By Andrea Nye, OTR/L (Instagram: @andrea_nye)
Travel therapy had been on my radar since I was a grad student, however I didn’t feel like I would be “prepared” enough to jump right in as a new grad (spoiler: it is 100% doable as a new grad). But after working in a permanent position for about a year and a half, I couldn’t sit still anymore. I was itching to get out and start traveling, so I finally took the leap. Since then, I’ve explored multiple states, gained experience in a variety of settings, and am paying off my student loans at almost double the rate I was in a permanent position.
Thinking of taking the leap yourself? Here are a few important things to know to help you be a successful traveler.
- Know what questions to ask during your interview: I definitely learned this one the hard way. I had what I thought was a comprehensive list of questions for my first SNF contract interview, but I realized after starting that I had not necessarily asked the RIGHT questions. I was misled about the support I would have at this facility, but I realized that this could have been avoided if I had asked more specific questions. Do your research— there are so many travel therapy blogs on this topic alone— and come up with a list to have on hand for all interviews. Never be afraid of asking too many, or seemingly insignificant questions, the interview is not only for the facility to learn about you, but for you to learn about them!
- Trust your gut: Don’t feel pressured to take the first contract you’re offered, especially if it doesn’t feel right. I know it’s tempting to just accept the first contract that comes your way, however if you’re not sure about a certain aspect, say you’ll be the only OT supervising multiple COTAs with minimal experience, or the facility is asking for unreasonable productivity standards (more common than you think), it’s okay to say no. Everyone’s comfort level is different, and some things that might be just fine for one traveler won’t work for another. Know your own limits, and you’ll know a good contract when you see it.
- Pack light! Take it from a notorious over-packer, you never need as much as you think. I’ve downsized between every move so far and I still have too much. That fancy Keurig? Leave it. Nearly all furnished housing will have a coffee maker of some sort. Your collection of 20 scarves? Pick 2. Your copies of the Harry Potter series? Okay yeah that’s important.
- Take a week or two off between contracts! The flexibility we have as travel therapists is one of the biggest perks in my opinion— so take advantage of it! Take that roadtrip or beach vacation you’ve been dreaming (and Pinterest-ing) about, there’s no one else who dictates your vacation time between contracts but you. I have a love/hate relationship with the phrase “work hard, play hard” (so cliche right?) but honestly it fits pretty well with the travel therapy lifestyle.
- Learn to roll with the punches: Of course, not everything about the travel therapy life is glamorous, and not everything will go as planned. Contracts get cancelled early, the facility may have minimal therapy resources, or you may find yourself living next door to a self-proclaimed DJ who just won’t turn down the bass (do I sound bitter?). But the more flexible and adaptable you are, the more you’ll enjoy your experience, and the better travel therapist you’ll be.
Questions? Feel free to get in touch! And follow along with my travel adventures on Instagram @andrea_nye