Susan Nelson

Associate Professor


Ms. Nelson has been involved in physical therapist assistant (PTA) education since 1987 when she joined the College of St. Catherine PTA program as the primary first year instructor. In 1999, she was appointed program director. She served as the director of the Physical Therapist Assistant Program from Fall 1999 until Spring of 2016. Since that time she has remained on the faculty teaching full-time. During her tenure as a member of the PTA faculty she has been dedicated to infusing the institution’s mission into all aspects of the program and is committed to educational excellence.

Of particular note are Ms. Nelson’s contributions to the profession through her extensive work as a Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education site team leader and her service in developing the profession’s Educational Leadership Institute. Ms. Nelson continues to serve the community through her work with Roosevelt High School. This is a long-term, sustained relationship that provides chances for diverse high school students in Minneapolis to be exposed to opportunities for further education and careers in health care – an important initiative to eliminate health care disparities in the state of Minnesota.

Practicing physical therapy has remained an important tool in Ms. Nelson’s her enriching teaching. She is an active clinician working 40 hours a month at University Medical Center Fairview - Riverside Campus. The care of the patients in a sub-acute transitional care setting with complex medical, orthopedic, and neurological pathologies keeps her abreast of the dynamic nature of the health care environment.

Master of Science, Physical Therapy
University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1993

Bachelor of Science, Physical Therapy
University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin, 1975

F.A. Davis/ American Physical Therapy Association. (2011). F.A. Davis Outstanding PTA Educator

Minnesota Campus Compact. (2010). President's Civic Engagement Service Award

St. Catherine University. (2000). Anne Joachim Moore Lectureship

“Embarking on a Sabbatical”, Colleagues, Winter 2006

Authored internal white paper “Serving the Adult Learner Through the Capstone Degree”, 2000

Nelson, S.R., DiFabio, R.P., Anderson, J.H., "Vestibular and Sensory Interaction Deficits Assessed by Dynamic Platform Posturography in Patients With Multiple Sclerosis," Annals of Otology, Rhinology, and Laryngology 1995; 104: 62-68.

Physical Therapy

“Putting Partnership into Practice: Developing the Foundation for the Preferred PT/PTA Relationship”, developed and presented by PTA/DPT faculty members, APTA Combined Sections Meeting, February 2010, San Diego, CA.

“Our Vision: PTs and PTAs are the Only Practitioners of Physical Therapy in Minnesota! The Benefits of Physical Therapy Assistant Licensure” panel member, MN APTA Conference, April 2005

“Physical Agents Update”. Presented to physical therapist clinicians, Edina, MN, 1999

"Criterion Validity of a Functional Status Assessment for Balance in Patients with Multiple Sclerosis." Poster presentation 1993 APTA National Conference, Cincinnati

Community Engagement

“Physics Day: Health Care Educators Partnering with High Schools”, Why the Difference, A Teachers Conference on Best Practices to Engage Girls and Students of Color in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, College of St. Catherine, June 2006

Hosted Community Site Visit, Roosevelt High School, Walking the Talk: Achieving the Promise of Authentic Partnerships, Community-Campus Partnerships for Health Conference, Minneapolis, June 2006

“Partnering to Promote a Caring Learning Community”, FACES Action Research Project, planner and convener, College of St. Catherine, April, 2005

“Active Advisory Boards for Health Occupations Programs”, Minnesota Department of Family & Learning Conference “K-12 & Beyond health Occupations Partners”, St. Cloud, MN, 2001

“In a House of Difference, A successful Model of Community Partnership”. College of St. Catherine, January 1998


Co-Presenter, Poster Presentation: “Developing an Interprofessional Perspective Through Problem-Based Learning”, Interprofessional Education Summit April 27, 2016

Co-presenter, “Threading Leadership Throughout a PTA Curriculum”, Educational Leadership Conference, Las Vegas Nevada, February 2014

Co-presenter, “Threading Leadership Throughout a PTA Curriculum”, Educational Leadership Conference, Portland Oregon, October 2013

Co-presenter, PTA Leadership: Building the Capacity to Lead, St. Catherine University College of Applied and Continued Learning, Minneapolis, Mn., October 2011

Submitted: “Developing a Compassionate Healthcare Workforce: Connecting to the Catholic Identity”, developed by an interdisciplinary team of faculty member for the 2010 Assembly of Catholic Health Association Proposal

Co-presenter, Impacts of Beliefs on Instructional Methods: Barrier or Benefit to Student Learning, APTA Educational Leadership Conference/Clinical Education Conference, Phoenix, Arizona, October 2008

Co-presenter, Impacts of Beliefs on Instructional Methods: Barrier or Benefit to Student Learning, St. Catherine Nursing Program Retreat, January 2009

Panel Member, Myser Initiative Breakout session, Health Care Leadership Summit, College of St. Catherine Henrietta Schmoll School of Health, October 2008

Panel Member, Best practices: A continuum for Building Health, Abuse-Free Learning-to-Work Environments, College of St. Catherine, April, 2008

Invited participant in “Promoting Moral and Civic Responsibility in American Colleges and Universities”, Carnegie Foundation, Tallahassee, FL., 2001

“The Courage to Learn: From Adirondack Chairs to Self”, Anne Jochacim Moore Lecture, College of St. Catherine, Minneapolis, MN, 2000

“Bringing Faculty on Board: Creating Partnerships for Course Access”, MN AHEAD Spring Conference “Access for All; Inclusive Campus Environments”, Chanhassen, MN, 2000

“In a House of Difference: Discovering Community, Learning Through Our Differences in the Classroom”. College of St. Catherine, January 1999

Crossing Boundaries: Teaching (and Learning) What You’re Not: “Student-Generated Code of Conduct”, College of St. Catherine, January 1997