Is that a knife on the floor?

The moment I stepped in downtown Charleston I just HAD to move there. In order to make the move possible I took a contract in home health physical therapy, which was very low on my list of things I wanted to try, so low, that it was not eveManikin Door Question Markn on the list.

For those of you who don’t know. Home health is when a patient is homebound and cannot physically leave their house to get the medical services they require. That’s where I come in.

In homecare I learned about all walks of life. Being inside someone’s house in their most vulnerable state is when you truly get to know someone. I fell in love with home health care and discovered where I belonged in the physical therapy world. Before I get into the benefits…let’s discuss the cons.

Cons:

  1. Is that a knife on the floor? Sure is! Be cool, be cool.
    -You see SO MANY THINGS that you are not supposed to see. I learned to act completely comfortable in situations that I was completely uncomfortable in.
  2. Fleas love me.
    -I tucked my scrub pants into kneehigh socks and then secured the bottom of my pants with rubber-bands. I then took a shower in bug spray -as I prepared to enter the bug-zone. Bug bites are not a good enough reason to not give someone care.
  3. Not everyone came from the same school of thought on cleaning as my mom did.
    -I learned how to casually nonchalantly clear a tiny corner of the couch to sit on. Even better, I learned how to type standing up, with one hand, while holding my laptop and be totally professional about it.
  4. GPS’s do not always work.
    -I spent many of my homecare days driving more than I was actually seeing patients. It pays to actually look at the map before you set out because technology still fails us sometimes (Sorry Blake). “Prepare to park your car and walk to your destination” What? GPS’s really say that.
  5. You spend a lot of time alone and have very little interaction with your coworkers.
    -This can definitely be a pro and a con, but for me, it is more of a con. Part of going to work is the social aspect of it. I found the solution though…just have fun with your patients.
  6. Just as Forest Gump says “you never know what your gonna get”.
    -It was always a complete mystery and surprise the very first time I knocked on a door. I have treated nearly homeless people, war veterans, alcoholics, millionaires, high society people, previous senators. EVERYONE gets sick at some point.
  7. Sometimes you are the ONLY person your patient sees. I was not good at getting back in my car and forgetting about my patients.

For me, the benefits of home health care outweigh the cons completely. More on that later.

 

 

I was born in the wrong state

I signed my first contract before passing the National physical therapy boards (I did pass though) and picked up and moved to Virginia to start my first contract. 13 weeks? No problem, I could do anything for 13 weeks! I moved in with family to start saving money towards my loans. (Highly recommended if possible, when you are first starting out in the “real world” and key to building your initial emergency fund of money).

Day 1: No orientation, first job fresh out of PT school, full caseload. Initiation by fire. Holy Moly, what have a done?

I did survive and quickly learned the downfall of being a traveler. Learn to ask for what you want, before you start. Once a contract is signed, changing it is hard and nearly impossible. I started working only 25 hours total a week because the facility could “send me home” when not needed. How is this going to help pay off my loans early? It’s not.

I lasted 8 weeks of this 13 week contract, picked up and moved again, this time to central NY.
I approached my second contract a totally different way”
1. I had days off written into the contract, to not get trapped working holidays or weekends (travelers are not guaranteed anything if it is not spelled out in the contract)
2. Guaranteed 40 hour work week (to avoid the 25 hour issue of the first contract) because after all, those loans are not going to pay themselves.

I got my very first apartment, lived alone for the first time ever in my life, and bought my very own puppy. My rent was $440 a month and I thought this was ridiculous (ha!). In hindsight, maybe I didn’t need the responsibility of a puppy with my life changing every few months, while trying to save as much money as possible, but he became my constant. I still have him now and couldn’t have imagined doing all this without the little monster by my side(and he is a monster).

I stayed at this contract 8 months and will look back at that time as one of the best, if not the best, job I have ever had.

During those 8 months, I started to learn how cool being “an adult” was and how much fun it was to make money!
The downfall? I discovered shopping (that will be a whole other post in itself).

Living alone for my first time brought several other lessons:
1. Who is going to shovel the mounds of show we got last night so I can make it to work on time?
2. When lights are left on…you have no one else to blame (and you actually care now that lights are left on because you pay the bill)
3. Winter is cold and heat is expensive. LAYERS.
4. Car tires do not last forever, and bald tires do not work in snow.
5. I am no longer in college and cannot go out on weekdays and function well helping people all day anymore.
6. Puppies are like babies; they cry, a lot; especially when you put them in their cage. Not following through with training your dog leaves you a dog that took 3 years to train. Oops, at least he is cute!image
7. Cooking my own meals takes work, and it is a lot cheaper to eat unhealthy (way, way, way more on this later).
8. Cable is an unnecessary expense.

I bought my own shovel, ruined several pairs of cute boots, and vowed to never live another winter in the north alone again.
I learned the value of candles and why my dad used to get so upset when I left every light on in our home.
Blankets…so many blankets. For anyone that knows me, they know I am ALWAYS cold. Always. Ill tell you what though, when you are paying the heating bill, you complain a lot less about how cold it is and just put on a lot more clothes.

