Home Is Where Her Travels Take Her
OT traveler learns from every journey and every new location
By Joan Fox Rose, MA, RN, contributor
The June 2016 Share My Club Staffing Story contest winner, Allison Shumate, OTR/L, has developed a love for travel of all types, ranging from European trips to short-term travel jobs in her field of choice. But her journeys took a little courage to get started.
Before her first visit to Europe, Shumate admits that she was scared. “At first I was terrified, as the only trips I ever took were to see my aunt who lives in Florida,” she said. During her undergraduate years at West Virginia University, where she completed an MA in occupational therapy, Shumate decided to take an art history course in Florence, Italy. While there she learned to speak Italian.
To complete her senior year fieldwork she choose Dublin, Ireland, and worked under supervision at a small center evaluating autistic children. Shumate financed her trips through student loans. “I’m still paying them off, but they were well worth it,” she commented.
Her OT travel jobs with Club Staffing, an AMN Healthcare company, have given her the opportunity to try traveling closer to home.
“I like the challenge of starting over in a new place and making a life for myself, because home is wherever you allow your heart to open up and settle in,” Shumate said. “Different travel assignments get me out of my comfort zone and teach me something new about myself. I’ve learned to be more resilient due to the need to adapt to new places and situations. The more experiences you have the more you learn and feel grounded and comfortable wherever you are located.”
Memorable OT travel assignments
Shumate’s most memorable Club Staffing travel jobs included working at a mental health facility in Chicago, a rehabilitation center in Quincy, California, and a small nursing home in the Northern California town of Petaluma.
Chicago, Illinois. According to Shumate, her Chicago assignment in mental health taught her the importance of being more creative and open-minded about treatment plans that provide structured and appropriate patient care environments. “Mental health OT is very cognitive as patients often lack personal structure to complete ADLs, so therapy must be very patient specific,” she said.
Quincy, California. This rehab assignment included evaluation and treatment of stroke patients and those who had joint replacements. While working as a traveling occupational therapist in Quincy, Shumate resided in a small motel and got used to the small town lifestyle.
She enjoyed jogging while watching chickens running free in her neighborhood, or seeing beautiful horses on a nearby farm. “Quincy is located in a mountainous area that’s different from the unforgiving fast pace of a big city,” she said. “Being there taught me to slow down and be more reflective about my present and future life goals.”
Petaluma, California. Working at a small nursing home in Northern California provided a unique professional experience, Shumate reflected. “Due to its small size, I was the only OTR in the department, and, as a result, got to build a good rapport with the staff and patients, often hearing life stories that I will never forget,” she said.
Petaluma is located near San Francisco and close to Sonoma, Bodega Bay and the Redwoods, which Shumate describes as “a place that has an amazing and peaceful atmosphere.”
“I loved taking a walk in the Redwood forest, hiking the breathtaking cliffs of Bodega Bay, sipping a glass of wine or coffee in Sonoma Valley, or exploring unique and colorful San Francisco,” she said. “Petaluma is my happy place and I’d go back there in a heartbeat.”
Flexibility to include travel companions
Allied travel jobs allow a lot of flexibility for those who want to see the country. Along with placing professionals in short-term travel jobs in their choice locations, Club Staffing offers free housing and travel reimbursements that can be used by single travelers or those who choose to travel with loved ones and pets.
RELATED: Frequently Asked Questions About Allied Travel
For the past two years Shumate has traveled with her boyfriend, Andrew Massino, a United States Air Force officer. “Therapy and Air Force travel are compatible and I look for three-month assignments wherever Andrew is assigned,” she said. Their dog, Major, completes the family circle.
Advice for newbie travelers
Shumate encourages new allied travelers to make the most of their assignments and take note of what they enjoy about each job.
Keep a journal; write down your thoughts and experiences to get a good perspective about an assignment and its pros and cons, she advised. She also noted that each assignment offers new learning opportunities that will help you to become more flexible and adaptable in your professional practice.
“Consider each assignment as a chance to develop your personal and professional expertise,” said Shumate. “And when you’re thinking about which allied travel company to work for, consider one that has your best interests in mind and stays up to date with the newest assignment opportunities.”
Read Allison’s original Club Staffing story.
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