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A first-time experience as a travel occupational therapist

Working with children and adults who have disorders or illnesses that affect their ability to complete daily tasks, occupational therapists make a tangible difference in the lives of those in need. 

The career path attracts many individuals who have a passion for helping others. Some choose to become travel therapists, who take on periodic assignments in new cities and countries. This avenue enables them to combine their love of travel with their desire to make a positive difference in people's lives. 

One woman who dived into travel occupational therapy is Maren Johnson. She is currently on her first travel OT assignment and sat down to share her thoughts with Aureus Medical, who she chose as her staffing agency. 

Exploring a new neighborhood 
Originally from Indiana, Maren is currently on her first travel therapy assignment located in Winder, Georgia, at a warm and welcoming outpatient clinic. She lives in nearby Athens, making her commute to the clinic quick and easy. Since arriving in Georgia, she has savored exploring all the wonderful neighborhoods, attractions and hidden gems of the area. 

"I am loving it here!" she says. 

Maren's journey to working in occupational therapy began in college, when she was weighing two different career paths. She had always wanted to be a teacher, either for elementary students in special education, or do something in the medical field. She was wracking her brain for the right fit until she learned about the occupational therapy program at her college, the University of Indiana. She began talking to others about what it was like to work in OT as well as observing at various clinics, and when she saw what the job entailed, she was sold. 

"I knew this was the perfect career for me because I love to help people!" Maren explains. "I was drawn to the aspect of being one on one with patients while getting to educate them and work in the medical field."

It was just the right mix of skills and responsibilities she was looking for, and she was hooked!

GeorgiaMaren works as an OT in Georgia for her first travel assignment. 

The travel itch
After learning about the OT career path, Maren began to think big. How could she make an impact on a larger scale, using her skills and expertise in a wide variety of areas? As a lover of travel, seeing exciting new sights and meeting incredible people, Maren was wondering how her OT career could reflect these passions. 

Then she learned about travel therapy. 

The career was the perfect opportunity to visit new places and explore the world, all while helping others live healthy, fulfilling lives. As a travel therapist, she would be placed on assignments in different locations, living in an apartment, getting to know the people in her area and broadening her perspectives as an OT. 

"I love to travel and meet new people and see new things," says Maren of her reason to start traveling as an OT, "and thought this would be a great way to do just that while being able to see places across the country, work in various settings and gain valuable work and life experience."

First days on the job
It may seem intimidating to pick up stakes and move to an entirely new place, perhaps far from your home, but Maren soon saw that diving into new experiences with an eager head and heart pays off. She was also confident about her new position from her conversations with her soon-to-be boss at the clinic before she made the move. 

"I honestly didn't know what to expect as far as the day-to-day work experience goes," Maren says about preparing for her new position. "However I had a good feeling from just talking on the phone to the boss at the clinic before moving that this would be a good fit and I'd really enjoy it!"

Her instincts were right – she's since fit right into her new work environment, falling into the swing of things and making strong bonds with her colleagues, who provide a rich support system.  

"I got here and felt so welcomed by everyone from Day 1," she says. "The other therapists and staff here have been so nice and helpful, and I look forward to working with them each day."

She says that her two favorite memories from her first assignment are the genuine kindness she's experienced amongst her co-workers and the work they do for children in need.

She appreciates "getting to know and see many kids with varying diagnoses, saying hi to them and their families each day and watching the kids socially interact with one another and with us therapists."

"Go with your gut feelings, have faith and just trust the process."

Sharing wisdom 
When it comes to sharing advice with individuals interested in working in OT as well as doing travel assignments, Maren stresses the importance of putting yourself out there to get a feel for what you'd like your unique career to look like. She urges those interested in OT to job shadow at a variety of clinics and volunteer as well to get a feel for the different types of settings and if they're good fits for you.

When it comes to travel assignments, she speaks to the importance of being bold and following your heart. 

"Go with your gut feelings, have faith and just trust the process because it all ends up working out and you gain valuable experiences both personally and professionally," she says. 

And don't worry that you will be placed somewhere randomly that doesn't interest you – Maren says that you shouldn't be afraid to ask a lot of questions to the staffing company at any time to make sure you are being submitted for the assignments and areas that you're interested in, as well as to understand the whole process the best you can. 

Being open to unexpected places can pay off, too. As Maren says, these places could "turn out to be something wonderful," like they did for her. 

"This has been a place I'll truly miss when it's time to move for the next assignment," Maren says of her experience in Georgia. "It has set the bar high for other assignments to come."

And what's to come? Maren's ultimate dream is to have an assignment in Hawaii. Colorado and New York are also on her wish list – but not in the winter, she says, laughing. 

If you're interested in travel therapy assignments, contact the team at Aureus Medical today. 

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