How to Find Mentorship as a Travel Therapist
Are you a new grad interested in travel therapy but worried about potentially working alone?
Or maybe you’re an experienced therapist looking to bust into a new setting?
Or maybe you feel confident about your therapy skills, but you need guidance on how this whole travel thing works?
Whatever your situation, mentorship as a travel therapist can be invaluable – especially when travel therapy contracts often require you to hit the ground running, regardless of your level of experience.
But travel placements aren’t always the easiest place to find someone to bounce ideas off of – whether it’s because you are the sole occupational therapist at a clinic, you work home health and never see other medical professionals, or you’re at a SNF so busy that it feels like no one can even give you the time of day.
Finding a mentor to help guide you is a proactive step you can take to ensure your success as a travel therapist.
Option 1: Ask Your Recruiter
Many travel companies offer some sort of mentorship, especially if you are a new grad. It’s always worth starting here first just to see what is available. If your company does have someone available for this, you get the win-win of having someone who you can go to for clinical questions AND someone who probably knows both the ins and outs of travel therapy as well as the company.
However, there are potential drawbacks to this method, like the fact that your mentor might not be an entirely neutral party. They are probably receiving some incentive from your company to provide this service, so it’s in their best interest for you to accept a contract even if it’s not quite the right fit for you.
Another con is that your assigned mentor is also a travel therapist, which means that scheduling time to talk may not be easy, especially if they are in a different time zone. If your company already provides this service at no cost to you, it’s probably worth it to sign up, but it’s a good idea to have some other potential mentors in your back pocket if it doesn’t work out.
Option 2: Ask the Facility on Your Interview
This option is less likely, but if you can find it, great! There are many reasons why you’re less likely to find mentorship at a travel job vs a perm one. For one, facilities need a traveler for a reason. It’s likely they need someone who can come in and treat independently on day one, especially at the amount of money they’re paying.
Other facilities might be open to the idea of a newer learner, but just don’t have anyone on staff to provide guidance. Many of these contracts are in rural areas where you will be the only OT or even the only therapist!
And then there are some placements where the setting just doesn’t lend itself to mentorship. Examples are home health where you may never run into another medical professional or a huge school district where your OT coworkers are covering different schools.
That being said, it’s ideal if you can find someone experienced at your placement who you can go to. They will likely know the answers to your clinical questions as well as the general politics of the facility.
On your interview with the facility, you can pose this question: “Is there mentorship available, or will I be expected to hit the ground running?” Just be prepared to have a back-up plan if the answer is the latter.
Option 3: Ask your Former Classmates
This is the option that I leaned heavily on when I first started traveling. I had a few friends that were former travelers that I bombarded with questions before signing anything. One of them was also a school-based therapist at the time, so she continued to hear from me at least weekly when I started my first school contract.
This option was easy for me to find since I was still connected with these classmates. If you’ve been out of school for a while, you may have to do some digging.
See if your class has a Facebook group where you can reconnect with people, or email your school to see if they can put out feelers for you on an alumni mailing list.
Option 4: Connect with Your Larger Network
Even if you’re just getting started as an occupational therapist, you’d be surprised at who knows who. It’s worth asking around. Or if you currently have an OT job in a different setting, ask your coworkers! They may have past experience or they may know someone else who does.
If you use social media, posting something like “Do you know any therapists with experience in the acute care setting?” may net you some good leads.
If you’re going for this option, you can also be open to the fact that the people you find may not be occupational therapists. But a physical therapist who’s traveled for the past 5 years in about every setting imaginable probably has some good wisdom to impart on you too.
Option 5: Look to Social Media
This is the other option that I use heavily. Between pediatric occupational therapy, niche OT interests, and travel therapy I’m probably in over 20 groups on Facebook. What I like about these groups is that it’s a safe place for me to ask questions and solicit a variety of opinions, but I can also give back and help other people by answering theirs.
Instagram is another place to look. I follow a few accounts that help keep my interventions from getting stale. This option works best in combination with a trusted person (or a few people) you can go to directly. You might be able to find that person through one of these groups. Just ask!
The commonalities I’ve found with OTs are that a) we enjoy helping people and b) we love to talk about OT. People are often willing to mentor someone even if they’re a stranger!
How have you found mentorship as a travel therapist? Please share your experiences in the comments.