.

Give an example of a typical day in the life of a pediatric resident.

KT: For the SFU residency, I work full time in outpatient and Early Intervention settings, and we typically have our residency didactic course work on Thursday evenings for 1 to 1 ½ hours. We also have articles to read, case studies to prepare, and discussion board posts to respond to as well throughout the week. We have regular meetings with our mentors at our companies.

BQ: Same as Katie’s response only I also work in the school setting. It is very fast paced and busy, no 2 days the same! On top of a full-time work week, we have approximately 5-10 hours of didactic work to complete as well. Most modules are self-paced with certain deadlines/assignments each week.

Are there any unique components of this pediatric residency program that you may not experience at other pediatric residency programs?

KT: I like the ability to work and learn in a couple different settings. It has also been helpful to have two pediatric residents at SFU because it helps contribute to better discussions during our residency meetings, as we have more experiences and ideas to share together.

BQ: This residency is unique because most of it is completed online. However, we do have face-to-face video sessions weekly to review the content from each module. I also agree with Katie about having more than 1 resident. Having her to bounce ideas off of and ask questions has helped a lot. It also really does make for better discussions!

What have you gained from attending the program (knowledge, skills, etc…) that you may not have gained otherwise?

KT: Through this residency program, I have gained confidence in speaking with families and explaining why we’re working on what we are. There are many new things that we encounter working in pediatrics, so it has been beneficial for me to learn about different resources and places to find answers to questions not only during my residency, but also as I move forward in my career.

BQ: I agree with everything Katie stated. This residency also has really improved my confidence in clinical decision making. The content of the modules covers a variety of topics, all which have been extremely beneficial for this specialty area of practice.

What advice do you have for students that wish to pursue a residency after graduation?

KT: Do your research on the residency programs to find one that will be a good fit for you. There are many different pediatric residencies, so it is important to find ones that fit with your goals. Ask former residents about their specific experiences and what they found beneficial about their program.

Anything else you would like to share that students/entry-level clinicians may not be aware of when applying to or participating in a pediatric PT residency program?

KT: It is a large time commitment, but putting in the time will definitely pay off as you begin to see your skills improve and your confidence grow throughout the residency year.


The American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS) offers board certification in 8 specialty areas of physical therapy.

The ABPTS has certified more than 20,000 individuals who have demonstrated advanced clinical knowledge and skills in physical therapy specialty areas. At least 1,600 of those individuals are specialists in pediatrics.

According to the ABPTS, board certification in the area of pediatrics was approved by the APTA House of Delegates in 1981. The first pediatrics specialist certification examination was administered in 1986.

According to the ABPTRFE directory of residency programs, 22 pediatric residency programs have been granted accreditation.

A physical therapy clinical residency program is one of two pathways available to develop advanced clinical knowledge and skills, and ultimately become a Pediatric Certified Specialist (PCS). More information on minimum eligibility requirements and general information for all physical therapist specialist certification examinations can be found here: www.abpts.org

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