Travel PT

Actually, You CAN be a Travel PT as a New Grad

Travel PT certainly has its benefits. Higher pay, flexible schedules, and freedom to travel are just a few of the advantages that come with being a travel physical therapist. But what if you are a new grad with little to no experience? Despite what some people may tell you, you CAN travel as a new grad. Just ask Corianne Oliver, a recent DPT graduate who is working as a new grad travel PT with Advanced Travel Therapy and loving every minute of it.

We were able to interview Corianne, to get an inside look at life as a travel PT.

Read on for tips and honest advice on working as a travel PT after graduation.

What’s your full name and title?

Corianne Oliver, PT, DPT.

Where did you attend school and when did you graduate?

I attended MGH Institute of Health Professions in Boston, MA, and I graduated in January 2016.

How long have you been with Advanced?

My first placement was this past November (2016) at a skilled nursing facility (SNF) near Boston, MA. I had been in contact with my recruiter for about 8 months before that.

I am currently on my second placement, working in home health in Monterey CA!

Interested in traveling as a new grad? 

Our team of PTs here at NewGradPhysicalTherapy.com is re-defining what it means to be a successful “new graduate traveling physical therapist.”

Join our exclusive group of 12 new grad PTs each month who are new to traveling. If you’re interested, send Brett Kestenbaum, DPT a quick message using the chat bubble in in the lower right-hand corner of this screen.

Did you start travel PT immediately out of school? What were the challenges? What did you like about it?

After graduation, I worked for 6 months at an inpatient rehab hospital, where I had completed my final internship for school. I then decided to make the switch to travel PT.

The biggest challenge was having a full caseload on the second day of my first placement. I was the only full-time physical therapist at the skilled nursing facility I was placed at. Fortunately, the rehab staff was extremely supportive, knowledgeable, and helpful. I was able to utilize their expertise frequently. Also, I specifically chose this SNF because I had previously completed a 10-week clinical experience with the same company in a different location, so it was quick to re-learn the documentation system.

While there were certainly challenges, there are many advantages to working as a travel PT after graduation. The freedom to choose the location and setting I preferred, the pay raise, and the mentorship opportunities are just a few of the perks.

I utilized my mentor a lot in the beginning. She always responded quickly and provided great detail and insight. Additionally, my recruiter would give me weekly, if not daily, updates on new placements as they became available. If I liked any, he would submit my application that same day.

I also really like the variability of travel therapy. Working with all different types of clinicians and patients drastically increases the number of “tools in your toolbox.”

Has travel PT enabled you to do anything special? See friends/family? Have flexibility? Pay off loans?

The pay raise has definitely helped me throw as much money as possible towards my mountain of PT school loans. If I had not done travel PT, my only option would have been Public Service Loan Forgiveness. I am able to live pretty cheaply and comfortably while paying off my loans.

However, what really interested me was the ability to try out different physical therapy settings. I had always been interested in home health, but I did not get any home health experience in school. It seemed agencies were hesitant to hire new grads without experience in certain settings. I recently accepted a home health travel position in Monterey, CA and I absolutely love it.

What also is nice is that there is an “expiration date” on each setting. If you don’t enjoy or feel comfortable in a setting or placement at 13 weeks (or sooner), you can choose somewhere or something different. It’s reassuring.

Working as a travel physical therapist also allows for flexibility with your schedule. Travel PT allowed me to take time between placements to attend APTA’s Combined Sections Meeting in San Antonio this past February, which I otherwise would not have had the time (or money) to do.

Lastly, travel PT allows me to immerse myself in different cultures and environments. I was born and raised in Massachusetts, and always wanted to spend time in California. Travel therapy allowed me to take a placement in Monterey, and now I drive up and down the scenic Route 1 or across Pebble Beach to treat patients in their own homes. There is no better way to learn about an area than to drive around and meet the locals.

What type of mentorship have you received as a new grad traveler? Is it given in a traditional sense, or do you need to seek it out?

My recruiter made the connection between me and a really excellent mentor. Even though the recruiter reached out and connected us via email, my mentor took the initiative to call me very quickly, which helped us solidify our relationship and show her interest/willingness to be a mentor. Initially, I contacted my physical therapy mentor 1-2 times per week. She was a great resource for everything from random documentation questions to what exactly diathermy is, to how to find housing. She gave a general introduction and background, and I was able to reach out whenever I had questions.

My first mentor did not have home health experience, so when I accepted a home health placement I was given a new mentor who had experience in that setting and that helped a lot. I love the Advanced medical mentors because they are extremely receptive and quick to respond. It’s like a traveling security blanket, and I have found it extremely helpful as a new grad.

Why did you choose Advanced in relation to mentorship/recruiter helpfulness/compensation, etc?

I met my recruiter (Codey) at CSM when I was still a PT student. We had been in touch intermittently, and I reached out when I made the decision to switch. I think my first email to him was along the lines of: “Hey, I vaguely remember you, I think I’m interested in travel therapy. What should I do now?”

Since then, Codey has been phenomenal, answering every single one of my random questions. He is always available, quick to respond, and thorough.

What mentorship needs do you have that are unique to being a traveler?

