Everyone say hi to Andrew, one of our traveling physical therapists working with the Ventura MedStaff therapy team! Andrew has been a physical therapist for the last year and a half, but only just recently decided to make the jump to become a traveler. He is currently on his first contract and loving every minute! Andrew goes into more details below surrounding his travel therapist journey:
What Made You Decide to Become a Traveling Physical Therapist?
Andrew: There are quite a few variables that pushed me to make the jump to become a travel physical therapist. Personal, professional, you name it.
I absolutely love what I do as a physical therapist, and it is incredibly rewarding because of the lives I can change through my profession, and the people I am able to build incredible relationships with. I wouldn’t change it for the world, and really don’t see myself doing anything else at this point in my life, but there seemed to be a piece of the puzzle missing, and I think I had just gotten too comfortable. I found myself doing the same things, going the same places, and locked in the same routines over and over, which had become very repetitive and monotonous. As an individual, variety and adventure are two things that I crave; neither of which I had, so I was quickly becoming discontent. I knew moving on from my small-town bubble was not only the best option for me; it really became my only one.
They say when life hands you lemons, you make lemonade, so travel therapy really has given me the opportunity for what I probably needed most; a fresh start somewhere new. New adventures, new opportunities, and a chance for me to start over with no strings attached.
What Are Some of the Best Benefits of Being a Traveling Physical Therapist?
Andrew: The first benefit is the financial gains that can come from being a traveling healthcare worker, especially since COVID. It is a tremendous perk of being a travel PT. I’m no exception; my current contract’s take-home pay is a very significant increase from what I was taking home at my permanent job (full disclosure, the take-home pay difference is a little over 2x). The market for it is hot right now, and if you play your cards right, you can put yourself on a faster track for many of your financial goals; investing, student loans, financial independence, whatever those goals may be for you. So that’s definitely number one.
Number two for me is the flexibility that comes along with the job. Being a traveling physical therapist gives me opportunities to visit new areas, see what life is really like there for more extended periods than just a vacation, and then move on if I desire. I also get to see more areas of the country in general because of being a traveler- I’ve already been able to double the number of national parks I have been to in my life. Additionally, if you would happen to find yourself in a job you wouldn’t like, you also are typically only committed to the facility for three months.
Thirdly would be the sheer number of opportunities at your disposal. You have the chance to work in any setting you choose, from outpatient ortho to acute care, home health, literally anywhere in the country you want to go. My goal for this travel contract was to go somewhere warm to spend the winter months. Over the span of three days, I had about 9-10 interviews, and a few days later had offers from all but one. Your opportunities are endless as you can imagine how much more you’ll learn if you seek out a variety of experiences, rather than lock yourself into one area or clinic’s model, ideas, and philosophies. I’ve already built great connections for the future.
What Are Some Cons of Being a Traveler?
Andrew: Like a double-edged sword, flexibility as a perk also can sometimes be seen as a con. You’re trying to find your next job halfway through your current one and if your facility happens to hire a permanent therapist, then you can find yourself out of a job quickly. Although there are now many resources, trying to find housing can be difficult, and even with compact licensing, it can still be stressful to get everything together and organized on time. It can be lonely at times as well. Going to an entirely new area where you don’t know anyone can be difficult – once you start to get comfortable and some of those relationships are established, it’s time to move again.
The process can be stressful, so I don’t think it’s for everyone, but as someone who thrives with variety, the pros far outweighed the cons for me.
How Does it Feel to be a Traveling Physical Therapist During the Holidays?
Andrew: This will be my first holiday season spent as a travel PT, so it will be a lot different than I’m used to, as I have no plans to return home for the season. Fortunately, I’ve found myself at a great facility where I have already been invited to spend some time with colleagues, and there also are traveler meetups during the holidays as well, so no one feels lonely. You just have to take it upon yourself to seek some of those opportunities out.
Plus, I can choose to take as much time off as I want when my travel contract ends in January if I choose to, which is very nice. So, while some people may be worried about spending time away during the holidays, you may have the chance to spend MORE time with family rather than less, since you can take as much time between contracts as your heart desires. So, this is a HUGE perk for me.
What Advice Would You Offer to Someone Wanting to Become a Traveler?
Andrew: First, don’t be afraid to ask questions! Travelers like me are eager to share what we know and what we’ve learned in the industry and want to give others the chance to have the experiences we have! Social media makes this infinitely easier, don’t be afraid to reach out and learn more!
Second, for your first assignment, evaluate jobs carefully. You have to realize as a traveler, not every facility you go to is going to be an ideal situation. If you end up in one of those “less than ideal” situations, it could ruin the whole experience for you. While I was working my permanent job, I interviewed at nine or 10 different clinics/facilities before finding one that I felt would be a good fit for me, in terms of the setting and the location I’m in, and the compensation package. Some of the facilities I interviewed at it was apparent right away that they would not be a good fit for me and what I was looking for. And that’s okay, not every job is a homerun. But I do think the first job you take has the potential to make or break your experience, and fortunately for me, mine has worked out very well.
Lastly, don’t wait! You’ll always find reasons to not be a traveling healthcare worker. Money isn’t there, timing’s not right, I can’t leave this, that, etc. The fear I think is a big thing that holds people back as well, and it did to me to an extent, going somewhere where I didn’t know anybody. But if you push past that you’ll be so happy you did, and you’ll find so much joy in all your new adventures.
There is no reward without some degree of risk. You can start small and stay relatively close to get in the game, you don’t have to travel across the entire country like I did. The timing will never be perfect, so you just need to have the confidence in yourself to make the jump and know that you’ll land on your feet, one way or another. You’ll never regret traveling and going to see the world when you get older, and I already know I’ll be able to look back on this time in my life as one of my best decisions to date.