Travel Physical Therapist Is Making Friends for Life
Meet Hannah W., Schools Traveler of the Month for May
Hannah W., PT, DPT, PCS, from Tennessee, was an undergraduate at the University of Memphis when she had an epiphany about what she wanted to do with the rest of her life.
She was an exercise science major and wanted her career to involve helping children. Yet a chance encounter at the hospital one morning would help influence her career path.
Hannah's mom had been in the hospital for a surgical procedure and was required to be cleared by a physical therapist before she could go home. Hannah recalls an energetic physical therapist entering the room in the early morning hours, dancing, smiling, and aiding in her mom's recovery.
"My mom was not a morning person, so I wanted to know who this magical person was that made her smile and laugh," she said.
That was Hannah's first introduction to physical therapy. She later talked to her college advisor about changing majors and soon started her journey to become a physical therapist, one of the allied health professions.
Hannah received her Doctorate in Physical Therapy at the University of Rhode Island in 2018. From there, she attended a pediatric residency at St Francis University in Pennsylvania and later became a board-certified pediatric clinical specialist.
Hannah had always considered becoming a travel physical therapist but wanted more knowledge and experience. Hannah pushed her traveling goal aside until after finishing her residency. At the end of 2019, Hannah started to think about traveling again.
Becoming a travel physical therapist
"After completing my residency, I had a hard time finding a job in pediatrics back in Memphis, so I thought about how much I loved traveling when I went to Rhode Island and then Pennsylvania," she said. "Traveling to new states to do my undergrad and residency allowed me to meet new people. They're all my friends for life, and I've gotten so much experience from it."
Hannah remembered talking to some representatives from Med Travelers, an allied health staffing company, at a conference she had attended during school. So she found the company online and signed up for an interview. Starting with the first person she talked to, the recruitment team was willing to help with whatever she needed. Hannah was sold.
Now she works with Med Travelers recruiter Kristie Y. (pictured below), who Hannah said has been a big part of her success.
"We have a great relationship," said Hannah. "Recruiters become part of your life. Kristie has been nothing but helpful and goes above and beyond for me. I love the relationship that we've built together, and knowing she's got my back is an awesome feeling."
Hannah's love of hiking and the outdoors has also helped focus her decision-making about assignments over the last four years.
"I love to hike and explore the city," she said. "I like to try new restaurants, make new friends, and learn about the community."
Traveling to diverse destinations and settings
Hannah's first travel assignment as a physical therapist was in Hazlehurst, Mississippi, where she was intrigued to work in a partial swing bed unit, which included hospital rooms that can switch from in-patient acute care to skilled care status. She then worked in an outpatient pediatrics and adult unit. She chose Mississippi because she would be working with kids and the location wasn't very far from her home in Tennessee.
She also enjoyed a travel PT assignment in Louisiana and still raves about the food, the culture, and meeting local patients, who enjoyed discussing the fascinating history of their Southern state. Another fun setting was a small town in Ohio that is known for its papermaking. And as a self-declared "hot-weather girl," she enjoyed the city of Phoenix while on an assignment in Arizona. While there, she visited the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, and San Diego.
Hannah said travel assignments have helped her expand her pediatric PT skills and her knowledge of physical therapy overall, including how it can complement other disciplines.
"I've been in so many different settings with all types of providers in just four years," she said. "I have had the opportunity to collaborate with many great providers during this time, including speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, and other physical therapists."
Her first school PT assignment
Today, Hannah is on assignment in Colorado, working at her first school district after years of clinical placement jobs.
"I have been in almost every pediatric setting, and I wanted to expand my scope," she said. "Being an outpatient therapist and having kids come in and discuss what they worked on in the school made me want to be a hands-on part of their development."
Hannah said that her focus at the school is on access — how she can help children to better access all aspects of the school and be more successful during their school day.
"In the school environment, we are really focusing on access. How can I help the student access their educational environment?" Hannah said. "How can I help the student access the playground better? How can I help the student access the classroom better? For example, can they get up and down and off the classroom floor? Do I need to get them a different seat? Do we need to practice working on functional mobility to accomplish that skill? Or figuring out why they can't get off the floor and what I can do to help accommodate and work on improving their function."
Schools Allied Traveler of the Month Award
Some of Hannah's most notable qualities are her love of her job and her excellent attitude toward the children and her co-workers.
"I love working in the school setting; I absolutely do," she said. "It's right there at the top of all the different settings I've worked in. I get to jump in and be a part of a student's day, which is nice as opposed to a more medical model, where they take time out of their day to see me."
Hannah recently received the Med Travelers Schools Traveler of the Month award for excelling in her job, being positive, changing students' lives, and helping fellow travelers acclimate to new assignments.
Not one to talk about herself, Hannah is more driven by the intrinsic rewards of her profession. Yet she did have some advice to share for allied health travelers who want to be successful in a school setting.
"Being adaptable is critical for success because no day looks the same, and you're not the only person in the classroom," she said. "Also, be flexible in that sense, knowing the student might have to see other people while you're there. We are all here to learn. Collaborating is huge. Talk with the student, teachers, parents, peers, and co-workers to determine how to help the students. And don't forget to have fun!"
Hannah is an avid traveler and has been to all but four of the states in the United States. She would like to do a PT travel assignment in Alaska and then get her license to practice overseas. Eventually, she sees herself teaching pediatrics physical therapy at an American university.
Now it’s your turn to travel!
READY to start making your own lifelong memories as an allied health traveler? Just apply online, and our experienced Med Travelers recruitment team will help get you on your way!