Travel PT certainly has its benefits. Higher pay, flexible schedules, and freedom to travel are just a few of the advantages that come with being a travel physical therapist. But what if you are a new grad with little to no experience? Despite what some people may tell you, you CAN travel as a new grad. Just ask Corianne Oliver, a recent DPT graduate who is working as a new grad travel PT with Advanced Travel Therapy and loving every minute of it.
We were able to interview Corianne, to get an inside look at life as a travel PT.
What's your full name and title?
Corianne Oliver, PT, DPT.
Where did you attend school and when did you graduate?
I attended MGH Institute of Health Professions in Boston, MA, and I graduated in January 2016.
How long have you been with Advanced?
My first placement was this past November (2016) at a skilled nursing facility (SNF) near Boston, MA. I had been in contact with my recruiter for about 8 months before that.
I am currently on my second placement, working in home health in Monterey CA!
Did you start travel PT immediately out of school? What were the challenges? What did you like about it?
After graduation, I worked for 6 months at an inpatient rehab hospital, where I had completed my final internship for school. I then decided to make the switch to travel PT.
The biggest challenge was having a full caseload on the second day of my first placement. I was the only full-time physical therapist at the skilled nursing facility I was placed at. Fortunately, the rehab staff was extremely supportive, knowledgeable, and helpful. I was able to utilize their expertise frequently. Also, I specifically chose this SNF because I had previously completed a 10-week clinical experience with the same company in a different location, so it was quick to re-learn the documentation system.
While there were certainly challenges, there are many advantages to working as a travel PT after graduation. The freedom to choose the location and setting I preferred, the pay raise, and the mentorship opportunities are just a few of the perks.
I utilized my mentor a lot in the beginning. She always responded quickly and provided great detail and insight. Additionally, my recruiter would give me weekly, if not daily, updates on new placements as they became available. If I liked any, he would submit my application that same day.
Has travel PT enabled you to do anything special? See friends/family? Have flexibility? Pay off loans?
The pay raise has definitely helped me throw as much money as possible towards my mountain of PT school loans. If I had not done travel PT, my only option would have been Public Service Loan Forgiveness. I am able to live pretty cheaply and comfortably while paying off my loans.
However, what really interested me was the ability to try out different physical therapy settings. I had always been interested in home health, but I did not get any home health experience in school. It seemed agencies were hesitant to hire new grads without experience in certain settings. I recently accepted a home health travel position in Monterey, CA and I absolutely love it.
Working as a travel physical therapist also allows for flexibility with your schedule. Travel PT allowed me to take time between placements to attend APTA’s Combined Sections Meeting in San Antonio this past February, which I otherwise would not have had the time (or money) to do.
Lastly, travel PT allows me to immerse myself in different cultures and environments. I was born and raised in Massachusetts, and always wanted to spend time in California. Travel therapy allowed me to take a placement in Monterey, and now I drive up and down the scenic Route 1 or across Pebble Beach to treat patients in their own homes. There is no better way to learn about an area than to drive around and meet the locals.
What type of mentorship have you received as a new grad traveler? Is it given in a traditional sense, or do you need to seek it out?
My recruiter made the connection between me and a really excellent mentor. Even though the recruiter reached out and connected us via email, my mentor took the initiative to call me very quickly, which helped us solidify our relationship and show her interest/willingness to be a mentor. Initially, I contacted my physical therapy mentor 1-2 times per week. She was a great resource for everything from random documentation questions to what exactly diathermy is, to how to find housing. She gave a general introduction and background, and I was able to reach out whenever I had questions.
My first mentor did not have home health experience, so when I accepted a home health placement I was given a new mentor who had experience in that setting and that helped a lot. I love the Advanced medical mentors because they are extremely receptive and quick to respond. It’s like a traveling security blanket, and I have found it extremely helpful as a new grad.
Why did you choose Advanced in relation to mentorship/recruiter helpfulness/compensation, etc?
I met my recruiter (Codey) at CSM when I was still a PT student. We had been in touch intermittently, and I reached out when I made the decision to switch. I think my first email to him was along the lines of: “Hey, I vaguely remember you, I think I’m interested in travel therapy. What should I do now?”
Since then, Codey has been phenomenal, answering every single one of my random questions. He is always available, quick to respond, and thorough.
What mentorship needs do you have that are unique to being a traveler?
Mentors are great for both the clinical and non-clinical questions. Many non-clinical questions are unique to travelers, so having a resource has been a tremendous help. For example, they would be a great asset for what kind of housing website to use, loan repayment questions, or organizational questions. I initially had difficulty figuring out the best way to schedule my home health patients location-wise, so my mentor mentioned that she uses a scheduling app, which helps to plan out her daily routes.
Have you gotten any unique learning opportunities that you wouldn't have had with a permanent job? (seeing new settings, variety of patients, etc)?
I really enjoy the variety of patients, trying different settings, and learning from different clinicians. I am also definitely more marketable now: I already have experience with multiple documentation systems, multiple settings, and various patient populations. It will now be easier to find the right placements with increased ease (and hopefully increased pay!).
What makes a good travel company - benefits, assist with licensing, speed of communication, etc?
Communication with your recruiter and the team is very important - the team is your work family. Advanced is consistently timely with telling me if certifications or forms are due and my recruiter always responds ASAP when I reach out.
Benefits and tuition reimbursement are important to me too. Additionally, the number and variety of placement sites offered by the travel company are important to consider.
I also like the free online continuing education courses offered by Advanced – they are great videos and printouts that you can pick and choose whenever you want. I had a Spanish-speaking patient and watched "Intro to Spanish for Rehab Professionals". The course helped tremendously.
If a new grad is afraid of travel, what would you tell them and why?
Seriously, just do it. It’s now or never. As new grads, we are already used to switching documentation systems, and we are so curious and flexible. Travel PT is a great way to expand your skillset. You will surprise yourself with how quickly you can adapt. You can control the setting, the time, and the location.
I think travel therapy is now becoming a leading career choice for new clinicians. Students are graduating with more and more loans and more and more skills. We deserve to be compensated for our doctorate degrees that we’ve worked so hard to achieve.