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Make a Great First impression on Your Travel Therapy Assignment

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The first day of a new travel therapy assignment can make even the most experienced travel therapist nervous. Don’t worry, because you got this! Arriving prepared for your first day can help to ease the transition into a new building and start your contract on a positive note. I have worked over thirty travel therapy contracts and am excited to share the knowledge I’ve learned with you. 

How to arrive prepared for your travel therapy assignment

Arriving prepared for day one starts prior to your actual start date. When starting a new contract there are certain key thingsyou should know several days in advance. Especially if your contract starts Monday, you want to know details by the end of the previous work week while human resources and your recruiters are working.

Things to know about your first day include:

  • Location (building/room)
  • Where to park your car
  • What time to arrive
  • Who to report to (manager) 

As an experienced travel therapist, I like to check in with my recruiter mid-week before my next contract begins to get the starting details. To be completely honest, many times my recruiter is fairly clueless when it comes to finding out where I should go for my first day of work. Instead of asking my recruiter to have their contact call the hospital, ask them, and then call me back, I take things into my own hands.

To find out what to do on the first day of the travel therapy assignment, I call the facility contact, if I have one. Often during the travel therapy interview, I exchange contact info with the manager. If I don’t have an established contact, I call the facility and get connected with the rehab department. When connected, I explain my situation, the new travel, and ask for starting details. 

Details can change from what is written in your contract

The reason I recommend calling the facility the week before you start a job is because details change. You might have information about where to report in your job contract, but that can change. Sometimes information about your day one orientation will be written into your contract, but do not trust that this is always accurate information. This is why I personally like to have contact with my new manager over the phone or email 3-5 days prior to my start.

Also, your first day is not necessarily going to be at your building. Sometimes large hospitals and home health agencies have human resources training buildings where they do new hire orientation.

Do a test drive to work

One thing that really stresses me out about starting a new job is getting there. While we have access to plenty of GPS options now, I still get stressed out that I might get lost or show up late because I am stuck in traffic. 

If you have the time, I highly recommend that you drive to your facility prior to your start date. Determine how to get there, what the traffic will be like, where to grab coffee/tea (optional), and where to park. Doing that dry run helps to set your first day jitters at ease. 

What to bring day 1 of your travel therapy assignment

You will never regret “coming prepared” to a job when you have no idea what is going to be there. Here are some things that I always bring with me on the first day of an assignment. 

Packing list

  • Pens, markers and a highlighter
  • Paper for note taking
  • Clipboard
  • ID provided by your agency. You may get another ID issued to you at the facility, but I bring this as a back up.
  • Copy of your state and national licenses. Some states do require that you hang a copy of your state license in your office. Also, they may want a copy of your license for their files.
  • Coffee, lunch, snacks. Do not anticipate that a cafeteria will be in your new facility. I have also started to pack a lunch with an ice pack in it because I have found that there is not always a refrigerator.
  • A welcome gift for staff. This is totally optional but I find bringing some snacks with me for the break room helps to kick off a new assignment to a great start.
  • Bring a smile! Be eager to learn and experience your new setting.

How to make a great first impression

First impressions are lasting impressions. 

First impressions matter. Whether you are working at a building for a few months, or a few years, it’s important to start a new job with a positive attitude and outlook. Here are some of my tips for making a great first impression on the job.

First Impression Tips

  • Be grateful
  • Show up ready to get to work
  • Observe and learn
  • Bring a token of appreciation

Be grateful and ready to work

An attitude of entitlement is something that rubs facilities the wrong way about travelers. Don’t be that traveler. Instead, show up grateful and ready to work. Many of the facilities you work in will be either chronically or acutely short-staffed. Your new coworkers might be running on empty and are desperate for more staffing. When you meet the new staff on a travel therapy assignment, introduce yourself and show your gratitude for being there. 

For example, “Hi, I’m Julia and I’m so happy to be working with you. Thanks for having me, I’m excited to start working with you!”

Observe and learn

Each facility you work at as a traveler is going to do things differently from the last. When you travel across the country you will also notice that different areas/cultures have different ways of communicating. 

For example, as an East Coast born and bred therapist, I learned that I talk fast and can be more blunt, which can be perceived as rude in places outside of the Northeast. To make a good first impression on assignments, I try to be respectful of the culture I’m in and communicate more effectively with my coworkers.

I say that to remind you to be in observation mode during your first week or two of your travel therapy assignment. Watch how things are done and how others communicate around you. Learn the systems, the style of communication, and the general flow of the department. 

Bring a token of appreciation

This is totally optional, but I find bringing a token of appreciation helps to kick an assignment off to a great start. Since I often come to jobs from Hawaii, I bring a box of Hawaiian cookies with me. Also, a note that shares my excitement and gratitude for starting this assignment. I leave it in the breakroom or therapy office for the staff to enjoy. 

Not only do staff enjoy a gift, but it’s also a good conversation starter. I find a lot of staff will come up to me and ask “Hey are you the traveler who brought the cookies?” as an opener. This makes it easier to meet and talk to the staff.

Whatever you do, never, EVER, say (or think) this

If there’s one thing you take from this article, it’s this. Don’t expect things at your new assignment to be done the same way as things at your last job. The one thing you never want to say (or think) is this:

This is the way we did it at my last job, so that’s the way I do it.

Being inflexible, or thinking that things have to be done a certain way because of your past experience, is a surefire way to get off to a bad start as a traveling therapist. Complaining about the facility or making it sound inferior to your other jobs is another way to rub the staff the wrong way.

Be open to learning new things, new methods, and be flexible on your assignments. 

Best of luck on your travel therapy assignments. If you want to learn more about thriving as a traveling therapist, here are some other articles I recommend:


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