By E’Louise Ondash, RN, contributor
Ruth Miller, MA, CCC-SLP, thought she had her career preferences as a speech pathologist all figured out, but deciding to become a traveling professional changed all that.
“My heart had found a home in acute settings,” explained Miller, who has been a practicing speech-language pathologist for a decade, specializing in assessment and treatment of speech, language, swallowing, voice and cognitive communication disorders. “But then I was given an opportunity through traveling to go into a variety of different programs and I was sweetly surprised. I love the diversity.”
Miller has never regretted her decision three years ago to sign on with Med Travelers, an AMN Healthcare company that specializes in placing allied health professionals in temporary jobs across the country. Her SLP travel career has broadened and enriched her life, both professionally and personally.
“I’ve always had the desire to travel,” explained Miller. “Growing up with missionary parents, we spent some time abroad living in South Korea and the Philippines. It was amazing to see how welcoming other cultures are to newcomers.”
After graduating from California State University, Fresno, Miller worked in Central California with adults in a variety of medical environments.
“I chose to pursue the medical setting after an amazing externship during graduate school,” she said. “It’s so rewarding working with adults. They know what they’ve lost, so they are extremely motivated in therapy. We focus on their strengths and deliver hope to them during unfortunate circumstances.”
Miller’s current assignment is at Cottage Rehabilitation Hospital in Santa Barbara, Calif., in the outpatient services department. It has given her the chance to work in multiple levels of care.
“I wouldn’t have necessarily had this opportunity if I were in a permanent setting,” she said. “The cool thing about being a traveler is that we are sent into environments where we may have never individually sought out to experience.”
Miller decided to become a speech pathologist traveler because she felt that she was “stagnating” professionally in her hometown. Her first assignment with Med Travelers was in a teaching hospital in Loma Linda, Calif., where, after eight months, she fell in love with the community and decided to hire on as a permanent employee.
“But I found that I missed the flexibility of traveling”, Miller recalled. “I yearned to have more time off than permanent positions can provide, so I called (recruiter) Marissa Revland.”
Working with Med Travelers has proven to be a good choice, she added.
“Marissa is amazing--a very compassionate and supportive person. She really cares about her colleagues and strives to ensure success.” Miller describes her recruiter as a natural problem-solver and “the go-to person when things aren’t right.”
Besides her travel speech pathology jobs in Loma Linda and Santa Barbara, Miller has also worked in Santa Cruz, Calif., and Vancouver, Wash. The Pacific Northwest is her favorite location, but living in Santa Barbara has provided plenty of opportunity to do the things she loves the most: participate in local classes to expand her cooking and painting abilities, ride horses, practice yoga and hike.
While Santa Barbara is “living in paradise,” Miller is already thinking about the possibilities for her next assignment. “The delicious ambiguity of this experience is such a thrill.”
Each SLP assignment confirms what Miller has learned in the past decade: “Traveling has given me great opportunities for growth in clinical development that I may not have had otherwise.”
Her advice to other speech pathologists who are considering becoming a traveler?
“It’s imperative to have a foundation of experience to draw upon prior to embracing these opportunities,” she offered. “Three to five years is good, and the possibilities are endless once you take the leap.”
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