Life as a Travel SLP

Nov 1, 2019
6 min read
162 views

Do you wish you could travel more? For many of us, work gets in the way of our travel plans. But for travel SLPs, exploring the country is just another part of the job.

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Travel the country for work? That sounds too good to be true! But it’s not just a dream; it can be a reality for you. As a traveling SLP, you get to travel the country for work. As a traveler, you can snowbird (or ski bunny) in the winter and explore the national parks and beaches over the summer.

Since 2010, I have worked as a traveling SLP (or travel SLP) across the country, specializing in adult neurogenic rehab. I have found my niche in the professional world by traveling across the country and taking short-term assignments. I’ve worked all across the country, including the east coast, south, west coast, and Hawaii.

So . . . what is a traveling SLP?

Traveling SLPs are used to fill staffing shortages across the United States. They are used in all settings, including schools, home health, skilled nursing facilities, hospitals, and clinics. Contracts are generally 13 weeks long for medical-based contracts and nine months for school contracts. A traveler may be needed because an SLP is out on maternity leave or medical leave, there is a seasonal staffing need for a building, or a building is chronically short-staffed and relies on travelers to provide care to their patient population.

Life as a traveling SLP can be quite different from the more permanent life that many of us are used to. Here are some of my favorite parts about the travel SLP lifestyle.

Living the vacation lifestyle

Life as a traveling SLP can look like the glamorous life of an Instagram influencer. You get to live in places that people dream about going on vacation! One week you are in Southern California, the next week Seattle! You may be visiting a new hot spot every weekend and exploring all of the foodie destinations of each town. Plus, once your contract is over, you don’t have to work another one until you are ready to. So, you can take extra time off between contracts to travel and explore. I have worked in five states as a travel SLP and traveled to over 20 countries in my time off.

I budget my year so that I am able to take a couple of months off yearly (yes MONTHS, not weeks), to relax and travel the world. Travel has truly given me the freedom and flexibility to see the world in ways that a permanent position never could.

Being a travel SLP has helped me get out and explore the country and also discover my own passions. Travel helped me discover my passions for hiking, writing, and photography! I’m writing this piece today because of the experiences that I had as a traveler, which led me to explore my passion for writing and telling my story!

Live by the seat of your pants

As a traveling SLP, you work a contract and then have to find another one. You are not guaranteed work and you don’t know where your next job will be. You are like a free agent of the SLP job world. Travelers acquire jobs through staffing agencies and can receive benefits through these agencies. You get a contract, move to a new place, find housing, start your job, finish your job, and repeat the process. Stability does not exist. You live on the fly and go from job to job, setting to setting.

Life as a travel SLP is very fast-paced. You have to make decisions to apply for jobs, accept jobs, and move in quick periods of time. Jobs open and close in as little as hours or days. If you take too much time to mull over an offer, it may be gone. It’s definitely a fast-paced area of work.

The travel SLP lifestyle is perfect for the SLP who craves adventure and change. You never know where you are going to go next and what new adventures you may have. Whether you are thinking about exploring the country for a couple of months, years, or a lifetime, travel can provide you with adventure and excitement.

You are always learning

Traveling SLPs trek across the country and work with new populations, co-workers, and buildings. The mere nature of working with new people, new patients, new electronic medical records, and new policies means that you are constantly learning and growing.

Traveling can help expand your clinical skills because it can expose you to settings, people, and information that you may never get when you are working in one location for all of your career. Traveling is a great way to expand your clinical horizons and become a more confident and independent clinician.

As a travel SLP, I have worked in many settings including skilled nursing facilities, inpatient rehabs, community hospitals, and even level one trauma centers. To date, I have worked in over 50 buildings with hundreds of co-workers. On each assignment, I find myself learning something new and expanding my skills and scope of practice.

Learn to embrace minimalism

Travelers constantly have to pack and move their stuff. You learn quickly how to live with less and carry less with you. When I started to travel, I had an SUV filled roof high with boxes and bags. Now, I only take a couple of bags with me and enjoy that I am less dependent on material items to feel satisfied in the world. I have learned not only to be a minimalist with my possessions but also as a clinician. Travel SLP has changed my view of the world.

When I work with patients with aphasia and other cognitive-linguistic deficits, I learn to manipulate objects and scenarios in their space to generate therapy stimuli. This is not only handy for me, to bring less stuff, but it is more functional for the patient and helps them engage with their environment. On top of using what is in the patient’s environment, I scan all of my important papers into my Google Drive, which I can use and print as needed, instead of carrying around treatment books with me. Less truly feels like more!

Travel SLP life conclusions

Life as a travel SLP can be unpredictable and fast-paced. It is a good fit for those who crave adventure, learning, and something new. While the lack of stability can be stressful, the opportunities that travel opens up can make it totally worth it! Becoming a traveling SLP shaped me into a more confident, independent, and diversified clinician, and a world traveler!

Who’s ready to travel? Leave a comment to tell us where you want to travel to next.

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About Julia Kuhn, MS, CCC-SLP

Julia Kuhn, MS CCC-SLP is the leading expert in traveling as a therapist. She has been a traveling speech-language pathologist since 2010. Outside of clinical work, her passion is helping other therapists be successful travelers and she has mentored thousands of traveling therapists along their journey. You can find resources and inspiration from Julia on her blog https://www.thetravelingtraveler.com/


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