As a healthcare professional, you have the unique opportunity to combine your passion for healthcare with your love for adventure. In this post, we’ll share tips and tricks to help you make the most out of your 13-week travel positions as a travel physical therapist, travel speech therapist (SLP), or travel occupational therapist (OT).
The First Week at a New Travel Assignment
Yes to finding the best coffee shops and restaurants and having fun hanging twinkle lights in your new home. But don’t forget why you’re there! It’s a great idea to let yourself focus more on the job the first week and adventures the weeks after that. After all, a facility has decided to pay a lot to have you travel to them, work at their facility, and treat their patients amazingly. They need us to come in, be friendly, fit into their culture, and most importantly, be a really good clinician who knows what we’re doing.
While your brain might be a little bit wrapped up in doing your first grocery run and figuring out what adventures are nearby – for that first week make sure your top priority is making an amazing first impression at work.
Where is Your Knowledge Gap?
The first few days at a new facility are an excellent opportunity to assess the situation and identify any gaps in your knowledge. It’s normal to feel a bit rusty on certain diagnoses, so don’t stress! As a travel therapist, whether you’re an occupational therapist, speech-language pathologist, or physical therapist, you have the unique ability to switch settings consistently throughout your career. This keeps things fresh and exciting, helping prevent burnout and maintain your passion for your profession.
However, this also means that sometimes you might take an assignment in a setting you’ve never worked in before or haven’t worked in for years! During those initial days, it’s crucial to recognize where you need to expand your knowledge and ensure you’re well-equipped to excel in your role at the clinic that’s trusting you.
Fortunately, it’s quite easy to brush up on your skills without direct guidance or a personal mentor. There are fantastic online CEU sites that offer continuing education on almost any diagnosis you can think of. If you’re a recent graduate, you can also bring along your textbooks and binders, as well as any resources you’ve collected and found helpful along the way. By being proactive and taking the initiative to fill in knowledge gaps during your first few weeks, you’ll become an empowered and skilled clinician. This approach will enable you to be the kind of therapist your patients need and expect.
Some of the great websites for online CEUs are Medbridge.com and physio-pedia.com. And for OTs I like occupationaltherapy.com.
Now, Make the Most of Your Adventures!
With your clinical skills on point, it’s time to enjoy the adventure side of your travel therapy job and get some work-life balance!
Create a Bucket List
Create a bucket list of activities and places you want to see in your new location. If you’re unsure of what to include, here are some helpful tips:
- Use social media platforms such as Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook to research your new city. By searching relevant hashtags, you can discover recommendations and events that may not be advertised through conventional means. Social media also provides a visual element to aid your research, which can be helpful. For example, I have found some amazing hole-in-the-wall restaurants by using TikTok!
- Consider joining a group or using Meetup.com to connect with locals and potentially make new friends. I have personally made some great friendships through Meetup.com and have found that there is almost always a good hiking group available to join.
- Check out local event calendars to see what is happening in your area. You can also use Groupon to search for deals on various activities and experiences.
- Keep an eye out for upcoming concerts, tours, and shows in your new city.
- Ask locals for their recommendations and insights. They may know of hidden gems that are not listed on popular travel websites.
- Use ChatGPT to help you create a list of things to do and see. (AI is getting really impressive!)
- Look up all the local or national parks in your area and choose which ones you want to explore.
- Research unique activities or features of the region you are in. For example, some regions have tulip festivals, coffee tastings, apple picking, farmer’s markets, or fairs. Don’t miss out on the simple pleasures that are unique to that region can make for the best memories!
Put Them in a Calendar
13 weeks seriously goes by so fast. After you make your bucket list, put a date to the activities! Hang that calendar on your wall and enjoy the adventures knowing you will fit it all in!
Embrace the Tourist Life
Don’t be afraid to be a tourist! Take the food tours, buy the “I Heart NY” shirt, eat the hot dog at the hot dog stand, get the bad caricature drawing, visit the Statue of Liberty, and take a photo in Times Square. Do it all! Be cheesy! Embrace it! These experiences are so fun! Knock out the cheesy stuff, get to know your location, and then you can pretend to be a local.
Connect With Locals
Use your travel therapist status as an icebreaker to start conversations with people. Most people love to hear about travel therapy life and will be intrigued by your journey! If you are nervous to walk up to people here is one of my favorite tips from studies: People who assume others want to be their friend are great at making friends! So just do that! Assume everyone wants to be your friend and that everyone else is just a bit shy and you be the one to initiate conversations.
Document Your Memories
Grab a Polaroid camera or cheap smartphone printer and create a memory wall in your temporary apartment. Fill it with pictures, tickets, and flyers from events you attend. It’s a great way to stay motivated and remember your amazing travel experiences. Plus, it can be a conversation starter when people come over to visit!
Seize the Opportunity as a Travel Therapist
Being a travel therapist is an incredible opportunity! While it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day routine, it’s important to remember that you are living a dream that others can only imagine.
After taking whatever time you need to make sure you feel clinically competent at your job you can shift most of your focus to the adventures and really make the most of your time outside of work!
Take the time to explore the area you’re in, try new things, and meet new people. The average traveler only has a couple of years to enjoy this unique season of life. When you look back on this time, you’ll be grateful for all the experiences that shaped you into the person you become. So, go out there and make the most of it!
Cheers to your adventures! xo Laura