New Grad Traveling Therapy: Is Traveling Therapy (TT) for you?

I took my boards early, passed, then graduated.

DPT graduation

DPT Graduation

With a blink of an eye, I went from graduate student to officially unemployed. Ahhhhhhhh!!!! What do I do next?  It seemed like the possibilities were endless and I wanted to do them all.  I downloaded the Linked-in Jobs app and was hoping to find something that would jump out at me.  Where do I even start?  Should I apply for a Neuro Residency?  Should I work full-time or PRN? Should I live in TX or transfer my license to CA or go into traveling? Should I do this or should I do that? I’m not going to lie: I was overwhelmed.

Sad face

I know you’re not supposed to compare yourself to others, but my classmates secured jobs and they didn’t even take the boards yet. I took boards, passed, and had no idea what I was going to do. What if I made the wrong decision? These thoughts hit me like a wall and I froze. I couldn’t and didn’t make a move in any direction.

The day after graduation I sat with my professor, Dr. Beverly McNeal, and she told me exactly what I needed to hear:

“The beauty of our profession is that you can go down one path and if it doesn’t work out, you’ll know and then you can try something else.  None of this is permanent.”

Woah!!!  I mean I knew that, but those words finally sank in and had meaning.  I finally had clarity and vision. I was going to pursue traveling therapy (TT) to allow me the flexibility to serve on international service learning trips and explore the world at my own leisure.  I made a decision and didn’t look back. And I’m L-O-V-I-N-G it!

Don’t get me wrong. TT is not designed for everyone and not everyone is designed for travel therapy.  Ask yourself the following questions to determine where you stand. A self-assessment is necessary before you decide to jump in.  If you’re only after the money, then you may want to check yourself.

Check yourself # 1:  What’s your learning style?

  • Do you learn best from observation or from trial-and-error?
    • It’s no surprise that you may find that those who enjoy TT are the ones who like to dive right in.  With TT, companies are paying you top dollar to fill a void. So they expect results. They’re looking for someone who will maximize their profit for their facility AKA productivity.
  • When you were on clinical rotations, how did you learn?
    • Did you find yourself struggling to learn the new documentation system while treating patients? Were you overwhelmed? If so, then I’d reconsider TT.
    • You will be expected to document, evaluate, treat, and discharge on your first couple of days with minimal orientation. It’s reality.

Check yourself # 2: How do you deal with stress?

  • Do you crack under pressure or do you rise to the occasion?
    • This relates to the information above. The turnaround between orientation and managing a full caseload is quick. Did you blink? Yeah, it’s that fast. Does that thought give you heart palpitations or does it get you excited?
    • Skilled Nursing Facilities have the highest productivity rates and expect 90% to 95%. Did that make your heart stop? Then let’s rethink this. If not, then go ahead and proceed.
      • The majority of Travel Therapy contracts are based on SNF; however, there are opportunities in other settings including home health, acute, outpatient, and inpatient rehab.  I’ve been extremely fortunate to extend my contract in IP Rehab.

Check yourself # 3: How do you deal with CHANGE?

  • Do you think of living in a new place as a new adventure and seek for opportunities to meet new people?  Or are you a homebody? If you demonstrate either of the above characteristics, then traveling therapy may be perfect for you.  You’ll live in a new home away from anything and everything you’ve ever known.
  • It’s important to identify and cater to your social and emotional needs. If you’re an introvert then you’ll have plenty of time to reboot in the solitude of living in a new and unfamiliar place. If you’re an extrovert, you’ll seek opportunities to meet people no matter where you go.
  • If you’ve never left home and have only lived close to home with familiar people and places, then I would find a placement closer to family/friends to help comfort you during this transition period.
  • If you’ve only moved to a new city for college or graduate school that’s completely different.  You experience the rigors of a DPT/PTA program together through presentations, projects, case studies, exams, and practicals.  It’s kind of like hazing and only your classmates will truly understand your PT problem struggles.  Through your experiences, you develop a support system. Depending on the work culture, your co-workers may or may not be interested in hanging out outside of work.

I’m an advocate for doing whatever is best for you. Travel therapy isn’t for everyone.  Like any experience, it can be what you want it to be.  You must have a recruiter that will listen and be your champion.  Some recruiters may throw you into any position to fill a void even if it is nothing that you want.

Still thinking about working as a Traveling PT? Perfect! Stay tuned for my next blogpost on the general outline for the process of Travel PT.

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What is a Vagabonding DPT?

According to the Mirriam-Webster’s Dictionary, a vagabond is defined as “a person who wanders from place to place without a home” and a DPT is a Doctor of Physical Therapy.  Although this simplified definition implies a wanderer who lacks direction, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Let’s dissect and debunk this definition.

Myth One: Vagabonding DPTs have no home. . Home is where I celebrate milestones and holidays with loved ones.  No matter how far I’ve traveled, home is where my family resides: San Bruno, CA. This suburb is perfectly situated by the ocean and just south of that beautiful city by the bay, San Francisco.  It’s where I learned how to fly a kite despite the fog.  It’s where I learned to drive and navigate through one-way streets and parallel park on hills.  It’s where the only season that exists is spring. The Bay Area is where family and friends from near and far come to visit to see the Golden Gate Bridge, Pier 39, Lombard Street, Chinatown, Palace of Fine Arts, Muir Woods, Napa Valley, Monterey Bay, and Fisherman’s Wharf.  I am incredibly blessed to call the Bay Area, my home.

Myth Two: Vagabonding DPTs are jobless. I am a traveling physical therapist, which means I work with my recruiter to secure short-term contracts.  I always have the option to schedule contracts back-to-back or extend my contracts pending my availability.  I also have the flexibility to take time off at my own discretion.  With the higher pay rate of traveling physical therapists, I can also save money for the time between my contracts to pursue my passion for travel and service. It’s seriously a millenial’s dream come true!

Myth Three: Vagabonding DPTs are wanderers, lacking direction.  Some choose to say wandering, I prefer to say that I’m on a constant journey of exploration and self-discovery.  I am an advocate for unorthodox approaches to employment.  I choose to create experiences that force me out of my comfort zone.  This could be working at a SNF in a small town in Texas with a population of 1,200 residents or co-treating for a week with a Physical Therapist in Peru without an interpreter.  Yes, these stories are true.  With each opportunity, I learned, I made memories, and strengthened relationships.  This embodies the very definition of a Vagabonding DPT.   “If you want something you’ve never had, then you’ve got to do something you’ve never done.”

A Vagabonding DPT is a doctor of physical therapy who is in constant pursuit of learning and manifests the ultimate raw human experience. At the end of the day, there’s nothing more powerful than a smile, a helping hand, and an open heart.

From this blog, you will gain insight into:

  1. Traveling therapy from a new grad’s perspective
  2. International service learning trips,
  3. Global travel for leisure

Embrace the life of a Vagabonding DPT.  Subscribe today and be part of the movement!

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