by Sarah Stromsdorfer MS, OTR/L of MyOTSpot.com
If you're thinking about becoming a traveling occupational therapist, there is a lot to be excited about! Getting to experience fun new locations every 3 months, trying out multiple new settings to expand your toolbox, and earning great pay are just a few of the awesome perks of being a travel OT.
While travel therapy is an amazing and unforgettable experience, there are also a few challenges you may not be aware of when first starting out. With these challenges I want to share their solutions, so you can be fully prepared for your journey into travel therapy.
Figuring out what travel company/recruiter to work with
If you're just diving in to travel therapy, you might be asking what the best travel company is to work for. The truth is, there's no good answer since it's more about the recruiter and not the company. There can be inexperienced recruiters at even the best companies. Conversely, there can be awesome recruiters that go above and beyond at less highly rated travel companies as well.
Once you do find one or two solid, trustworthy recruiters at two or more different companies, you can then compare the job options, pay packages, and benefits to figure out which companies (and recruiters) work best for you.
Jumping into new settings without mentorship
Starting a new setting, especially as a new therapist, can be a scary thought when you might be one of the only OT practitioner at the placement. Ideally you'll be able to choose a setting that has other OTs to bounce ideas off of, but they may not be able to provide you with true mentorship, especially related to travel therapy.
Some state OT organizations match OT practitioners with mentors or use resources such as the Learning Lab membership for additional support, get your questions answered and connect with other OT practitioners going through the same emotions and challenges you are!
The fear of not knowing anyone
When you're a solo traveler, the thought of being by yourself can be scary enough to stop you from pulling the trigger. Don't let this get in the way, since meeting people on assignment is easier than you think!
Unless you're doing a home health assignment and are truly by yourself (I personally don’t recommend this for new grads), you'll have your coworkers to mingle with outside of work once you get acclimated.
If you don't like mixing work with your social life, there are so many great group activities on the Meetup app that you can fill your weekends or evenings with to meet new people. You can also use the Bumble BFF app as a fun way to make new friends.
Finding housing can be difficult if you don't know where to look
While your travel company can certainly set you up with extended stay housing, many therapists choose to find their own housing to pocket the extra untaxed stipend money. This is definitely a great way to save money, but can also be a stressor for new travelers.
Thankfully with the internet, there are so many easy options including Airbnb, Home Away, VRBO, Facebook listings, Furnished Finders (just for healthcare travelers and their partners), and even getting an RV for your assignments!
For even more housing options and more detail on each one, check out this all-inclusive housing guide here to take the stress out of finding housing.
When you're moving from contract to contract every three months, getting mail is an obvious challenge if you aren't near your tax home. Thankfully, this problem has been solved thanks to mail delivery services that you have all your mail sent to, and then they can scan or ship your letters to you as little or as often as you need.
We personally use Escapees mail forwarding service, but there are many other virtual mail services out there that also do this that are an easy Google search away.
Potential lack of resources in your setting
Depending on where your assignment is, the amount of resources they have may be lacking. You can prepare ahead of time by bringing your own handouts, assessments, references, so you'll feel set once you jump in.
If you don't feel like you have the proper resources to succeed, and depending on your setting, there are some amazing resources to dig through such as
Adult occupational therapy blogs like:
OT Podcasts like:
Seniors Flourish podcast (older adult practice and professional issues)
OT4Lyfe podcast (general OT topics and guests)
Occupied podcast (general OT topics and guests)
OT Potential podcast (review of research)
Membership sites like:
Seniors Flourish Learning Lab (education and treatment idea videos, assessments, clinical resources and an exclusive supportive community)
or even book resources such as the OT Toolkit are a great way to help you feel prepared!
What challenges and solutions have you found and conquered while traveling?
About the Guest Blogger:
Sarah Stromsdorfer MS, OTR/L is a licensed and registered Occupational Therapist practicing in Georgia in adult inpatient rehabilitation, acute care, and geriatrics. She earned her BA in Psychology at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and my Master’s of Science in Occupational Therapy at Brenau University in Atlanta. When she's not helping patients get back to their lives, she enjoys yoga, hiking, traveling, exploring new restaurants, and volunteering with animal rescue.
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