The time has come to do a little shout-out of appreciation to travel therapists around the nation, including all therapists and assistants involved in the speech-language pathology, physical therapy, and occupational therapy disciplines. Due to the very nature of your work style, your lack of a home-base practice subjects you to pressures that other therapists do not have to worry about: adjusting to new teams, acclimating to different patient caseloads, diving into unfamiliar documentation systems, and acquainting yourself with different gyms and clinical settings. Just as you reach a comfortable rhythm, your 13 weeks are up and you are off to the next facility.
Rehab Awareness Week: How Temporary Placement Impacts Patients’ Rehabilitation
Depending on the diagnoses you are exposed to during your temporary contracts, it may have crossed your mind whether or not you can make significant, functional progress with some of your patients who have a long road of recovery ahead of them (especially those you’ll only be with for a fraction of the ride). The following are several ways in which travel therapists can be effective facilitators in getting patients to reach their desired goals, even if they won’t physically be around for discharge:
Remove the “temporary” tone
The title “travel therapist” is almost universally understood in the rehabilitation world. The majority of your patients and your coworkers will know that you’ll only be around for a short while. Thus, there is no need to voice that tidbit of information every time you complete an initial evaluation or a treatment session. By consistently telling your patients and yourself that you are a “fill-in” or a “temporary assignment”, you are preventing yourself from developing a meaningful connection with those you treat. Get past the idea that you might not see your patient’s discharge therapy services, and jump into intervention with everything you have to offer.
Clearly communicate with other disciplines
Be quick in introducing yourself to new coworkers: other therapies, nursing staff, social workers, or other relevant disciplines in your assigned facility. Make your face and name well-known so that fellow employees know that they can come and talk to you about your patients. Remember, you won’t be the only clinician influencing your patient’s rehabilitation plan.
Document the details
Because you may not guide several of your patients to discharge, it is essential for travel therapists to keep detailed notes regarding treatment plans, goals, approved codes, etc. Your patients will strongly benefit from therapy if you can smoothly transition them from one therapist to another with little lag time.
Share your knowledge
As a travelling professional, you have a unique education and skill set that other therapists lack. Compared to your colleagues who spend years with one company or one facility, you can view an element of therapy and say, “I know of this one place that does it this way” or “I’ve met a therapist who does it like this”. You have exposure to alternative treatment plans, patient/caregiver educative tools, caseload organization styles, and a handful of other clinical tips that could vastly improve patient care. Don’t hold information back from your fellow coworkers. Be ready to share what you have learned from you travels in order to optimize your patients’ treatments through all areas of rehabilitation.
As travel therapists, it is essential for you to consistently build on your skill set and to never underestimate your value in the clinical arena. You are willing to fill in the challenging rehabilitation gaps that others simply cannot. So, in light of National Rehab Awareness week, thank you for all that you do for patients and clinicians across the United States.