New Grads Read this First!
Traveling for New Grads
As NPTE Board exam season begins to roll through so do the emails and questions from potential new grads regarding making the jump into travel PT straight out of school. Clearly this is a growing interest amongst PT students, so the following is my take on the matter, and what I often tell the inquisitive future PTs who contact me. To provide as rounded of a view as possible I enlisted the help of Matt Carter of PTTraveling.com, who began traveling immediately after graduation, to add a few comments in at the end.
First off, I think traveling is a great way to explore new areas of PT. The premium pay rate is a huge perk for anyone dealing with oppressive amounts of student loan debt. You will also have your choice of just about any setting (though outpatient is less commonly available to a newbie PT traveler), and can develop a wide array of clinical skills quite quickly. Not to mention the incredible adventures you can have along the way!
That being said, I am a big proponent of moving straight into mentorship or a residency program right after PT school. (See my previous comments here) The longer you are out of school the more difficult it is to put your learning hat back on. Your ego, beliefs about conflicting treatment philosophies, and a fading knowledge of obscure anatomical structures will all impede your pursuit of expanding your skills the further on you get in your career. Take advantage of your supple and untainted mind now before you get set in your ways and begin reinforcing bad habits. Even six months of mentorship with an experienced and skilled clinician (Not just the guy in the clinic who has been a PT the longest. Years of experience is not equal to more skill.) will pay dividends. The time will go quickly and the finely tuned skills will help build the foundation for the rest of your career.
Your first job out of school is going to be daunting no matter what. Excitement, anxiety, even a little self doubt may creep in. It takes time to get comfortable in front of clients all alone, being solely responsible for their care. In our own experience as new graduates it took a good 6-12 months before we felt truly in the flow of things. As a traveler it is expected that not only can you jump right in to any clinical situation, but that you can do so efficiently enough to provide quality care, while still meeting productivity standards.
Personally, if I were in your place as a new graduate eager to start traveling, I would take one of the following routes:
Option 1- Immediately begin a 12month residency program. It will be intense but immensely beneficial. This is the easiest way to jump-start your career and clinical skill. See list.
Option 2- (which is for the most part what Ellen and I did) take a perm job in outpatient/acute care that has some sort of mentorship written into the contract while planning to travel in the next 1-2 years.
Option 3- take a long term (6-12mo) travel gig in outpatient/acute care and ensure that there are other skillful clinicians available to learn from prior to signing on.
All three situations will have tremendous impact on your clinical skills and carry over into other settings.
If possible, do not take a home health position prior to having PT experience. The setting can be isolating for even the most seasoned clinician and there is a tremendous variety of extenuating circumstances that can occur when treating very ill patients in their own home.
Here are a few thoughts from Matt Carter, that might help provide a slightly different perspective on the matter.
As a new grad travel PT, how has your overall experience been thus far?
Great experience/option for any new grads who are battling with where they want to be permanently right after school. If you’re not sure, even if it’s just debating between two different areas, give travel PT a shot!
In your first few contracts as a travel therapist, what types of professional development opportunities/mentorship have been available?
This is 100% dependent on where you work. I have had supervisors that advertised “mentorship” that did not teach me anything and I’ve had coworkers that just helped me out with questions on the side that completely changed how I practiced.
As a new grad, how successful have you been at getting hired for positions you were submitted to?
Unfortunately, I have not been gifted with a good recruiter. In fact, I will most likely be requesting a new one after this placement. My original recruiter was great, but he left the company after my first placement. Other than my first placement, I have been able to secure the setting or the location I want, but not both. Sounds picky, but working a job you like in a place you don’t is just as bad as working a job you dislike in a place you enjoy.
What has been the worst part of traveling?
Potentially working in settings you don’t want in order to be in the location you want or vise versa, living only with what fits in your car.
What has been the best part of traveling?
Pay, extremely flexible work schedule, and seeing new places.
What sort of things are you excited about in the future as a travel PT?
Every new placement is exciting. In a way, I like the uncertainty and the possibility of finding a location that I want to settle down in permanently.
Alright guys, hopefully this post has been helpful for planning out the first few years of an awesome PT career! Be intentional about growing as a PT, and remember to never settle. There are too many amazing adventures to be had out there in the world of travel PT!
Written by: Stephen Stockhausen