Winter ended, I took what I learned from my first taste of living alone, and I hightailed it out of New York (with Riley of course). South Carolina here I come!

The girl who hated change

I was definitely the girl who did not like change. I value tradition, consistency and stability.

Traveling physical therapy was anything but stable. There are three main reasons someone would choose to travel for their job:

  1. I don’t know where I want to live and settle down
  2. I don’t know which facet of physical therapy I want to do
  3. I need to pay off my student loans as fast as possible

While my main reasons should probably be the first and the second, I would be lying. I wanted to pay off my student loans the quickest way I knew how…traveling.

For those of you that don’t know, and I assume most have not been traveling physical therapists, let me explain the HOW and WHY.

To some, moving every thirteen weeks sounds tedious, draining, and risky. It is all of those things! It is also rewarding, exciting, and downright fun.

Since I’ve admitted that my main reason is the money, let me explain how you make your money.

It is considered “traveling” therapy if you are working 50 miles from your permanent residence. For me, my permanent residence was and is to this day, upstate New York. As long as I remain 50 miles away from this address, I would be considered a traveler and earn the many benefits because of this.
What does this include?
1. An hourly wage for actually being a physical therapist( this was a very low number and the only part of my paycheck that would be taxed)
2. An hourly amount for meals (not taxed)
3. An hourly amount for living expenses (not taxed)
4. Insurance was free (or very inexpensive, depending on which company you were with)
5. Weekly paychecks.

So let’s put that in another perspective: About half of my paycheck was taxed and half was not. This amounts to a much higher NET weekly pay compared to a physical therapist working a “permanent” job. In the basic form, I was making about double compared to my classmates that chose not to travel.money-eyes-emoticon

How does it work?
Recruiting/Staffing companies have a list of places that are requesting a 13 week traveler to fill their needs. There are many reasons a facility may need a traveler: maternity lean, understaffing, high census. Getting a contractor is a quick and easy way to fill a void immediately.

For me: I chose a geographical location I wanted to be in, with no compromise on my end, I made my recruiters jobs very hard. I wanted what I wanted, and I wasn’t going to budge. Because of this, it was often difficult to find a job in the location I wanted, and I certainly had no room to be choosey with whatever contracts were found. Amazingly, I always managed to get placed in the exact location I wanted, even if it was at the last minute. This was something that was very hard for a girl that LOVES TO PLAN.

13 weeks? It’s not very long. It is three months. This three month period might be just the amount of time a facility needs until they higher someone new, until their other therapist gets back, or just enough time to see if they want you to join their team permanently. The 13 weeks is a very fluid number, you may sign a 13 week contract, but you may be cut at 8 weeks, you may break your own contract at 10 weeks, or you may extend contract and stay a year. All of those scenarios happened to me and are what makes traveling unstable, risky, and yet exciting.

 

 

 

“The real world”

I think I need to start with my life post college and pre St. Croix to paint the picture that ultimately brought me to where I am.

I am not one of those people that will say “college was the best days of my life”. I remember being in college thinking “this can’t be as good as it’s going to get.” Don’t get me wrong, I had fun, made some great friends and have some great memories, but I could not wait to be an “adult” and to be in the “real world”.

My first taste of the “real world” is a memory that I don’t think I will ever forget…

Sitting in class just days before being our doctoral hooding, the financial aid office shows up with big fat envelopes for every student. The envelope contained the grand total amount of student loans we had accrued over the last 6 years and the reminder that we had a short 6 month grace period before we had to start paying back this unfathomable amount of money.

image

My grand total was about $200,000.00. Yes, there is the proper amount of decimals and commas in there. (I will be going into much greater details about my loans…stayed tuned)

I didn’t know how I was going to pay this off.. But I knew where I was going to start.

Travel Physical Therapy.

I have so much to say about traveling PT, it warrants its own post.

Seriously Erin? A blog?

wingsOkay, so. Why a blog? Blake and I were discussing the negative aspects of Facebook. You know what I’m talking about…those “over-sharers” and “look at me” posts that flood our newsfeed, and more often then not, just annoy us. Yeah those. We are all guilty of those posts…I certainly am.

Problem: What if there is something I want to share with the people that I think would find it interesting? Apparently forcing all my 300 plus friends to read it is not the answer.

Solution: A blog.  People can choose whether or not they want to read what I have to say, and I get to say whatever I want without annoying people on Facebook. Win-Win!

Still, why a blog? What is so interesting about me that I think people would want to read about it? Maybe nothing…but maybe everything.

This blog is about everything that has to do with me, Erin. Since completing my doctorate, I have done some interesting things with my life, and I have done it all in a very unique way.

Most of my posts will be about how I navigate through the every day issues that is my life in the hopes that maybe somebody else can learn from my experiences, or at the very least be somewhat entertained  by what I have to say.