Physical Therapist Soaking in the Travel PT Lifestyle
Starting as a new graduate, Kellen Hughes has enjoyed the perks of travel physical therapy jobs across the country
By E’Louise Ondash, RN, contributor
Life is good for Kellen Hughes, PT, DPT. He has his doctorate in physical therapy, a new baby nephew and three nieces, and a “beautiful girlfriend,” Megan O’Neil. He also has a flexible career with Med Travelers that has allowed him to see a number of great places across the country and meet many long-term friends.
Originally from Kansas, Hughes started working with Med Travelers right after completing his doctorate at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City. He is currently working in Abilene, Texas, and recently took the time to answer questions about his career as a traveling physical therapist.
Why did you decide to sign on with Med Travelers as a new graduate?
I was wondering whether or not I should, then I talked to one of my professors and he told me that it was a great idea. He said, “Go find out what you like, build yourself as a professional and learn from other people.”
Did this turn out to be good advice?
Yes. I’m a person that’s like a sponge; I absorb as much information as I can from people of different backgrounds.
What have you learned from your travel physical therapy jobs?
One of the things I learned was that I like working with the geriatric population. That’s the great thing about Med Travelers: you can try out different things and if you don’t like it, you’re only there for 13 weeks and nothing is lost. You learn what you don’t like to do as well as what you do like.
Where have you worked as a traveling physical therapist? Do you have a favorite place?
I’ve had seven assignments, including Oklahoma, Stockton, Calif. (east of San Francisco), and Petaluma, Calif. (north of San Francisco), and now Abilene, Texas. In every assignment, they’ve asked me to extend or come on full-time. That’s when you know you’ve done a pretty good job.
My favorite place would probably have to be Petaluma because I like the outdoors and Petaluma is within 15 minutes of hiking and biking; it’s 30 minutes to the beach and San Francisco is less than an hour away. It’s a great location to do everything you want.
What are the challenges of traveling frequently?
Living out of a suitcase can be hard. Being away from my family can be tough, but knowing it’s not a long-term thing and that I’d eventually come back makes it easier. But it’s so great being in different places.
How do you decide on your travel PT assignments?
I base it on location or setting. As of now, it’s location. I’ve had enough of a variety of experiences that I can go anywhere.
Is there an item that you always make sure goes with you?
I always have my lucky Kansas State T-shirt. It’s the only thing I make sure I have.
Have you picked up any unexpected skills during your travels?
When I was in Petaluma, I worked closely with one of residents at the skilled nursing facility and I learned how to crochet. It has come in handy, too. One of my sisters had a baby and I made a blanket--she knew I was dabbling, but I surprised her. Now my other sister just had a baby and I’m getting ready to make that blanket.
What’s next for you?
I met Megan while working in Abilene. I was supposed to be here for six months but I decided to extend to December when she’s done with school. Then we plan to move to Houston where her family lives. I hope to get an assignment there with Med Travelers.
What advice do you have for new graduates who are considering working physical therapy jobs with Med Travelers?
There’s not a better time than when you’re first starting out. You’re eager for new experiences; you are open to them. You get several mentors and it’s a great way to figure out what aspects of physical therapy you want to get into.
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