Travel PT: Getting Our Feet Wet

-by Whitney-

Jared and I are both from Roanoke, Virginia, which is the largest city in the southwest region of Virginia. I went to PT school in Norfolk, Virginia at Old Dominion University (near Virginia Beach), and Jared went to school at Radford University, whose PT school is located right in our hometown of Roanoke. We both graduated on the same day at our different schools in May of 2015. We wanted to start traveling immediately after graduation (well, right after our graduation vacation– a cruise to the Bahamas). We chose to start our Travel PT journey relatively locally to “get our feet wet.” This gave us an opportunity to decide if it was really what we wanted to do, be close to family/friends over the summer while there were weddings to attend, and save up money while planning to buy our RV. Also it was just a lot more convenient to get started ASAP in Virginia, because we both already had our Virginia PT licenses, and we wouldn’t have to deal with big start-up costs by moving across the country (at this time, we really didn’t have a lot of money saved, since we were fresh out of school without income).

Starting out, we realized how tough it was going to be to find two travel PT jobs in the same area, with the same start date,  where there was going to be housing, and also where they would accept New Grads. So we weren’t picky at all about the setting or the part of Virginia we were going to be in. We initially both had several phone interviews with different SNFs (Skilled Nursing Facilities, aka nursing homes) throughout Virginia, mostly located in rural areas. These are very abundant in any state. Quite often, however, the SNFs will have lots of PTAs (Physical Therapist Assistants) and 1 or no PTs. So, we found out from our phone interviews that at many of the SNFs, the one of us who would be taking the job would be the only PT at that location. We decided that for our first job, we definitely didn’t want to go somewhere that one of us would be the only PT. So this was where we had to be firm and turn down these offers. My first pretty good offer was in Charlottesville, Virginia at a very nice retirement community, but I had to turn it down because there was no job available in that area for Jared. Then, I got an offer at a large retirement community in Blacksburg, Virginia (home of Virginia Tech), which is just ~45 minutes from home (more later regarding travel rules and proximity to home). My phone interview went really well, and we were getting pretty antsy to start at this point, so I went ahead and accepted this job offer despite the fact that Jared didn’t have a job yet. This was a tricky time for us as we were scrambling to find Jared a job in the same area. Jared had a couple offers at local SNFs, one of which he turned down because he had heard bad things about that facility (one pro, or con possibly, about this being an area relatively close to home for us). Finally Jared received a job offer at a facility in Pulaski, Virginia which is a very small town even further into Southwest VA than Roanoke and Blacksburg. At first Jared wasn’t even going to consider this job, because it was “Acute Care” (hospital), where Jared had no prior experience. However, the manager convinced him that this hospital was very small and more like a SNF than a true acute care environment. Jared took a leap of faith and decided to take this job because it was really getting down to the wire for us.

So, we both had jobs, me in Blacksburg, and Jared in Pulaski. Now it was time to find housing. This was the one and only time we had to find housing this way, and it really was stressful trying to find a place to rent that was relatively “in the middle” of the two jobs which were located about 45 mins apart. In fact, we really started looking at the housing before we even accepted any jobs, because with there being two of us, we didn’t want to accept a job if there was no chance of finding somewhere to live in the middle. We figured there were a few decent sized towns in between these two jobs, so we were hopeful of finding housing. However, it was particularly difficult to try to find somewhere that would rent for 3 months (the duration of our contracts), especially because the area in the middle was a college town. Nobody wanted to rent for less than 6 months or a year. Also, we had the difficulty of choosing between somewhere that was furnished vs. unfurnished. Most of the furnished ones were either sublets from college students, that usually didn’t line up with the dates we needed, or were in a house full of other college students (not ideal). The furnished ones were usually a furnished bedroom in someone’s house (also not ideal for 2 of us). If we had found somewhere unfurnished, we would’ve had to move furniture in (for just the 3 month period), setup our own utilities, etc. Another option that we looked into was an extended stay motel, which was furnished, but was $1200 a month which was pretty pricey for the small accommodations and in a rural area (I can’t imagine the prices for an extended stay in a city). Finally, as we were scouring Craigslist, we lucked into a furnished, 1 bedroom, above-garage apartment with its own private bathroom, located on the property of someone’s large home/farm, which was only $700/month and offered month-to-month stays. This was the perfect option for us and just happened to work out. Fortunately too with the month-to-month, this gave us the flexibility to stay longer if we wanted to extend our contracts at our jobs (more on this later).

This was our initial experience with finding our first travel PT jobs and setting up housing. Stay tuned for the next post about our experiences at our first jobs.

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