April Fajardo, PT was no stranger to traveling before she started with Cariant Health Partners. The seven medical mission trips she had been on greatly influenced her decision to become a travel PT. Even now she is busy in Central America, following her passion and taking advantage of the flexibility that travel therapy offers. Before she left we had a chance to ask her a few questions about her travel PT experience, and get her advice for other new therapists considering this career path:
What led you to travel therapy?
With a blink of an eye I went from graduate student to officially unemployed. Ahhhhhhhh!!!! What should I do now? Should I apply for a neuro residency? Should I work full-time or PRN? Should I live in Texas, transfer my license to California, or travel? Where do I even start?
I’m not going to lie—I was overwhelmed.
The day after graduation I sat with my professor, Dr. Beverly McNeal, PT, and she told me exactly what I needed to hear: “The beauty of our profession is that you can go down one path and if it doesn’t work out, you’ll know and then you can try something else. None of this is permanent.” Her words sank in and I finally had clarity. I was going to travel.
How do you make contract decisions?
Once I made the decision to become a travel PT, I found myself a travel therapist mentor. We had served on a few medical mission trips together, and he had been traveling for five years. His advice to me was to trust my gut. At that time, I had no idea what he meant. I said to myself, “How do I trust my gut when I haven’t even started working yet? What does that even mean?” As I started to conduct phone interviews with potential facilities, it all started to make sense.
Work culture is one of the most important factors in my decision to accept an assignment. Some facilities asked personal questions about my goals and interests. This, along with questions about productivity, work culture, collaboration, and education opportunities helped formulate my decisions on whether to accept an assignment.
Location: Mount Lemmon, AZ After work, I watched the sun set amongst the clouds and into the silhouette of the mountainous horizon. #TheVagabondingDPT #TheVagabondingDPTUSA #Travel #Travels #Travelgram #travelbug #MountLemmon #AZLife #nature #Instatravel #instatravelgram #TravelPT #Traveltherapist #TravelTherapists #Instagram #Instaday #instahappy #instadaily
What keeps you traveling?
I pursued travel PT to allow me the flexibility to serve on international service learning trips (ISL) and explore the world at my own leisure. I made a decision and haven’t looked back. And I’m L-O-V-I-N-G it!
Aside from the obvious (getting to travel), what else do you think differentiates travel from perm work? What are the benefits?
I’m the type of person who thrives on change at a rapid rate. Being a travel PT has given me the opportunity to practice in different settings and in different regions of the country. Because of this, and the flexibility of taking time between contracts, I’ve reduced burnout as an early career professional.
Location: Seven Falls, Tucson, AZ The best part of being a Travel PT is the excitement that comes with the exploration of new places. After work, I had the pleasure of basking in this glorious sunset during my 8 mile night hike. #ThevagabondingDPT #thevagabondingdptusa #TravelPT #TravelBlog #Travel #travelphotography #travelgram #travelgrams #travelmore #travelling #travelpic #travelbug #Wanderlust #arizonasunset #arizonalife #arizonasky #arizonahiking #sevenfallstucson #sevenfalls #traveltherapy #traveltherapyadventures #wanderer #sunset #sunset_pics #sunsetgram
What do you do in between contracts?
In between contracts I take time to recharge at home, serve on ISL trips, attend conferences, and/or travel for leisure. I’m actually leaving to do just that on March 6. I’m heading to Central America to learn Spanish, serve on ISL trips, and explore.
You’re an advocate for traveling as a new grad and have addressed on your blog some of the common concerns we hear about a lot—mentorship, for example. How did you handle contract situations that weren’t the “ideal” mentorship situation for a recent graduate?
There are some travel companies that may market mentorship opportunities. I challenge you to ask them what exactly this looks like. Just being in the same clinic as other physical therapists does not constitute as mentorship. That experience can be countered by proactively building an array of mentors while in school. Based on my interests I built an army of specialists from neurologic physical therapy to global health to nonprofit leadership. I solicited the help of these mentors to discuss my clinical reasoning with my complex patients.
Quite frankly, our patients become our first mentors. If you learn to listen intently, they will lead you to the answer. In addition, a firm understanding of other disciplines, such as occupational therapy and speech-language pathology, can help us maximize our role with a focus on patient-centered rehabilitative care. Mentorship does not have to be limited to our profession. There is something to learn from everyone.
Other advice for first-time travelers?
The best method to find a recruiter is through word of mouth. When taking recruiter referrals, be aware that the therapist who referred you will likely earn a monetary referral bonus if you accept an assignment with that recruiter. You should also be mindful that there are recruiters who will do anything and everything to get you to work with them. If you blindly submit your application with various companies, you will get bombarded with emails and phone calls from those companies and their recruiters. So make sure that you interview recruiters thoroughly. Here are a few questions you could ask:
- Ask for a time when there was miscommunication between the therapist and the facility and how they remedied the situation.
- Ask what they do to go above and beyond.
- Ask how frequently they get in contact with their therapists. Do they only contact them when something goes wrong? Do they contact every week to check in?
- Ask them if they’ve negotiated pay or paid time off or other benefits for their therapists.
- Ask if they will provide contact info for one of their therapists so that you can ask him/her these questions.
Want to hear more from April? Check out her blog, the Adventures of the Vagabonding DPT.
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