Your first week as a travel therapist establishes the routines and communication necessary to thrive in your new environment. Since many travel therapy assignments only last 13 weeks, getting off to a good start is very important. Some therapists love the challenge of learning the ropes at a new facility; other personalities dread starting all over again. Whatever your feelings – you are not alone!

Common Feelings and Emotions during the first week of a travel assignment:

Nervous.

Most people experience a nervous excitement on the first day of a new job. Questions like “How will I measure up?” and “How can I remember everything?” make us think about going back to bed and hiding under the blankets. But don’t forget that, in general, therapists are compassionate people who want to help – that’s why they work in therapy! So, when you have a question, just ask. I have found that my co-workers are more than willing to help me with whatever I need.

Excited.

You get to learn a new system, meet new co-workers, get to know a new setting, and learn from other therapists.

Overwhelmed. Starting a new job requires extra energy and effort. You are learning a new documentation system, names of coworkers, the best way to commute, expectations, where equipment is kept, and a login for computer, etc. Cut yourself some slack in the other areas of your life to compensate for the start up phase of this new job.

Tired.

All this new learning may deplete your mental and emotional reserves. Get some extra sleep this week!

Like a visitor.

Like the new kid on the block, you may feel left out occasionally and wonder, “Am I a part of this team or not?” As a traveler, you will be “sort of” a part of the team. Some facilities include travelers in staff lunches and staff meetings; others may not. Each department has its own personality. You will soon find friends and figure out what you have in common with the department.

Knowing what questions to ask will help you make the most of your first week.

Orientation

Organizations differ widely on time devoted to orientation. Larger facilities tend to have clearly defined orientation agendas, complete with orientation checklists, and may even require you to watch various training modules on a computer. Smaller organizations may not follow an orientation agenda, instead relying on an informal or an employee led introduction to their facility. Regardless of whether your orientation is formal or informal, take the following list of questions with you as a guide.

Documentation

Look for answers to the following questions:

  • Are there resources for the documentation system, such as an established documentation workflow for an evaluation or daily notes, etc.?
  • Who will be my contact person/mentor to answer documentation questions?
  • Is there someone who can review my documentation during the first week? Be assertive and request that someone to review your patient charting and documentation during the first week to determine completeness and ensure that you are meeting facility expectations.
  • How do billing procedures work at this facility?
  • What are the documentation expectations for timing and completeness? I once worked at an SNF where after 3 weeks they told me I needed to complete the “Patient Communication Board.” Turns out it was a separate document communicating key goals to achieve prior to returning home. Unfortunately, they forgot to tell me about it!
  • Where should I sit while I complete my documentation? If you are not assigned an area for documentation then ask! Therapists are nice people, but we all are creatures of habit, and it’s good to find out where you can hang your hat.

Productivity.

Nothing frustrates a rehab manager more than having a traveler that is not “keeping up.” Productivity means different things in various settings. During your first week, research the productivity standards in your new setting by figuring out what measurements are used.

Is it a Percentage (SNF); number of Visits (Home Health); or units (Outpatient and possibly Inpatient)? During the first week or two, most rehab managers will be lenient and understand if you are not yet “up to speed.” Most travel therapists are able to meet productivity expectations by the end of week two.

Clarify the small details.

Time Sheet Signatures:

Each travel company has a different procedure for collecting your timesheet. Most companies require the director of rehabilitation to electronically or physically sign your timesheet before you turn it in. Communicate your need to obtain a signature and determine when and by whom the timesheet will be signed.

Exercise Handouts:

Find out if your new facility uses printed therapeutic exercise programs or an online program.

Finally, remember that you are a guest.

As a traveler who will soon be moving on, try to be flexible and adaptable. Think of yourself as a guest in your new facility and follow their rules and procedures. You are not here to run the show, but to keep the show running! You will soon fit in, if you conform to your new department’s structure and procedures. If you do have suggestions, feel free to communicate them, but do so from a place of humility.

Following these guidelines has enabled me to receive great references from every one of the 14 facilities where I’ve worked and enjoy being a travel therapist for over 7 years. PT Solutions, a company that a fellow physical therapist, John Heyerman, PT and I started; specializes in placing PT, OT, and SLP therapists in premier rehabilitation facilities. For more information about working as a travel therapist, please contact one of our therapist employment specialists, today!


 

devin-db-frontDevin has worked in almost every physical therapy setting -(except pediatrics)! He’s been rotating between inpatient, outpatient, and sub acute settings since 2007. His wealth of experience comes in handy in providing advice for PT Solution’s Therapy Team Members.  His favorite thing about physical therapy is helping senior citizens gain the strength they need to move back home.

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