Mentors are great for both the clinical and non-clinical questions. Many non-clinical questions are unique to travelers, so having a resource has been a tremendous help. For example, they would be a great asset for what kind of housing website to use, loan repayment questions, or organizational questions. I initially had difficulty figuring out the best way to schedule my home health patients location-wise, so my mentor mentioned that she uses a scheduling app, which helps to plan out her daily routes.

 

Have you gotten any unique learning opportunities that you wouldn’t have had with a permanent job? (seeing new settings, variety of patients, etc)?

I really enjoy the variety of patients, trying different settings, and learning from different clinicians. I am also definitely more marketable now: I already have experience with multiple documentation systems, multiple settings, and various patient populations. It will now be easier to find the right placements with increased ease (and hopefully increased pay!).

What makes a good travel company – benefits, assist with licensing, speed of communication, etc?

Communication with your recruiter and the team is very important – the team is your work family. Advanced is consistently timely with telling me if certifications or forms are due and my recruiter always responds ASAP when I reach out.

Benefits and tuition reimbursement are important to me too. Additionally, the number and variety of placement sites offered by the travel company are important to consider.

I also like the free online continuing education courses offered by Advanced – they are great videos and printouts that you can pick and choose whenever you want. I had a Spanish-speaking patient and watched “Intro to Spanish for Rehab Professionals”. The course helped tremendously.

If a new grad is afraid of travel, what would you tell them and why?

Seriously, just do it. It’s now or never. As new grads, we are already used to switching documentation systems, and we are so curious and flexible. Travel PT is a great way to expand your skillset. You will surprise yourself with how quickly you can adapt. You can control the setting, the time, and the location.

If you are hesitant, take a placement in a setting that you have a lot of familiarity with initially. Then either stay in that setting or branch out.

I think travel therapy is now becoming a leading career choice for new clinicians. Students are graduating with more and more loans and more and more skills. We deserve to be compensated for our doctorate degrees that we’ve worked so hard to achieve.

There you have it, new grads! Travel PT is actually a fantastic choice for new grads. Have you traveled while fresh out of school? If so, please share your experiences with us in the comment section!

Interested in traveling as a new grad? 

Our team of PTs here at NewGradPhysicalTherapy.com is re-defining what it means to be a successful “new graduate traveling physical therapist.”

Join our exclusive group of 12 new grad PTs each month who are new to traveling. If you’re interested, send Brett Kestenbaum, DPT a quick message using the chat bubble in in the lower right-hand corner of this screen.

About Meredith Victor Castin

Meredith Victor Castin
Meredith is the co-founder of NewGradPhysicalTherapy.com and the founder of The Non-Clinical PT. She is originally from Tyler, TX and attended UPenn for undergrad, before graduating with her DPT from USA (San Diego) in 2010. She has worked in outpatient ortho, inpatient rehab, acute care, and home health. She loves spending time with her husband and 3 cats, and enjoys creating art and weird music.

7 comments

  1. Chip hurst

    Sure, because most clinics are mills now where the extent of “talent” with mentors and senior therapists is nothing more than punching the laptop while two patients both do their same cookie cutter exercises while the therapist babbles of the great importance of the Quick Dash. And that was a fine subtle quip about “having more skills” due to the DPT. I’m sorry you had to go to the same PT school post an irrelevant degree for your Bachelor’s. And schools do evolve with evolution of thought not because you stacked it on that useless four year degree prior. But you didn’t do a legitimate thesis (at the caliber of a real graduate student, not your end of term research paper we all did), you didn’t take a series of statistical analysis courses, didn’t complete orals, didn’t teach lower level classes to undergrads and didn’t go to PT school then advanced PT school (like a real Masters in Australia where they would specialize in say manual therapy). In short the DPT did nothing at all any graduate level student even in sociology would have done. But you did manage over 100K in debt for no increased pay or authority.
    So sure jump in as a traveler day one, why not? The entire field has become a farce so no one would notice in modern PT land anyway.

    • Nicole Lockwood

      Hey Chip! So real quick, I know lots of schools that now require you to do a thesis before you graduate school. DPT Baylor for the military is one of them. And all the schools I have researched do have a statistical analysis course, that is why most schools require you to have a basic statistics class completed for a pre req before you apply. You are required to participate in research projects at most schools, as well. Orals are required for most schools I have toured at as well. Manual therapy is a huge component for most DPT schools now, as that is where the research is heading for treatment options. (Think Graston, ART, and dry needling. Plus manipulations!)

      So all in all, the DPT is not a useless degree. It can get pricey if you don’t shop around, but it’s highly competitive to enter, and any degree is what you make of it. I, for one, don’t plan on being a bad therapist. So I look forward to receiving my clinical doctorate.

      Best, Nicole

  2. Meredith Victor Castin

    Hi Chip,

    While I appreciate and respect your opinion on the matter, nothing in Cori’s experience says that she feels superior by having the DPT. And I believe that you’re referring to a research doctorate (PhD) when you note that our doctorates don’t have statistical analysis components or education requirements. I did take an oral exam as part of my DPT, for what it’s worth.

