Travel Therapy May 3, 2021

By Sam MacKay

SLP Month Traveler Spotlight with Shreya Patel

Happy SLP Month, travelers! This May, we are thrilled to celebrate all of the speech therapists out there, who continue to work tirelessly toward changing the lives of their patients, young and old. To help kick off the celebration, we wanted to feature one of our very own travelers, Shreya Patel MA, CCC-SLP, to share her experience as an SLP and travel therapist. Here’s what Shreya had to say:

What originally made you want to pursue a career as an SLP?

To be honest, I didn't know what I wanted to do after high school, but I was driven to pursue a career in healthcare (as cliché as that sounds). My sister suggested I look into Speech-Language Pathology. I looked into it and was luckily able to shadow an SLP at Yale-New Haven Hospital. I was able to see a lot of post-CVA and TBI patients.

“It was incredible to see the SLP evaluate and create individualized plans for patients (peds-geriatric) with aphasia, dysphagia, dysarthria, cognitive-communication disorders, and more.”

 Being able to watch and sometimes be a part of their recovery was unforgettable, and I just knew I wanted to be able to help others communicate and advocate for their wants and needs.

What settings & populations have you worked with so far in your career?

Although I’ve done clinical rotations in school and outpatient settings, since starting my career in 2017, I have worked with the adult/geriatric population at skilled nursing facilities.

When did you decide to explore travel therapy? What went into that process?

I’ve always had a love for travel, and so has my husband, who is a travel nurse with AMN. In graduate school, we briefly touched upon travel therapy, but it wasn’t widely spoken about.

“The idea of being able to explore this beautiful country while working seemed too good to be true, so I just had to look into it, and I knew that it was something I wanted to do one day.”

I have a year and a half of full-time experience at a skilled nursing facility in my home state of Connecticut under my belt. After my husband and I got married, we decided it was time to take the plunge into travel therapy/nursing. We contacted recruiters, packed up the essentials, and headed to our first assignments in Florida. We ended up taking multiple assignments in Florida, and since then, we’ve taken assignments in California, Oregon, Washington, and are packing up now to head to Utah! Having a good rapport with a recruiter who actually listens to what location, setting, and population you want and advocates for you is key to success (shoutout to Kalie Simmons, who is always so responsive, open, honest, and has become a friend)!

What is the best part about the travel therapy lifestyle for you? Do you have a favorite location you’ve traveled to?

“Seeing so much of the country in a way I’d never be able to if I had a permanent job! The flexibility of taking time off, both during and in between assignments, to explore wherever I am at the time is incredible.”

Each location has gotten better and better in my opinion, but my favorite location so far has been Washington State—Majestic mountains, volcanoes, beaches, deserts all in one state is pretty hard to beat! But I’m getting ready to head to Utah for my next assignment and am so excited for weekend trips to the national parks!

What are some challenges & highlights from your SLP career?

Working as an SLP during COVID-19 has been challenging to say the least.  I’ve been at my current assignment in Washington since September (Yay to extensions in ideal locations!). We’ve had multiple outbreaks and multiple admissions holds as we try to contain the situation. It was heartbreaking to see so many of my patients who contracted COVID-19 develop dysphagia, but at one point, the therapy staff wasn’t able to go in and continue treating, as the facility thought it would be high-risk and create a larger outbreak among patients and staff. 
“In terms of traveling, the biggest challenge for me as a traveler is not knowing what is next, especially during the pandemic.

It definitely can be stressful to be so frequently looking for a new job and new housing and figuring out how to get yourself and all your stuff to the next location after a 13-week contract.  
A recent highlight has been working with a middle-aged gentleman who arrived at the facility I am currently working at, NPO, and on a tube feeding following a 3-month battle on a ventilator with COVID. Following nearly 2 months of dysphagia treatments, five times a week, I was able to transition him from NPO all the way to a regular consistency diet with thin liquids.

“He left the facility to go back home in tears, thanking me for getting him off of tube feeding and stating that all he cared about was getting back the ability to swallow and eat again so he could go home and enjoy meals with his family.”

Eating, drinking, and communicating are innate parts of being human. I feel like, as humans, even though we know these parts are important, we often don't realize how life-changing they are until they’re lost. It makes my heart happy to be able to help people regain their ability to eat, drink, and communicate with their loved ones.

What is one piece of advice you can offer to other SLPs out there?

Make time for yourself! Having time for yourself is an important part of recharging. If you don’t take care of yourself, you will burn out and it’ll not only affect you, but your patient’s as well.

First, we want to thank Shreya for taking the time to talk candidly about her career and lend her perspective to fellow travel therapists in the field. We also want to thank every SLP again—so many patients have seen their lives positively impacted because of all that you do.

Are you an SLP who is interested in the travel therapy lifestyle? Learn more about starting your travel career with Med Travelers!

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