I took my boards early, passed, then graduated.
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.
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.