Two former college football players, a Texas OT and nurse, and an OT and PT from Nebraska walk into a bar…it sounds like the start of a bad joke. That’s the joy of travel healthcare though, the most amazing people with a wide variety of backgrounds can collide around a common cause: meeting a need for healthcare staffing in underserved communities so patients can live healthier lives.
There are many things that terrified me about making the leap into travel occupational therapy. The biggest was finding a recruiter who my husband, Tyler, and I could trust with our livelihood. I had heard this was a make-or-break decision and being a type A person, I was on the phone constantly with many different companies. A relationship with your recruiter is very give-and-take. They are not your boss, and you are not theirs. It’s truly a partnership to match your skill set as a healthcare provider with a need in a community. This becomes increasingly more complicated when you add in travel pairs (my husband is a travel nurse, and I am an occupational therapist) and pickiness about placement. My Texas soul could not stand somewhere freezing in the winter. I was nervous that we would not be able to find a placement where a travel nurse and travel OT could start in the dead of winter without freezing our toes off. Since I’m writing for a Cariant blog, I bet you can guess the ending to this story.
What impressed me most when I called Cariant was not the fact that my recruiter could answer my many questions. I later found that almost everyone could, some very inaccurately. It was that Jonathan asked about my career goals and cared about my assignments. He had first-hand knowledge of what being a traveler is like because he was a travel physical therapy assistant before becoming a recruiter. After I started my first assignment, he could truly empathize with me and had real suggestions for how to make things work in a tricky company environment. I had actually taken a contract with a different agency, yet Jonathan was the one reaching out to check if I needed anything and who encouraged me to stick it out through my first challenging contract. I am now on travel contract number two, this time with Cariant, and it is night-and-day difference from the first. I am in my dream setting and am learning so much. My husband and I hear from Jonathan weekly to check in, which is the biggest difference in the world from my experience with other recruiters. Cariant prides themselves on the “Cariant touch” and that is truly the difference I have felt compared to other travel companies.
After securing my second travel contract and my husband’s third, Jonathan jokingly said, “Well, now I have to come visit you guys.” We had spent almost a year talking about his upcoming wedding, new pets, family lives and everything in between. It was crazy we had an entire relationship and trusted our full livelihood to a voice we knew only over the phone. When we got the text saying Jonathan had received the go-ahead to travel to Washington and would be visiting us with his fellow recruiter, Trevor, we were extremely excited and very nervous. We offered for them to stay in our fifth wheeler, and we were good to go!
We first met Jonathan and Trevor after work. Two former college football players were not hard to find in the crowd. We met up with one of Trevor’s travelers and it was surreal to get to “talk shop” with people who actually understood what travel healthcare is like. We were able to turn a phone friendship into a real one very quickly, and it was great to finally get to put context to all our phone chats. It was a whirlwind weekend. We showed them around Pike’s Place market, tried oysters for the first time (the verdict: delicious but slimy), Trevor taught us to fly fish, and we went to downtown Olympia. The weekend culminated in bowling with another travel couple, an OT/ PT pair who also are on contract in the Seattle area. We were so excited to meet other travelers, and things just clicked. We have now gone hiking and spent the weekend with our new travel friends!
The United States is a big place and being in travel healthcare can feel very overwhelming. There are a million decisions to make from where to submit for contracts, what settings to pursue, which recruiter to work with, where to live, and the list goes on. Meeting Jonathan and Trevor and having the opportunity to share our new city with them made the giant travel world feel just a little smaller. Now when I call Jonathan with a success or with a challenge, I know the person on the other end of the phone truly has my back. Thank you, Cariant, for a memorable experience of finally getting to meet the recruiter who has worked so hard to help us!
Written by Rachel T., OT