    Honestly, we try to keep NGPT very supportive and forward-thinking, so, rather than coming on here and saying how awful the DPT is, why don’t you offer to mentor and support young DPTs who are looking to learn from a master clinician? But I also must add that each PT sees success differently, and everyone will choose the right path for him/herself. Can you really argue that working in multiple settings as a traveler is less valuable than specializing in one setting, like orthopedics? It’s sort of like being a general practitioner vs. a cardiologist. To each his/her own, and all I ask is that you show respect to our contributors who are trying to be successful in their careers, just as you are.

    Meredith, co-founder, NGPT

    • Chip hurst

      I’ll tell you why I’m not supportive of the profession. Look at your above and below comments.

      Again your “thesis” and the “orals” you state are not nearly the caliber of real graduate students who will have many who will not make it through the first round. It does not have the depth, time or preparation that graduate students must have. They will complete their thesis over one to several years while teaching classes. That’s what graduate students do. The DPT is nowhere near the caliber of “defense.”

      Do you ever wonder why insurance companies won’t accept the DPT as legitimate for direct access reimbursement? Because they researched it and do not find it legitimate either. They give direct access reimbursement to MDs, psych, chiros and dentists. But not PTs. The doctorate wasn’t created to make our profession better–other countries specialize in their post grad PT work. Ours doesn’t. It’s PT school. The DPT was created in attempt to get direct access. Look at Brett’s comment below. “7 years of school will provide more information than 4 years.” It’s 4 years in an unrelated degree Brett. That’s why that comment is idiotic and that IS the attitude of the DPT today. That sort of comment is exactly why I chime in.

      I chime in on these attitudes from time to time because the “new grad” has this attitude that sure, jump in and be a traveler. Or go ahead and open up that clinic. You’re the expert after all now that you have the “DPT.” Of course in my day you would collect a bit of experience first before you thought that but then again most clinics are such a sham that anyone could just jump in, watch two at a time do exercises and type on their laptop. “Leading experts,” Brett? Please, most in this profession are absolute charlatans. So no, I’m not going to be supportive. Cori’s last line was she believed she should be compensated for her “doctorate” degree. The fact is getting the doctorate for an ancillary profession wasn’t strategically smart to begin with led by your ridiculous APTA. And now most of you are in unbelievable debt and many jumping into traveling because of financial reasons not because it is a good idea. Most nurses will get experience before they broach traveling. But then again nurses live in a different universe than PTs known as reality.

      • Brett Kestenbaum

        Thanks for the Reply, Chip. It does look like you’re making a few separate arguments here… One of the arguments you’re making is that insurance companies do not recognize a DPT for direct access reimbursement because they do not believe in the degree itself, however, this is a very misleading statement.

        The authorization of an insurance company to accept a profession under direct access has a lot more to do with politics than credentials and unfortunately, the AMA has one of the largest healthcare lobbies (besides pharmaceutical companies) which allows them protections against new policies which would afford other practitioners to have direct access.

        Also, as stated previously, “orals” and a “thesis” hold much less importance for a clinical doctoral degree than a degree in research. How does ones ability to present a research case affect their ability to treat a patient under current evidence based practice?

        Times have changed, and even large institutions are recognizing that practitioners are now coming out with a more rounded set of entry level skills which helps new grads practice right out of school… That’s not to say that practitioners won’t improve over time and become even better, but it is to say that physical therapists are trained to evaluate and treat patients both safely and effectively right out of school.

        Physical Therapists trained today go through a year of clinical work prior to graduation that prepares them for “the real world”.

        Also, help me to understand because maybe I am not as versed in the subject… When a physical therapy degree was a bachelors, were all 4 years of school dedicated to the functions of a physical therapist? Or was there still coursework in general science, psychology, history, and other subjects as well?

  3. Brett Kestenbaum

    The DPT is a fantastic degree, and new grads are absolutely prepared thoroughly to come out as entry-level clinicians with proficiencies in research for EBP and providing entry-level care.

    All forward movement starts out in the unknown, and, at times, starts by having limited impact. The DPT is moving our profession towards direct access and improving the public’s image and understanding of the knowledge which we have. We had a choice – to move in the direction of progress, or to stand still and the profession has chosen progress. Does that mean that progress could have some short-term hurdles and downsides such as increased debt? Yes. Am I one of the people affected by the change? Yes. But I also understand the long-term outlook for the profession and the need for progress.

    So many of my colleagues are already doing fantastic work opening up practices, or starting businesses as seen more as the leading expert because of their degree and the knowledge and training which that degree provides.

    7 years of school will ultimately provide more information that 4 years, no matter how you slice it. It is likely that the system can improve, and all of the improvements take so many moving parts. The work that has been done to advance the profession is truly phenomenal. It’s very hard to understand how much goes into making an impactful change until you live it.

    I am very hopeful for the future of the profession. One of the reasons I chose to become a PT was BECAUSE it was a clinical doctorate.

    Practitioners come out of school ready to practice. We may not be the best practitioners in the profession, but we are prepared to safely evaluate and treat any patient that walks in the door within our scope of practice.

  4. Kevin Burciaga

    If you’re so negative about the profession, Chip, then why are you reading NGPT?

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