What does your job entail?
As a medical speech language pathologist, you’ll find me as part of the rehab department, alongside physical therapy and occupational therapy. My role largely consists of assessing and rehabilitating my patients’ speech, language, cognitive, and swallow abilities. Often times hospitals have difficulty finding staffing, but to stay compliant with insurances, need to ensure there is a therapist available at all times. That’s where the travelers come in. We are able to quickly begin a position, giving the hospital time to fill that role with someone more long term. Very often they will ask us to stay! Personally, I love the transient lifestyle because it allows me to vary up the patient population diversity, meet new people, and really challenge my clinical skills.
How often do you travel? Do you choose where you travel? Are you limited to where you to travel to? Any other travel related details that I might have missed?
Contracts generally last about three months, but they can run longer or shorter, depending on the client’s needs. The process starts with your recruiter (probably one of THE MOST important aspects of traveling) presenting you with available contracts. Each traveler has his or her own preferences when it comes to settings, locations, specific companies/hospitals/schools, and rate. Based off those factors, and the current contracts available, travelers can submit their profile for review. Your communication skills really sharpen up because you essentially interview for each new position. Once you’re locked into your contract, you move and begin work! You’re limited by a couple factors: your own preferences (if you’re staunch about staying in big cities, you might not accept any opportunities in a smaller region), license to practice (you have to get individually licensed for each state), the present availability at the time of scouting out new contracts. I find that the more open-minded you stay, the more likely you’ll truly experience some phenomenal contracts. One of my favorite contracts actually landed me in Brenham (home to Blue Bell!) For five months, I lived in this glorious cottage in the middle of wide open country (with no wifi, I may add), being treated to glorious night sky views with endless stars and quiet serenity. Even if the setting or location isn’t ideal, in the spirit of adventure, I just tell myself it can only last three months. Keep in mind when traveling, WHAT you bring. Less is more. I brought whatever fit in my car, and that’s it. Consistently moving anything more than five to six boxes was my limit. It really helped me clear out the clutter in my life, and makes you consider items that have at least three different uses before purchasing. Another point to consider is living arrangements. Some folks live in an RV and drive from contract to contract, and have a little more flexibility. I preferred finding my own housing, which involves a bit of creativity. Explore all your options, AirBandB and Craigslist were the usual winners for me. I would normally rent out a room in a home, and that suited my needs just fine. Others prefer the whole home, but if there aren’t many options available, you can’t be too picky.
If someone wants to be able to work as a travelling speech pathologist what do they need to do (school/training/etc)?
In regards to speech pathologists, I would always recommend completing your clinical fellowship first, at the very least. If you can get a year of experience under your belt, even better. Travelers are called in to very often fill an emergent need. You will usually experience the demand for higher productivity with minimal orientation and electronic medical record (EMR) training. I strongly urge would-be travelers to have a good understanding of your basic EMRs, have a strong clinical skills foundation, and be aware you’ll likely hit the ground sprinting. There’s a plethora of travel therapist groups, it’s a great tool to organize meet ups, further your traveling know-how, and a safe haven to just vent or find some guidance. As a traveler, it feels like a solo journey sometimes, so it’s great we have this network that helps us so we aren’t truly alone.