As a traveling therapist there is no better teacher than experience. Any new Physical or Occupational Therapist or Speech Language Pathologist will tell you that your first two years of practice are real eye openers. The same is true for working as Travel Therapist. Whether you are a seasoned veteran of the health care system or a new grad, once you start traveling or taking contract assignments, you will quickly discover that there is a lot to learn. Here are 6 tips that will give you a head start on using personal technology to make life easier while working as a travel therapist.
1 – Grow your Friendships Online
Get Connected and Stay in Touch As a travel therapist in 2016, today’s technology can help you stay connected to the things and people who matter the most. Facebook and Instagram are great ways to stay in touch from a distance. Technology can also help start conversations and make connections with new friends. You may not have time to get someone’s phone number, but if you connect with them on Facebook, you can still send them a message if you’d like to connect again in the future.
Technology may even become a nice conversation starter when I’m talking to an unfamiliar person or signing up for some reward program. For example, my cell phone still utilizes my “616” area code and old phone number from the year 2001. This conversation happened to me the other day at the grocery store.
Cashier: “Hey, where is 616 from?”
Justin: “Michigan, that’s where I grew up and went to school.”
Cashier: “Cool, my grandmother lives in Auburn Hills.”
2 – Set up and Start Using an Online Chat Account
If you are traveling around the country and want to keep in touch with loved ones via online chat, set up a Skype, Facetime or Google Hangout account. If you are like me and are glutton for punishment, you might find yourself in a long distance relationship. Online chat can be a life saver…I mean a relationship saver. I also enjoy “chatting” with my nieces, nephews, parents and friends all over the country and in other countries. These conversations have been priceless. These applications are free, although you do need a good Wi-Fi connection. In addition, having a good camera and microphone are worth the investment, otherwise the quality will be terrible and you will be frustrated.
3 – Shop Around for Wi-Fi Connections
Connectivity is an important consideration when figuring out which devices and services to invest in. I personally use Verizon Wireless due their nationwide coverage. Using a large carrier is useful as there have stores all over the US and their coverage/4G is usually pretty good. Remember, if you are working out in the boon docks – connectivity may be an issue no matter what carrier you choose, so make sure your housing offers Wi-Fi by checking with your trusted travel recruiter (I probably sound like a broken record with the recruiter thing eh?). My phone doubles as a hotspot and I have used it about 10 times over the last year when I’ve been in a pinch. Of course there are always coffee shops and local libraries for Wi-Fi. Most hospitals, nursing homes, home health providers and outpatient facilities provide Wi-Fi access for their employees, as well.
4 – Manage Your Finances Online – Set up Online Accounts
I’m also thankful for 2016 Technology when paying bills and managing other banking needs. I use Lake Michigan Credit Union, which is located in Michigan, for most of my banking. But with access to a mobile app for deposits and online customer service, I can access my accounts from anywhere! I mostly do my banking online; the only checks I write are for my nieces’ and nephews’ birthday and Christmas money and occasionally for rent. I find that Credit Unions are happy to help where ever you are and have a more personalized touch. The big banks have their pros too, including accessible ATMs and branches with loan officers and tellers to help you out in person, if needed. I’ve chosen to get a Chase account since they have branches all over the United States.
5 – Take Along Your Laptop or Tablet with a Keyboard
Although a travel therapist’s cell phone becomes their first line of communication and connectivity, I recommend also traveling with a laptop or tablet with a keyboard because I prefer to store files and do writing tasks with a regular keyboard. I use Google Drive almost every day. It helps me organize and store important electronic files, such as the following; Immunizations, licenses, a copy of my passport, continuing education certificates, pictures, and anything else I might want on the fly. I use an app called CamScanner on my android phone to scan and upload any documents that I don’t already have in my Google Drive. This app enables me to email official documents to Human Resources in a PDF format. CamScanner does not seem to work as well with Apple products (as of August 2016) but I am sure there is a similar app for Apple nerds.
I do not recommend bringing your text books, folders and handouts on travel therapy assignments. If you’d like access to these types of resources, upload them to a Google Drive, Dropbox or Microsoft One account. All of these online storage options have a free beginner account and are easy to use.
6 – Invest in a Computer/Phone Repair Plan
I love Geeks. More specifically, I love Geek Squad. As a technology knuckle-dragger, I find that buying a yearly maintenance plan for my computer at around $100-120 is a good investment. When I’m traveling around, I depend on my technology and since I don’t have the usual friend or family computer expert in- residence to fix things for me, I just stop in at Best Buy. It’s well worth my time to have my computer and tablet running smoothly at all times. There are many services out there to help keep your tech running smoothly and without viruses.
I would love to know if these tips help would-be travelers muster up the courage to get out and start traveling. If you’re an experienced travel therapist, do you have other tips for using technology to make your travel placement more enjoyable? I’d love to hear from you! Please share your thoughts in the comments sections below.
Justin Johnson is currently living and working in Bellingham, WA. Justin graduated from Central Michigan University with his DPT in 2008 and earned his GCS designation in 2011. Justin has worked for large trauma 1 and teaching hospitals along with diverse settings as a travel PT for many years. During the winters Justin can be found sliding up and down mountains on his skis or at Mt. Baker where he is a volunteer ski patroller. During the months where there is no snow he can be found on two wheels. You can reach him at JMJohnsonDPT@gmail.com.