Career Development December 19, 2022

By Tim Fraticelli, Contributor

Becoming a Travel Therapist as a New Grad PT or OT

So you’re about to graduate from PT or OT school, and you’re considering travel therapy. You may wonder, is it ok to start a travel career right out of school?

The answer will depend on a few key factors that could make all the difference in your success as a new travel therapist. Keep reading to learn how you can thrive as a travel therapist right out of school.

Keys to Success as a Travel Therapy New Grad

First, Forget the Stigma

Many therapy students are told to look for a permanent job, rather than a travel job, after graduation. In fact, many PT and OT programs deliberately funnel new grads into permanent jobs while glossing over potential opportunities in travel therapy.

These programs often do so under the notion that every therapist needs “a few years experience under their belt” before starting a travel position. But that stigma is simply not true.

Although it’s uncommon to do travel work right out of school, it’s totally possible and may even be beneficial for your career. If you’re up for the challenge, love to travel, and want to pay down debt, then travel therapy could be right up your alley.

So, to answer the titular question, YES, new grads can—and should—consider becoming travel therapists right out of school.

For optimal success, however, here are a few ways you can accelerate your growth as a new travel PT or OT.

Find a Mentorship Program

Graduation is the culmination of years of training, but you don’t have to go it alone just because you’ve finished school. To help you ease into a bustling travel career, your best first step as a new therapist is to get a mentor.

More than a travel recruiter, a travel mentor is a fellow therapist who can help guide you through common challenges you’ll face on the field and answer your travel therapy questions, clinical and non-clinical.

The easiest way to get a mentor is to find a travel company with a mentorship program, where you’ll be paired with an experienced traveler in the same specialty or setting as you. This seasoned therapist will be your virtual advisor—someone you can text, call, or email throughout your assignment.

To get started, check out the New Grad Mentor Program at MedTravelers. As one of the nation’s top staffing agencies, MedTravelers has a host of therapists from which to find the mentor meant for you.

Having someone on your side for answers and advice is invaluable in any specialty, including travel therapy. The support you’ll receive from a mentorship program may even surpass what you’d get from a clinic as permanent staff—another reason why travel therapy isn’t just for the experienced.

Take Charge of Your Continuing Education

More than likely, any new grad considering travel therapy isn’t afraid to learn new things. And if that’s you, great—because as a travel therapist you’ll need to quickly adapt to a new work environment and learn new clinical skills. 

But you can accelerate that learning even more with continuing education. Many therapists think of continuing education as that headache we all have to periodically complete in order to renew our licenses. But you can make the most of your continuing education by seeking out courses that will help advance your skills as a therapist.

The state you are licensed in or traveling to may require particular continuing education units (CEUs), such as a state-issued jurisprudence exam or human trafficking identification course. However, aside from these specifics, you will likely have a lot of freedom in choosing the other courses you take. Choose the right CEU courses and you’ll quickly learn—the easy way—how to adjust to a new EMR, navigate an unfamiliar clinical setting, and better engage your patients.

As part of their benefits package, many travel companies include access to free CEUs. For example, the New Grad Mentor Program from MedTravelers offers a generous $5,000 sign-on bonus and free access to unlimited CEUs every year. Their CEU library boasts over a thousand hours of course content, from pre-recorded classes to live seminars.

Take advantage of these opportunities to further your knowledge and skills, and you’ll thrive in your travel assignments.

Be Humble and Ready to Adapt Quickly

One of the biggest challenges new grads face in any setting is figuring out how to be a part of a new team while managing a weighty caseload. And that’s no wonder—PT and OT schools generally don’t teach problem-solving, stress management, interpersonal communication, and other soft skills vital to your success.

In truth, soft skills take time to develop, but you’ll earn them much faster if you stay humble and open to critique. Your supervisor and co-workers will likely have feedback for you early on in your assignment, and your willingness to listen and adapt will greatly determine how well you do as a new travel therapist.

When you do make mistakes or start to feel overwhelmed, remember to lean on your mentor and recruiter for support. Your mentor has been in your shoes, and chances are they can point you to resources for managing stress, avoiding workplace conflict, and striking a work/life balance on the road. Besides helping you through a rocky adjustment period, your recruiter can help you make the most of your travel assignments and find new opportunities that are perfect for you!

Summary: It’s Not All About Years of Experience

In sum, the right mentor, right continuing education, and right attitude will set you up for success as a travel PT or OT, no matter how recently you finished school.

Whether you stay close to home or go coast-to-coast, travel opportunities are absolutely available for new PT and OT grads. And if you enjoy a good challenge, you can thrive in a travel career.

To learn more about travel PT and OT opportunities, check out the New Grad Mentor Program from MedTravelers.

Tim Fraticelli is a Physical Therapist, Certified Financial Planner™, and founder of PTProgress.com. He loves to teach PTs and OTs ways to save time and money in and out of the clinic, especially when it comes to therapy documentation or continuing education for therapists. Follow him on YouTube for weekly videos on ways to improve your physical and financial health.

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