Meet Allied Traveler of the Month Tara Randol, CCC-SLP
What would cause someone with a long-time home in Hawaii to pick up and leave and take an allied travel assignment on the East Coast?
Med Travelers’ Traveler of the Month for April 2021, Tara Randol, SLP, a school-based speech-language pathologist for 24 years, worked full-time for Hawaii's Department of Education since 2005.
She enjoyed her job but found the state was getting too expensive to live comfortably.
Hawaii's high cost of living causes a lot of workforce turnover, according to Tara. Many people come to the islands with good intentions to stay and work but leave within a couple of years. Therefore, school districts frequently use allied health travelers, including speech-language pathologists and occupational therapists, to fill positions.
While working full-time for the Department of Education, Tara met contractors who would talk about working as an SLP traveler. So, when Tara decided it was time to leave Hawaii, she researched allied travel companies and discovered Med Travelers.
"I reached out to Med Travelers recruiter Rachel Kelmer, and she called me back," said Tara. "But I didn't return her call for quite a while, even though she called several times. I finally decided that I needed to look into traveling, so I called her again. I really liked Rachel and the way that she explained everything to me. She was so friendly and personable, and I never researched anybody else after talking to her."
Tara's family was in North Carolina, and her best friend was in Maryland, so she wanted to find a location on the East Coast.
An SLP position was available with the Calvert County Public School System in Maryland, so in 2019, Tara tackled her first travel assignment.
A First-Time Traveler Becomes Med Traveler’s Traveler of the Month
Tara was comfortable at her first assignment and found her duties were like those she performed in Hawaii: working with children who have individualized education programs (IEPs). It didn't take her long to make an impression, and she continued to shine even as speech therapy moved to the virtual environment due to the COVID pandemic.
In April 2021, a student's parent nominated Tara, the special education classroom teacher, and the general education classroom teacher for the Special Education Advisory Committee Staff Appreciation Award.
"The parent has been incredibly happy with us," Tara said. "Her son is a four-year-old in the pre-K classroom, and he has come a long way this year. He has just blossomed academically and with his speech and language. We didn't win the award, but it meant a lot to me that it came from a parent. It's nice when the school recognizes you too, but when parents recognize you, that actually means more to me because it shows that they're really appreciative of what their child is learning and what we're doing for their child."
Another reason Tara received the Traveler of the Month Award from Med Travelers was for helping her fellow allied travelers through mentorship.
"I have two Med Traveler mentees, and they have called, emailed, and texted me throughout the year with questions or problems," Tara said. "I've tried to help as much as I can with some guidance, whether it's regarding therapy or things your school should or should not be asking you to do. I checked in with them at the beginning of the school year and then periodically throughout the year. They know that they have an open line of communication with me as well."
Back in the classroom after remote SLP therapy
In mid-February 2021, the Calvert County Public School System let children return to the classroom after implementing full-time distance learning in March 2020.
Tara is glad to be back in the classroom, as distance learning certainly had its challenges.
"I was nervous at first because we were just given two weeks off to prepare and learn everything we could about teaching virtually," she said. "We got some training, and I used some resources. I'm on a couple of different SLP Facebook pages, talking to different people, finding out their ideas, learning about Boom cards, and finding websites for games. It made it so much easier for me to jump in when I did start back working with the kids."
Today, the students and staff still must wear masks, but the school district has supplied masks with transparent windows allowing the SLPs to see their students' mouths and the way they articulate sounds. Like many others, Tara looks forward to the time when masks and shields will no longer be needed, and she can see her students’ smiles with no encumbrances.