Speech Pathologist Finds the Right Time to Travel
By Megan Murdock Krischke, contributor
They say that “Timing is everything,” yet, even after a missed opportunity, a person can have a second chance to follow his or her dreams. For instance, Desiree Mutcherson, MS, CCC-SLP, had considered working as a traveling speech therapist when she graduated in 1997, but others had advised her to get some stability in her life first.
So, she settled in. After some time, she bought a home and became a foster parent. While pursuing the adoption of one of her foster children, a significant change in the system caused the adoption to fall through. Heartbroken and in need of a change, Mutcherson decided it was finally time to pursue traveling.
“My first assignment was at Fernandina Beach, Fla. I just needed a change of scenery and to let my heart heal, and, low and behold, they sent me on assignment to a school with a bunch of kids in a similar situation like the child I‘d just lost. I felt as if I was there to be an advocate for those children,” she reflected. “It was a beautiful place; I’d love to go back.”
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Since she began her travel therapy career with Club Staffing in 2013, all of Mutcherson’s assignments have been in the Southeast, in or near her native Florida. She has worked primarily in schools, so most of her speech pathology jobs last the duration of a school year, and she has spent summers working in skilled nursing facilities.
“I have a passion for children, but I work with everyone from infant through geriatrics,” she noted. “Everyone back home is supportive of my decision to travel. They enjoy getting to experience traveling vicariously through me.”
The benefits of travel therapy jobs
Mutcherson says that one of the great things about working as an allied traveler is that you get to see places you’ve never heard of or may have only seen in pictures.
Having a strong relationship with a recruiter who can provide professional and personal support is another benefit of the job.
“My recruiter, Kim McCabe, has gone above and beyond for me,” stated Mutcherson. “I arrived at one of my assignments only to find that the client had lost all my information so I couldn’t start. I was facing a week with no work and no place to live. Kim made personal sacrifices to help me make it through that week--she's just been outstanding to work with.”
Her varied speech pathology jobs have also helped Mutcherson develop her professional skills.
“Traveling has improved my résumé,” she added. “Some of the different settings I’ve worked in have required different certifications, so I have gained those, along with a variety of new skills,” she said. Working with different school administrators has also helped her learn to work with a variety of personalities and leadership styles.
Although Mutcherson has always stayed in the Southeast, spending this school year in South Carolina has allowed her to experience all four seasons, for the first time in her life.
“Here, I’ve seen the leaves change, and I've played in the snow--I was like a kid every time it snowed. Everyone in the school knew that if they saw a flurry, they should come and get me!” she exuded.
A “settling in” routine
When arriving at a new assignment, Mutcherson has a routine. First, she focuses on finding a stable place to live. She prefers to use the company’s housing stipend and find her own accommodations once she gets the lay of the land, instead of arranging it ahead of time. (Club Staffing also offers free, furnished, company-arranged housing options.) After her housing is chosen, she drives from her new place to where she is going to work to make sure she knows how to get there and how long her commute will take. Then she goes to the library.
“I want to collect a library card from every place that I travel--I want to make a scrapbook of my library cards!” she explained. “Usually I check out books on CD because I often drive home on weekends or holidays. Then I try to locate a place of worship--church is where I can meet people. In church, people make you feel welcome and make sure you are fed naturally and spiritually.”
Advice for SLPs considering travel
Mutcherson advised potential travelers, “On the work front, one of the best things a speech therapist can do is get to know the nurses you are working with--they are the lifelines to what you want to do with your patients. If in schools, get to know the teachers and get them on board by helping them understand what you really do to help their students."
She also noted that finding the right time to travel can be a very personal decision.
“If you are right out of school and you want to travel, go ahead and do it. Don’t listen to people telling you to wait. The sky is the limit. Go for it!” she encouraged.
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