By Kaleigh Cole PT, DPT
It was around this time 4 years ago that I was anxiously studying for boards and applying for jobs. From the age of 16, I knew I wanted to become a Physical Therapist. After 7 years of college, I now had the DPT, but still needing the PT initials to make it official. The only thing standing between me was the dreaded NPTE. While my program had annual exams to prepare us for the structure and intensity of the board examination, the anxiety was mounting each day. I made it my top priority to make studying for the board exam my full-time job until mid-July when it would all finally be over (hopefully). I didn’t want to go through this nerve-wracking process over again if I didn’t have to!
But then what? Of course, I knew I wanted to be a Physical Therapist. However, I always imagined that I would go into sports medicine. That was always the plan from the time I was a competitive gymnast and then a rower. Sometimes, things can throw you for a loop. I had the fortunate problem of enjoying all my clinical experiences as a PT student. While I still thoroughly enjoyed sports medicine, I also fell in love with pediatrics, oncology, neurology, and acute care. So now what? Wouldn’t it be great if I could find a position that would encompass all of that, allowing me to truly find my niche in this amazing profession I had chosen? Unfortunately, there was no such luck. After receiving a few different job offers, they were all so different. I just couldn’t decide!
Bam! It hit me! “I’ll just travel and create my own position”. I thought to myself and told my family & friends, “I’ll do it for a year to figure out what I want to specialize in”.
Four years later, I’m still traveling. The truth is, I’ve narrowed down some areas that I’m not interested in, however, still have a passion for the field at large and want to continue to explore all that it has to offer. When asked, “How long will you travel for?”…. I no longer answer that question.
To be honest, I really didn’t know much about travel therapy before beginning. I had spoken to a travel nurse about it, but that was pretty much it. My program didn’t talk about it and many of my clinical instructors had negative feelings about it.
Nevertheless, I decided to give it a go! After all, I could begin an assignment while still looking for permanent jobs that would allow me to rotate between settings and patient populations. If I didn’t like it, it was only 13 weeks. As I was halfway through my first assignment, I knew that I wanted to continue traveling for at least awhile longer.
What I didn’t realize then was that travel therapy afforded me opportunities I didn’t even realize I needed as a new graduate. This was my first “big girl” job and there was so much to figure out.
I am forever grateful that travel therapy gave me….
- The opportunity to work with 26 different PTs with different specialties, interests, and practice techniques in my first year out of school
- The opportunity to work under different managers with various styles (as a student, you have no idea what kind of management style you like and don’t like)
- The opportunity to work in a variety of acute care, outpatient, and pediatric settings (including top-rated teaching hospitals and level 1 trauma centers)
- The opportunity to get paid to travel for work! When you’re asked consistently, “You’re always traveling! Do you even work?”, you know you have a great job!
- The opportunity to network with hundreds of clinicians over the course of 14 contracts, continuing education seminars, and professional conferences.
- The opportunity to see what’s beyond the borders of the U.S. The flexibility we have as a traveling therapist to take time off between contracts is mindboggling to many of my counterparts.
- The opportunity to get ahead financially because of the financial incentive travel therapy affords me. I love what I do, but I don’t live to work. I work to live! And travel therapy helps me do just that!
- The opportunity to mentor new graduates who want to explore their career options through travel therapy. While it is difficult to serve as a clinical instructor as a travel therapist, I love helping enthusiastic new graduates find the success and happiness I’ve enjoyed as a traveling therapist.
My advice to any new graduate who is interested in pursuing travel therapy would be to take the leap of faith! You never know what might be waiting for you until you open the door.
For more FREE resources on traveling as a new graduate, check out Kaleigh’s blog at www.newgradtraveltherapy.com