Where do you see yourself in the next 3 to 5 years is one interview question every new graduate dislike and can find to be uncomfortable (at least if you’re anything like I was a brand-new grad). “I don’t know where I’m going to be in two weeks, let alone 3 years”, “I haven’t even started my first REAL job yet”, “I don’t know what setting or patient population to specialize in”, “I don’t even know where I want to live yet”. Sound familiar?
If someone would have told me, “In a little over 3 years, you’ll be working as a travel PT for one of New York City’s top acute care hospitals, I don’t think I would believe them. Of course, it’s a dream contract, but those are hard to come by! What I was told and did believe from trusted mentors was that “Your career decisions early on matter! They WILL effect your future”. I was told “If you don’t get acute care experience within your first 1-2 years of practicing, you will likely close that door”. While I wasn’t sure I wanted to specialize in acute care, I also didn’t want to close that door. In school, I enjoyed outpatient, acute care, pediatrics, oncology, geriatrics, orthopedics, and neurology. For this reason, I chose to travel to keep all my doors open. I would have never guessed that it would have led me to be NYP Weill Cornell’s first temporary PT 3 years later!
As a mentor to all new graduate therapists, regardless of whether you choose travel or permanent, KNOW THAT YOUR CHOICES EARLY ON MATTER!
I constantly get asked how I was able to secure my dream assignment. It would be cliché to say hard work and dedication, but that’s the truth. There are many travel companies and recruiters who will tell you that anyone can travel. They will promise a new grad the moon and the stars to get their business. What would you say if I told you it took me 11 assignments before I landed this DREAM CONTRACT? If a recruiter is promising this kind of contract to you from the get-go, they are most likely stringing you along! As a new grad knowing next to nothing about travel therapy, I was lucky to work with a recruiter who never sugar-coated anything and respected my professional goals. We worked collaboratively through strategic job placement to build my resume to make me VALUABLE so that I would be competitive for the more ideal contracts later. Back then, I had no idea just how important this would be, and I am so grateful to that recruiter who truly understood the ebb and flow of this crazy travel therapy job market.
Having mentored a ton of new graduates, I can tell you this: If you start in the skilled nursing setting or school-based setting, it can be hard to get out of that setting later on. Yeah, that $1600+ per week the recruiter is promising you as opposed to the $1400 a week for outpatient may seem tempting, but is a fat paycheck for 13-weeks’ worth being stuck in one setting for most of your career?
So how do you go after those hard to come by and competitive contracts? For one thing, you must make yourself VALUABLE! This is true regardless of whether you travel or go permanent. This means building both your resume and your professional network. There are endless ways you can do this through professional involvement, community involvement, and continuing education. As a new graduate, you have the same thing every other new graduate has: the degree, the certification, and the student clinical experiences. What are you going to do to set yourself apart? One of my professors would consistently tell us as students was, “Your PT license is only the piece of paper proving you passed boards to be safe with patients. What you choose to do with it after that is up to you”. Having now worked in diverse settings and with diverse patient populations, I couldn’t agree more. I recently just took a course through PTAdventures Academy that not only dealt with negotiating contracts, but also on how to increase your VALUE. Negotiating was never a strong point for me, but after taking this course and completing all the exercises/worksheets/etc., I realized I was VALUABLE. After this course, I was able to negotiate my best paying contract yet. But before you can negotiate, you must become valuable. The PTAdventures course can help you with that regardless of whether you decide to pursue travel therapy or permanent employment.
Anyone that has worked in healthcare knows that things are constantly changing! As a current student or younger therapist, it is never too early to start preparing for the future. There has been a lot of speculation about what the new Medicare changes coming in October of 2019 will do to both the travel and permanent therapy job market. Do your own due diligence by researching this for yourself and have a plan! I utilize MedBridge to stay up-to-date on all these changes and knock out two birds with one stone by receiving CEUs. You can also reference the CMS website and your professional organization’s website and other literature.
Key Advice for Current Students and Young Clinicians Looking to Travel:
1) Connect with a trusted and vetted new-grad recruiter
2) Make yourself VALUABLE
3) Know what changes are coming (Medicare PDPM)
4) Become more comfortable with Home Health
There will be more a shift from skilled nursing facilities to home health facilities
If you are a current student, try to do one of your clinical affiliations in the home health setting
If you are a new graduate with no home health experience, become competent in the setting by seeking out continuing education. MedBridge offers a nine-part OASIS certification program which has helped other travelers with no home health experience secure high-paying contracts in home health.
At the end of the day, remember, each assignment is only 13 weeks long. You can do anything for 13 weeks to grow your resume! That’s the secret to getting those high-paying dream contracts.
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