So, you’re thinking of doing travel therapy? It’s a big decision and the more information you can gather and questions you can ask regarding if it is the choice for you, the better.
I decided to do travel OT because I was ready for a change in my career and location as I didn’t see myself living in the current city I was working in long term. Exploring other places and working with different populations was something I really wanted to try as an OT. I have done travel OT off and on for 3 years. It has allowed me to discover most of California. Based on my experience as a traveler, here are some pros and cons to doing travel therapy:
- It allows you to work in different settings with different populations to determine what is the best match for you.
- There is flexibility in time off-you can ask for time off in your contract during an assignment or between assignments.
- You get paid a housing and food stipend, which can help save lots more money than working in a traditional setting to pay off loans, get a down payment for a house, or purchase a car.
- You get to meet so many different people and make lifelong friends.
- You don’t feel like you are stuck in a job/the politics of a work environment.
- It challenges you to be flexible and evolve by going out of your comfort zone.
- It is never boring.
- It teaches you to prioritize what’s important to pack up and simplify your life.
- Health insurance typically ends if you are unable to find a contract between 2-4 weeks after finishing an assignment.
- You need to move after every assignment which can feel like you are living out of a suitcase.
- Once you get comfortable in a job or location, it’s time to go somewhere else.
- Sometimes the training can be minimal and you hit the ground running.
- You may take over jobs that nobody else wants.
- Management can be nonexistent.
- You may be the only OT at the site.
Things to ask yourself about travel OT?
- Am I ok being on my own in a work setting?
- Do I want to try various jobs?
- Do I like variety?
- Am I alright not knowing what my next assignment may be a few weeks before my current one ends?
- Am I a self-starter?
- Do I want to see different parts of the United States?
- What settings do I want to work in as a traveler?
- Are there any settings that are a hard no to take as travel OT?
Tips to consider/know about travel OT:
- If you have a friend or family member in the area you are staying, try to live with them to maximize the amount of money you can save.
- Certain travel companies will give some PTO and start benefits like a 401K from the initial start date, make sure to ask about these during an initial interview.
- If you don’t think the contract is a good fit or feel like you are not able to provide the services required, most will allow you to terminate with notice. A travel assignment is never permanent.
- Ask your recruiter if there are other travelers in your assignment area to meet. Join your recruiter’s group if they have one to connect with other travelers.
- If you can, try to find housing on your own instead of having the travel company assist with housing. This will allow you to save more money on the travel stipend. Good groups to join on Facebook to look for housing are Travel Nursing: Places/Rooms For Rent, Travel Nurse Housing-The Gypsy Nurse, and city specific home and rental groups.
- Make sure to ask the companies you are interviewing with questions as well such as what the training process will look like, if there is overtime pay, how many other OTs will be on site, etc.
- If you are a new grad, consider working for a year or two before jumping into travel therapy.
- Make sure to advocate for yourself if something seems unfair or you feel like you need more training. You can do this through your recruiter and/or your supervisor at the assignment.
- If you’d like to stay in a location longer, consider taking a school contract as these are typically 9-10 months, with some including extended school year.
- When interviewing with a potential company, if you are on the fence about the position, ask if there is a current or previous travel OT you can talk to regarding the position. Most of them are pretty honest about the job and duties.
- Don’t feel pressured into a taking a contract. Once a phone interview is completed, it’s possible to receive an offer that same day. Make sure to take time to make the right decision for yourself. If you don’t take this contract, there will be plenty more. Don’t let the company or your recruiter feel like you need to take this job.
- Don’t be afraid to negotiate for more money for a contract. The worse thing they can say is no.
- If you have a friend who is a ST, OT, or PT, you could try to do travel contracts together.
Now it’s time to decide whether or not travel OT is for you. It was definitely one of the most memorable things that I have done as an OT. I will always look back on my memories with fondness for what it allowed me to see, who it helped me become, and all the amazing friends I met from it.