Staffing shortages in the medical field complicate hiring practices. As medical facilities take measures to keep up with new regulations, they face difficulties finding competent professionals for positions in occupational therapy. The result is a changing atmosphere in the workplace and a trend toward travel in medical positions.
What is a Travel Occupational Therapist?
As the name suggests, a travel occupational therapist travels to different hospitals and medical facilities, providing treatment for a set period. Most contracts last 13 weeks. After completing one contract, the professional can seek their next opportunity.
Working as a ‘travel’ OT doesn’t necessarily mean you have to move around the country. If you live near several healthcare facilities, you could work local contracts from home.
Most states require a separate license to practice occupational therapy. Some states only require a certification. Generally, license applicants must pay a fee that varies between states.
Each state also takes a varying amount of time to grant licenses. The licensure timeline of a particular state is an important factor to consider for out-of-state contracts, especially those with an inflexible start date.
The Growing Trend Toward Traveling
The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects jobs in occupational therapy to grow by 26% from 2016 to 2026. OTs can celebrate this job outlook, but facilities may struggle to fill those positions.
Especially in healthcare, staffing shortages cause burnout for current employees. Short-staffed facilities often depend on staff members to work longer hours or see more patients than usual. The overwhelming workload may cause early burnout of talented professionals.
To reduce stress on full-time staff, more facilities are offering short-term contracts. These periods of additional employees help full-time staffers catch a break in the workload, or schedule time off.
Advantages of Travel OT
Traveling OTs have a different career style than a traditional clinic staff with attractive benefits:
- Exploring new cities and meeting new people
- Expanding your professional network
- Experience with new services, equipment and clinic organization
- Becoming more flexible by learning new systems
- Competitive pay
- Time off between contracts
The advantages of travel work depend on individual preferences. During contracts, you’ll get to travel, meet new people, and learn new techniques. But the off-time is an advantage as well. You’ll be free to take a vacation, tend to family matters, or pursue professional development.
Travel occupational therapy is just one of many non-traditional career paths for OTs. With the growing demand for OTs and the exciting benefits, more and more OTs will explore the possibilities of travel occupational therapy.