How to Adjust to Different Therapy Settings Quickly as an Allied Traveler
One of the best perks of an allied travel career is the variety of settings it opens up. As a traveler, you can find work anywhere in the country—from major cities to rural towns—in the setting of your choosing, whether that’s acute care, skilled nursing, home health, or outpatient care.
But every pearl has its price, and with that variability comes a demand for adaptability. Travelers who move to a new facility every few months must constantly learn new EMRs, standard procedures, and a few dozen coworkers’ names. While that may be exciting for some, it can prove a daunting challenge for others.
4 Tips for Adjusting to New Allied Travel Settings
The good news is that adaptability is something you can learn and develop. With every contract you complete, you’ll gain experience in acclimating and flexing to a new environment. For a head start on your next assignment, try out these 4 tips and watch how much more quickly you adjust to your new setting.
1. Find Mentors, Shadows, and Friends
Although you may be traveling alone, you won’t be working by yourself. Look around, and you’ll see a team of people who have been in your shoes before. A few of those people may even be willing to mentor you.
Many facilities provide mentorship for their short-term travelers. A mentor can make the transition to a new job seamless, stress-free, and even fun. If you can’t get a mentor, at least find someone to shadow for the first couple of hours or days of your assignment.
While you’re shadowing, use this time to observe good workflow. Glean as much as you can from your coworkers’ routines that will expedite your work when you’re solo. For example, look for efficient techniques in scheduling patients, especially if you’re working in home health or at a skilled nursing facility. Pay attention also to spatial efficiencies, such as the dance you’ll do moving between equipment and treatment rooms. Getting a good lay of the land on that first day—and observing how a seasoned therapist navigates it—can save you precious time in the weeks to come.
But the learning doesn’t stop after the first day. Make quick friends with your coworkers and you’ll have built-in support for learning the ins and outs of your new work environment. Your coworkers were new once, too, and they can help you learn the essentials while avoiding rookie mistakes.
2. Ask Questions and Take Good Notes
When observation alone doesn’t answer your questions, don’t hesitate to speak up. Throughout your mentorship or shadowing, ask questions whenever something is unclear or unspoken. And so that you don’t have to ask twice, write the answers down.
There’s nothing juvenile or unprofessional about taking notes. Not only will it help you retain the inundation of information you’ll receive, but it will also let you review everything later when you’re on break. Even after your first week, you may still use the book to keep track of all kinds of pertinent information, such as contact info for your coworkers, staff members, and referring physicians; procedural details, facility standards, and passcodes; as well as quick notes to include in your documentation.
Whether it’s a physical book, a clipboard, or a note on your phone, keeping a log of important details will boost your confidence in your first week at the job.
3. Have an Efficient Documentation Strategy in Place
No matter which therapy setting you’re heading to next, chances are it’ll involve more documentation than you’d like. It seems wherever therapists go, a stack of paperwork, digital or otherwise, is there to greet them.
But quickly learning a new EMR is well within your abilities as an ever-adapting travel professional. In addition to observing your peers, asking good questions, and taking great notes, you can quickly adjust to a new system if you have an efficient strategy of your own.
An efficient documentation strategy lets you reuse material without having to retype the same phrases over and over or reinvent your notes from the ground up each time. Although every patient is unique, their visits follow predictable patterns and include standard treatments, tests, and assessments that you probably write verbatim every day. A collection of prewritten documentation phrases can save you writer’s block whenever you need to word something, while pre-made documentation templates can ensure every note is thorough and organized.
Check out some of the documentation templates that I’ve created for different therapy-specific settings, including home health templates, outpatient evaluation templates, assessment templates, and goal templates. All these cheat sheets can help speed up your notes so you can focus on providing more one-on-one care in your new workplace.
4. Stay Positive and Open-minded
Perhaps one of the biggest potential hindrances to adjusting to a new setting is your own mindset. Keeping a positive attitude from Day 1 will help you adjust quickly and make a lasting impression everywhere you go.
Even if your new facility seems outdated or outmoded, don’t compare them to your previous clinic. This faux pas could sour your work relationships and stymie your growth. Remember, how things were done at your last job is not necessarily the best or only way to do things moving forward. By letting go of those allegiances you’ll learn faster, adjust sooner, and fit in better with your team.
Finally, watch your stress levels. It’s no secret that therapy work can get stressful, from workplace conflict and demanding clinics to challenging patients and full schedules. But optimistic travelers know that with more difficulties come more opportunities to grow. Learn to reframe your stress as a challenge, and you’ll be one step closer to staying on top of it. A positive attitude will help you minimize your stress and anxiety, boosting your resilience for your next assignment’s new challenges.
If this is your first assignment, with these tips you’re already steps ahead of your peers in learning to adjust quickly to a new setting. But don’t worry; in time, you’ll perfect your own system for tackling challenges, writing efficient notes, and learning information on the fly. It’s a process, so don’t be afraid to ask questions or seek help when you need it!
Finally, keep in mind that the lessons you learn in adaptability will stay with you for the rest of your life. As an enviable soft skill, adaptability will serve you well not only in a traveling career but in any job you do in the future. You have nothing to lose!
Tim Fraticelli is a Physical Therapist, Certified Financial Planner™, and founder of PTProgress.com. He loves to teach PTs and OTs ways to save time and money in and out of the clinic, especially when it comes to therapy documentation or continuing education. Follow him on YouTube for weekly videos on ways to improve your physical and financial health.