5 Tips for Ending a Travel Therapist Assignment

Ending a travel assignment can conjure up a wide array of emotions.

Depending on your experience at the assignment, your emotions may include sadness and a sense of loss.  On the other hand, if it was a stressful or difficult assignment, your emotions could include sheer joy and the feeling of a weight being lifting off your shoulders.  Most assignments end at an agreed upon date due to staffing levels, contract expiration, or because the travel therapist is ready to move on and does not want to extend the contract. There are times, however, when a contract ends because of performance issues or a poor fit with regards to personalities. However, these experiences are very rare. Many times, therapists end assignments (or discontinue working as a travel therapist all together) for wonderful reasons such as the birth of a child or marriage.

Whatever the reason for the assignment ending, there are a few things to keep in mind. Below are five important things to remember when ending a travel assignment.

1. Represent yourself, your profession, and your travel company with professionalism and respect.

Even if you are leaving on less than optimal terms, you are a health care professional and represent a profession. I believe it is important to act in a professional manner when things are going well, and even more importantly when things are going poorly.  When a professional leaves a work setting, patients, support staff, and other health care providers, view them as a personal embodiment of that profession. So, do us all a favor and make a positive impression!

For example, I have witnessed travel therapists who just skipped out on their last day by calling in sick. On the other hand, a great way to end an assignment is by bringing in goodies or small gifts for the staff. If you work at a hospital, leave the nurses, nursing assistance, or other staff that you worked closely with a card of appreciation.

2. Make sure your patients know you will be leaving.

Patients come to trust a health care provider, especially their therapists.  I like to tell my patients about one month ahead of time when I’ll be leaving.  This seems to give them time to process and plan.  Many patients will express disappointment and will be inquisitive of your next adventure.  On a personal note, I refrain from becoming Facebook or LinkedIn (or any other social media) connection with patients for a multitude of reasons.  It’s fine to share with patients where you are going, and some information about your next adventure; however, a social media relationship may lead to them asking you for treatment advice or personal questions on life decisions.  Maintaining a professional relationship seems to be the most appropriate, at least in my experience.

3. Make sure your coworkers know you will be leaving.

Depending on your setting, many of your coworkers may not realize that you will be leaving your assignment soon or that your contract is up. Doctors, nurses, and therapists are incredibly busy people; so don’t expect them to remember when your assignment will be ending. Be sure to courteously remind your coworkers of your upcoming departure.  Don’t just assume that your supervisor will handle this type of communication. Giving your coworkers plenty of time to prepare for the transitions that your absence will require is a great way to build trust and appreciation for travel therapists.

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4. Finish your clinical paperwork.

Make sure your patients are taken care of to the best of your ability with the resources you have.  Don’t leave any loose ends, even if it means putting in some unpaid time. Finish up ordering equipment, writing wheel chair letters, or performing family trainings so that your patient has a smooth transition to their next therapist. Make sure all progress notes, discharge notes, and other paper work are done prior to leaving on your last day. The last thing you want is for your employer to have to track you down for a signature or other communication. 

5. Make time to put your personal finances in order.
Moving on to a new location has a multitude of small details that need attention. Make sure that all your personal bills have been paid in full and that any new mail will be forwarded to your new location. Keep a list of all your former addresses just in case you need them for references or legal reasons like taxes.  If you rent your own apartment, make sure your utilities are paid in full.  When moving out of an apartment, I like to walk through the apartment with the landlord personally to make sure there are no questions about whether or not my security deposit will be returned.

Bonus suggestion:

You are a traveling therapist. Take a vacation! 
As a traveling therapist, you will live in new and exciting places and will likely have the flexibility to fly or drive to exotic locations. Take advantage of your freedom by planning for a week off between assignments.

In conclusion, paying attention to these five tips will insure that most travel assignments end in a positive way. For the ones that do not, consider them a learning experience and make sure you talk to your trusted recruiter about the problems you had and how to resolve them for the next assignment.


Justin Johnson

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.

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