Why I Chose Travel Occupational Therapy
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I have been working as an Occupational Therapist for about 4 years now, and I LOVE being a travel therapist. For healthcare professionals, there are two main routes you can take for careers. One is the traditional full-time permanent position, the other is a non-permanent contracted position. Technically speaking, a travel position is a temporary contracted position. This means the professional is contracted to work for a set period of time at a facility/organization either independently or through an agency. The actual facility/organization does not need to pay the contracted employee any type of benefits, only salary.
There are pros and cons of each type of career path. I have been a travel Occupational Therapist for most of my career. As of now, due to my current goals and priorities, travel therapy is the best fit for me. Here’s why!
I get to travel!
One night my junior year of college, I was talking to a roommate about how I wished I could take a year off before working to travel. I knew with the $20 in my bank account and the accruing student loan debt that this would not be possible. I was aware of traveling nurses but I was not aware that there were traveling Occupational Therapists. After a little research, I quickly learned I wanted to be a travel Occupational Therapist. This way I could travel around the U.S. while beginning my career and earning an income. So far, I have lived and worked in 5 states as a travel Occupational Therapist!
A travel therapy position offers a lot more flexibility than a permanent position. A permanent position typically has set days off for an employee. With travel therapy, you have the luxury to work when you want. I often take one or two weeks off between jobs to take long road trips between locations as well as to visit friends and family. When I work as a travel OT, I work on average 10 months a year and make more money than I did working one whole year at a permanent position. I should mention that as a traveler there is no paid time off. However, I discovered the “no work, no pay” that is a part of travel therapy, is made up for by the increase in pay when you are working.
Working less and making more money is appealing to me, as I am sure it is to most. When you are a travel therapist you are in high demand, which drives up your salary. Since you are a traveling employee (at least 50 miles or more from your permanent residence) you are entitled the nontaxable stipends, including housing, meals, and travel. The hourly salary for a traveling healthcare professional is actually lower than a permanent position but the nontaxable stipends are how travel therapists make most of their money!
When you are a travel therapist you are needed and expected to work very hard. Unfortunately, some employers will take this to an extreme. The way they see it, you are costing them A LOT of money so they want you working and expect outrageous productivity rates. However, there is a positive outcome to that mentality that I have found, and that is fewer meetings and less drama. Every workplace has drama and when you are a temporary employee you tend to be left out because “oh you’re leaving in a few weeks.” When I am working as a travel therapist I rarely attend meetings because no one wants to pay me to sit and not see patients. I go to work, provide my patients with skilled treatment and my undivided attention, then I go home. Yes, I work very hard and at a much faster pace than I needed to at my permanent gig, but I feel like I am 100% more effective as an OT. I find work a lot less stressful when I get to avoid all the drama and politics of a workplace!
The opportunity to help communities in need
There tends to be a pretty steady need for OT, PT, and SLPs (as well as many other healthcare professionals) across the U.S. simply due to the fact that there are more jobs than there are therapists (yay, job security!). However, some communities suffer more due to the lack of available therapists in their area (i.e. underserved and rural areas). For example, a facility in need in San Diego is going to have a much easier time filling a position than Barrow, Alaska. Travel allows you to temporarily work at a place in need and to be able to help underserved communities. Healthcare workers provide a public service to which, unfortunately, many residents in the U.S. have very limited access. Travel healthcare positions allow these communities to have access to health services that are desperately needed.
So if traveling, flexibility, more money, less drama and helping communities in need sounds appealing to you, you might want to consider a traveling healthcare professional career. I took a break from travel therapy for 15 months and I found myself counting down the days until I could get back into traveling therapy. I truly am happy I decided to take a chance on travel therapy!
Would you or do you travel full time for work? Leave a comment below!