Travel PT: Moving to the Northeast

WOW- if I thought I was going to get caught up back in October when I last posted & started this one, boy was I wrong! Let’s see if I can be any more successful this go round. Starting back where I left off with our travel PT adventures… 😀

Timeline: March-September 2016

After spending our first 9 months as travel PT’s close to home in Southwest VA, we were ready to finally make a move and go out of the state. We had decided that we would try to go to northern states during the summer and southern states during the winter, because living in a camper in extreme temperatures would not be fun. Per our travel plan for the next 4 years, we have planned to basically zig zag our way across the country, starting with our move from Virginia to the northeast. We didn’t really care which state we went to in the northeast, so we started checking the job lists in advance to see which state usually had the most PT jobs. We decided on Massachusetts because they had a ton of PT jobs and several close together. You sort of have to take a gamble, especially when traveling as a pair, because you have to apply for the license in that state weeks to months in advance. Then, once you are licensed, you start looking for the jobs you will actually take, which don’t become available most of the time until 3-4 weeks before your start date. (Sometimes if you’re lucky you can do it in reverse, get the job then the license, but not always). So, once we were licensed in Massachusetts, we started our job search a month or so before we planned to move. We ended up finding two jobs at the same outpatient facility in Brockton, Massachusetts, which is about an hour south of Boston. We were super excited about this, because both of us prefer to be in an outpatient setting (and I had been in SNF for a while…), and we thought it would be pretty cool to be at the same clinic for a change.

When it came time to move, we finished our jobs in Virginia on a Friday, and our start date in Massachusetts was on Monday. This was our first time taking the camper on a longer haul, so we were a little nervous. Just our luck, a rain/snow storm hit the day we were leaving (we seem to have the worst luck when it comes to moving… more on this later). So, the morning we left we had to do all of the camper unhooking, connecting to the truck, etc in the rain. As we made our way up I-81, it started to turn into sleet and snow. Jared had only minimal experience with driving the truck with the camper attached, so it was really nerve wracking. Thank goodness we didn’t have any complications and were able to make the drive pretty smoothly. It was about a 12-13 hour drive, and we had planned to drive about 8-9 hours the first day. We picked out a Walmart parking lot to stop at overnight in Fishkill, NY. Why a Walmart parking lot? It’s a lot quicker and easier to hop off the highway and pull into a parking lot than a campground, plus you don’t bother with pulling the slides out, hooking the electricity/water/etc up. You just park there for the night and sleep. That was all we needed. And Walmart is well-known for allowing RV’s and 18-wheelers to park in their lots overnight. There is actually a list of those that do and do not allow this. The next day we had just a few short hours to drive and we arrived safely in Middleboro, Massachusetts where we would be staying at the KOA campground.

The next morning, we awoke to snow on the ground as the snow storm had caught up with us overnight. It was our first day of work & we were a little worried that we would not be able to get there on time. To our surprise, Massachusetts is really on the ball with the snow handling (which was nice, because even though our plan was to go there while it was warm, we still had a little snow even into May). That first day the roads were completely clear by 7:30am when we needed to leave. We had an easy first day of work where we had an orientation at the hospital and then at our outpatient clinic. We had the same schedule the first day then we started our normal schedules the next day.

Like I said, Jared and I were working at the same outpatient clinic. However, the clinic hours were 7am-8pm to accommodate early and late appointments. As the newbees, we had to really help out on both ends of the spectrum with our hours. Our schedules unfortunately were opposites Mon-Thurs. I worked MWF 7-4 and T-Th 11-8, while Jared worked MW 11-8 and T-Th-Fri 7-4. This was good in some ways and bad in others. I think it would have been a little much to have the same exact schedule, where we would commute together, work together, go to the gym together, commute home together, and be home together at all times. So in a way it was good for us to have some time apart to do our own thing. However, it really made sleeping schedules tough, because one of us would have to be up really early while the other could sleep in. We’re really not the type of people to wake up at the same time everyday (or wake up early everyday) unless we have to. So the one who didn’t have to be at work til 11 definitely wanted to sleep in til 10, which meant wanting to stay up later. So that was a bit of a problem for us and definitely not something we would want to do permanently. But, like we always say with travel PT, we can do anything for a short time.

Another new experience for us at this clinic was that it was the first outpatient clinic where we had to overlap patients. Patients were scheduled on the half hour, but the expectation was to keep them 45 mins to an hour, meaning you would have two at the same time. Since then, we have learned this is more the norm and we have gotten a lot better at it. We really liked our manager there and the company was respectful of our time. The permanent employees were all hourly, and if they worked over 40 hours (including documentation), they were paid overtime. That was really nice for us as well. This I can tell you is certainly not the norm. Often, there would even be a documentation slot built in depending on how the evaluations and the treatments fell. There were some frustrations at this job, but really there are at any job, and overall we enjoyed it there.

Outside of the ins and outs of the clinic itself, this was our first experience with a big culture change. Where we were before in Virginia was familiar territory to us and we were used to “southern folk.” However, in Massachusetts, we really had to get used to the accents, the slang, and the personalities of different people. I learned a lot from working with different kinds of people from the northeast and even from other countries. There was a large immigrant population from other countries including Haiti and Cape Verde (small African island). Several of our patients did not speak English, so we had to have either an interpreter in person or use an iPad with a virtual interpreter. Now for the slang and “Boston” accents, I just had to get them to slow down– ha. I had a lot of fun joking around with everyone there about the difference in our accents and our dialects. I got to learn about “watah” and “a bubblah” and “Bah Habah.” (LOL) And I found out that I apparently tend to emulate others’ accents, so by the end had started to say certain words differently depending on who I was talking to. (I find this too when I’m talking to someone who is more southern than I, that I pick up more of the drawl because normally I don’t think I have much of an accent at all.)

Now this contract in Massachusetts was initially a 13-week contract (as most are), but we had been hoping all along that they would extend our contracts and let us stay for closer to 6 months so we could spend the entire summer there. So we had to play that game with waiting and hoping, while also looking into other options just in case. They did hire 2 permanent PT’s in the time that we were there, but fortunately we were able to get them to extend our contracts for a short period. This put us at about the end of August, which was great so that we could stay longer and see more of the northeast. However, it made kind of a tricky situation for us. We had planned to take a trip to the Caribbean in the fall, and back before we started in Massachusetts, we planned our trip for 26 weeks out from our end date in Virginia. We anticipated that either we would extend our 13 week contract by another 13 weeks at our same job, or take a different 13 week contract, that would place us right on track for the trip. Unfortunately because they did a short extension (9 weeks I think), it left us with a 4 week gap. This would have been bad for us for a couple of reasons. First, we would lose out on a lot of money by taking 4 weeks off of work. Second, if you take more than 30 days off of work as a traveler you lose your insurance. So, this left us trying to find a job that we could start right when we left Massachusetts, then take off for a week of vacation in the middle of that contract. Unfortunately that was just turning out to be too tricky and none of the jobs we were finding could let us do that. So we basically begged our manager to help us out and keep us there just a little longer. We ended up working out a 2-week extension, but they could only afford to have us work part time (20 hours each) during those 2 weeks. But it worked out for us because it was better than no employment and we got to keep our insurance through our time off & our trip.  It was also pretty neat to see what it would be like to work part time as well and have more free days during the week.

Overall we had a really great experience working & living in Massachusetts while exploring the entire Northeast. I’ll write my next post about all the fun things we did outside of work while we were there! 🙂

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