The Winding Road to Becoming a Traveling Speech Therapist

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In the world of traveling healthcare professionals everybody has a story. Deciding to take temporary contracts across the country when you could easily have a stable job in one location seems crazy and it is not for the faint of heart.  It is not just something that you wake up and decide to do. So WHY do we do it?  Why did I become a traveling speech therapist?

From online forums to casual conversations, healthcare travelers love to share their “why” and “how” they got into this crazy subset of the healthcare world.  When I listen to other people’s stories I am often reminded of  “How I met your Mother” because the stories are often long, with a million different avenues and stories with in the story.

I rarely tell my own story of how I became a traveling speech therapist because frankly I think it is a dull story.  I mean come on, after years of globetrotting I have some really good stories that could keep you much more entertained.  However, I will give this a try.

To be brief, if somebody asks me why I went into travel therapy I usually say “For the adventure of it”.

Ultimately reflecting back to that time in my life, I was bored in my current position and could not afford to do what I really wanted to do (travel), which is how I ended up where I am today.  I guess the cliffs note version of this story would be that I was broke and bored. You can stop reading here if you have a short attention span.

So knowing the condensed version here is the  “How I met your Mother” saga of the story….

When I was a graduate student pursing a degree in Speech Pathology I had no intentions of becoming a traveling speech therapist. I knew that I wanted to work in a geriatric setting but other than that I was open to possibilities.

I got my first job as a speech therapist the day after I graduated with my Master’s Degree from Emerson College. I will never forget that day because my parents were in Boston to celebrate my graduation and we were in the middle of a tour at the Sam Adams Brewery when I got the call.  I politely excused myself from the tour to answer the phone and jumped up and down while quietly screaming as I gave the verbal agreement to accept my first “real job” offer.

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Throw back to graduation day.

So what did I do next with my new found career and promise of income? You would think that with two years worth of graduate student loans from a private college that I would have gotten right to work and started bringing in a paycheck.  However, I was far from doing that. I asked the HR representative what was the latest possible date that I could start the new job. When she said the latest date was in six weeks, I said good, that is exactly the date when I will start. I then hung up the phone, took the money that I received as graduation gifts and the credit card that Bank of America so kindly issued me and booked myself a ticket to Europe. Two weeks later I went alone on my first international flight, toured five countries and returned home with 48 hours to spare before I started my first real job.

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Young and free – photo from my first solo trip abroad.

As many people say about their first solo trip – that trip changed me. I yearned for the high that I experienced while on the road and realized that I was addicted to travel.  I did not want to work for a new car or to save for a mortgage, but to work so that I could afford to go on trips. During my first year of work I was constantly on the go.  I visited friends in Nebraska, NYC, Philly, went to the beaches, mountains, took a four day trip to Puerto Rico and a two week trip to Barcelona.

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From the trip I took to Barcelona during my first year of work. I had to find a way to drive across town on a bike with a big bag and then this happened…

Meanwhile, I must acknowledge that I was working at a very solid job.  Actually, I had a dream job,  the type of job that does not exist anymore since the Medicare cuts in 2010. I was working in a subacute rehab facility where I was salaried and my productivity expectation was 75%; although I rarely ever actually achieved that number because my building had a low speech census and was primarily ortho patients. In other words, after a year on my first job I was bored. I spent more time looking for Groupons (the new craze at the time), talking to my coworkers about anything and everything and thinking about what I was going to order for lunch than treating patients.

My coworkers were all 5-10 years my senior with families of their own.  As I kept on jetting off for trips and sharing stories of my single life, they kept on telling me to get out and go – go travel. They all told me that I was crazy not to become a travel therapist since I was single, in my mid-twenties, had no children and had a thirst to travel. I could get paid to see the country and make more money than my new grad salary was paying. It was really my boss at the time, Ralph, who kept on pushing me to travel.

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The coworkers who inspired me to travel. Years later….

My new found love for globetrotting and entry level salary also meant something more important: I needed to earn more money to do what I wanted to do. The need for money led me to put my resume online in search of PRN opportunities in the greater Boston area.

After putting my resume online, my phone blew up with a million calls from recruiters looking to hire for temporary positions. One such cold call that I received was from a recruiter named Jeremy; who I had an immediate natural rapport with over the phone. He told me that I could double my current salary if I took a travel position (which sounded tempting given my low account balances and spending patterns) but I was not sold on the idea.

Fast forward a couple of months and  I was no closer to getting a PRN job.  My department also happened to have a series of young travelers working on the rehab team since we had a lot of medical leaves. Working with these travelers made me feel invigorated. They brought a new vibe and positive energy to the department. They were also extremely confident and excellent clinicians.  I enjoyed working with them and learned new treatment techniques from watching their sessions.  I drew up a “Pro/Con” list of becoming a traveling therapist.  Ultimately the pros won.

With the support of my boss, coworkers and travelers I decided to take the leap into the travel therapy world. I called Jeremy and when he asked me why I wanted to travel now I remember saying, “I want to travel and I need more money”.

I got my first assignment in a subacute facility and the rest is history.

I still attribute my coworkers at my first job to being the catalyst to becoming a traveling therapist.  At least once a year I work for Ralph (my old boss) who still manages buildings in Mass.  Every time I see him and we chat about life he always says, “See, aren’t you glad that I told you to become a traveler!” Yes, yes I am!

So that is my story. Becoming a traveling speech therapist was not something that I envisioned or planned, it was a series of events that came together at the right place and time. The reasons why I continue to travel have changed over time, but that is another story for another time.  🙂

 

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6 thoughts on “The Winding Road to Becoming a Traveling Speech Therapist”

  1. I absolutely love this article. It shines.. Just like you. I remember meeting you and a couple of other New SLPs. Your integrity and enthusiasm showed through. You have always been a voice for patient advocacy and change in the field. The others sold out and you are having the experience of a life time.

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