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Durham VA Health Care System

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Post-Professional Physical Therapy Geriatrics Residency

History and Program Overview

The Veteran’s Health Administration’s Office of Academic Affiliations provided funds to create a Post-Professional Physical Therapy Geriatrics Residency at the Durham Veteran’s Administration Medical Center in 2012. At that time the program joined an existing advanced training program for interdisciplinary health care providers pursuing specialty training in Geriatric Medicine through the Geriatric Research Education and Clinic Center (, which is closely linked to the Duke Center for Aging and Human Development (, and has “a strong interest in increasing the basic knowledge of aging to improve the quality of care delivered to older adults”. The Physical Therapy Residency was accredited by the American Board of Physical Therapy Residency and Fellowship Education (ABPTRFE) in 2014 and since then has boasted a 100% graduation rate and a 100% pass rate on the GCS exam by graduates within 1 year of completion of the residency.

Program Mission

To develop Geriatric Clinical Specialists and future leaders in providing exceptional health care to older adults throughout the continuum of care.

Program Goals 

  • To prepare post-professional physical therapists to become advanced clinical specialists in the practice of patient-centered care in geriatrics.
  • To develop human resource capabilities and systems to drive improved performance and outcomes to advance the field of geriatric 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 geriatric physical therapy.
  • To maintain ABPTRFE accreditation.

Didactic Curriculum 

  • Geriatric Core Curriculum (on a variety of topics in gerontology and geriatric medicine)
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Health Equity
  • Stanford Clinical Teaching Workshop
  • Issues in Advanced Long Term Care
  • Geriatric and Medicine Grand Rounds
  • Journal Article Reviews
  • Professional Presentations 


  • Pre-planned weekly 1:1 mentoring sessions in clinical care settings to promote advanced clinical skills and critical reasoning with a focus on the APTA Description of Specialty Practice, Geriatrics
  • Program clinical faculty mentors with board certification in Geriatrics, Cardiopulmonary, Neurology, and Orthopedics 

Clinical Practice Settings

  • Acute & Transitional Care 
  • Outpatient
  • Skilled Nursing & Home-Based Primary Care
  • Multidisciplinary Geriatrics clinic
  • Perioperative Optimization of Senior Health (POSH) Clinic

Core Clinical Faculty Mentors

Joyce Burnette, MS, PT, CEEAA

Steve Fairbanks, PT, DPT, GCS

Carrie Frede, PT, DPT, CCS

Tasala Rufai, PT, DPT, GCS

Casey Turner, PT, DPT GCS


Duke University Clinical Faculty Mentors 

Kathy Shipp, PT, PhD, GCS

Jean Bridges, PT, GCS

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


How many residents do you accept? 

We accept 1 resident into the program each year. Applicants must have USA Citizenship, be proficient in the English language, and have successfully completed a CAPTE accredited Physical Therapy program. Personal interviews and references are also required.

How do I apply to the program?

All applications are completed on the RF-PTCAS website ( Please contact the Program Director with any specific questions regarding the application process.

How long is the program?

This is a 1 year, 366-day temporary appointment.

What will my weekly schedule be?

The resident’s tour of duty will be 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. 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.

What does mentoring entail?

“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.

What clinical experiences should I expect?

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 musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, pulmonary, integumentary, neuromuscular, and immune systems and topics ranging from dementia, delirium, falls, frailty, heart failure, acute infection, diabetes, amputation, cancer, polypharmacy, autoimmune illness, wound care, and other conditions affecting the geriatric population.

Will I have to study outside work?

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.

Will I receive a stipend?

Yes. The stipend is determined by the VA Office of Academic Affairs, and is currently $45,115.

Will I be eligible for benefits?

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

Will I have an opportunity to attend a professional meeting or continuing education courses?

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

When will the program begin?

The residency program is scheduled to begin in early July. The start date is non-negotiable as our didactic core curriculum classes begin in July.

Can I speak with a residency program graduate? 

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.

Will I be prepared to take the Geriatric Specialty Exam upon completion of the program? 

Yes. Our goal is for all residents completing the program to take the GCS exam and become specialists in geriatric physical therapy. The GCS exam is taken in March of the year following graduation from the residency and residents are responsible for all application and testing fees though scholarships are available through the Academy of Geriatric Physical Therapy (AGPT).  For more information on application deadlines, testing dates, and costs please see the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialty website ( Our program graduates have a 100% pass rate on the GCS exam.

Will I be eligible for a job at the VA upon graduation from the residency?

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.



“As a new physical therapist, completing the geriatrics residency at the Durham VA helped me advance my skills so that I am better able to assess and treat complex patients. The didactic courses and clinical experience has prepared me to take the Geriatric Certified Specialist exam and practice at a specialist level. Since completing my residency, I feel confident providing care for older adults and helping them achieve the quality of life they want and deserve.”

- Clara Backus (Physical Therapy Resident 2016-2017)


“Since completing my residency at the Durham VA Medical Center and starting my current job, I have come to realize how much the residency helped me to grow as a Geriatric Physical Therapist. I have been able to soar well beyond an entry level PT and now see a patient and their unique situation in a different light.  I firmly believe it is a combination of the curriculum of the Residency and the amazing mentorship I received that has helped to challenge me in our ever-changing field.”

- Blair Meiggs (Physical Therapy Resident 2015-2016)


“The geriatrics residency at the Durham VA Medical Center puts you in the center of a unique and complex patient population while alongside top researchers, clinicians, and trainees affiliated with one of the best teaching and research universities in the world, Duke University, where you are a vital member of the interdisciplinary team tasked with managing the needs of geriatric patients.  At the completion of the residency, I understood how vital and integral physical therapists are as members of the interdisciplinary team for geriatric patients.  And now as a Geriatric Certified Specialist, I am a committed member of the geriatric network and community at large.”  

- Tasala Rufai (Physical Therapy Resident 2013-2014)


For additional information: 

Tasala Rufai, PT, DPT, GCS 
Program Director
Durham VA Medical Center
508 Fulton Street
Durham, NC 27705

Carrie Frede, PT, DPT, CCS
Residency Clinical Faculty Mentor
Durham VA Medical Center
508 Fulton Street
Durham, NC 27705