Travel Physical Therapy for New Graduates
As a new graduate with my doctorate in hand I could not wait to get out of the classroom and enter the real world as a practicing Physical Therapist. Many of my classmates, as well as myself, had job offers from clinical rotations which gave us a few options of what setting we wanted to work in. Many new graduates take a job close to home where they can live with family and begin paying off their student loans, however his felt like a trap to me. I began expressing interest in working as traveling therapist which allowed me to use work as a means of seeing many parts of the country that I would otherwise need to use vacation time for, be compensated for my travel, and make a living at the same time. When I brought this up to my professors at school they often told me it would be a mistake for this reason and that, but obviously I did not listen. In this piece, I will tell you what I truly think about travel therapy for new graduates and if it is a smart move from my own first hand experience.
There are a ton of perks to being a travel PT. You get to travel to new places for roughly 13 weeks at a time, visit new cities and parks, meet tons of new people, and collect new experiences that you would have never had the opportunity for otherwise. As far as being a PT typically you will shadow/work with someone who has more experience for the first day or two. After that however you are essentially on your own. No one is checking up on you and you are left to treat your patients as you see fit. Besides that the money is another important benefit as travel work notoriously out pays permanent positions across the USA. This is how it works, you get an hourly wage + a monthly housing stipend + a monthly food stipend. All of that adds up quickly and gives you a very nice paycheck at the end of every week. Sounds great right? Read on to the bad before you get too far ahead of yourself.
Travel PT Life
Now there are drawbacks to being a traveling therapist. First the pre-assignment paperwork can be a major headache as you have to jump through hoops to get all the required paperwork and whatever else a particular assignment has on their checklist (and trust me they do all vary). You have to travel lightly to be able to pack up and move your life every 3 months, not to mention find housing for only 3 months at a time. You realize quickly that you are all alone once you arrive somewhere brand new so you need to be able to make friends, or be very comfortable with yourself. The workload can be a lot at times since the reason you were hired was because the company was in need, and they will do their best to get their money's worth. Also, this is not a clinical rotation in the sense that you have a mentor in place (even if the company promises someone will be there for you). If I did not scare you away already read on for the conclusion.
Is It For New Grads?
I started my career as a Doctor of Physical Therapy as a travel PT and... I am so glad I did. While everything I listed as a negative can be very annoying, it is all worth it once you get settled in and began doing what you know best, which is treating patients. I work hard during my week and take a trip every weekend to somewhere new. This has taken me to such unique places including big cities and beautiful parks that I would have never known existed otherwise. I have been to 6 states in the last 30 days which is completely covered by my travel company and I am continuing to save up to pay off my student loans at a much faster rate compared to any other jobs for new grads. I highly recommend all new grads to check out travel work and life and decide individually if its for you!