Occupational Therapist Finds Her Niche in School-based Travel Jobs

Aiming to gain experience and expertise in her chosen field, Nicole Urbanowski, OTR-L, decided to embark on an allied travel career. She hoped to gain new insights, work with different professional teams and engage in interesting journeys. This occupational therapist and New England resident has found all of that and more as a traveling OT employed by AMN Healthcare.

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Travel occupational therapists are usually assigned to school districts for a 10-month period, and during this past year Urbanowski was assigned to the Monroe School District, 35 miles northeast of Seattle. She provided individual therapy sessions for kids ranging in age from preschoolers to 5th graders, and educated teachers about the management, mobility and learning needs of disabled children. Many of these children have been diagnosed with ADHD, Down syndrome and medically complex health conditions, such as seizure disorders and cancer.

”Working with children has taught me to be creative in my practice,” Urbanowski said. “As OTs, we try many different approaches to develop solutions that assist children to be as independent as possible.”

As a traveling OT, it’s important to establish rapport with other staff members because positive relationships encourage learning and sharing ideas, she advised. It also makes assignments more enjoyable. “Meeting some of my best friends happened just because I was on the same interdisciplinary team with them,” she said.

OT travelers can choose to be reassigned to one school district, or move among other school districts where they can take advantage of opportunities to learn differences in protocols, procedures and standards. Changing circumstances can create a camaraderie among team members who gain new insights from each other about alternate ways to provide quality care for school-aged children, Urbanowski commented.

Washington State travels

“Washington State isn’t as rainy as people think; rather its beautiful most of the time, and best of all there’s no snow in winter.” Urbanowski said. “I love being in the outdoors--hiking, biking, doing yoga and attending football and baseball games. I also enjoy opportunities to visit downtown Seattle where I’ve seen ‘Cinderella’ and ‘Book of Mormon.’ Concerts there vary from the Seattle Symphony to Beyoncé. Restaurant food is delicious, especially entrees like fresh Alaskan salmon and king crab,” she said.

Urbanowski added she’s looking forward to another assignment at the Monroe School District this September.

Tips for successful assignments

To achieve success as a traveling OT, it’s important to be flexible about assignment choices and their locations and to understand employer expectations, according to Urbanowski. “The biggest thing to know about school districts is that you’ll be expected to attend a lot of meetings which may occur prior to and after school. That’s something to be aware of and prepare for,” she said.

The ability to get along and work well with various teams of professionals is a universal employer expectation, and seeking opportunities to increase your knowledge and expertise through travel OT jobs is a wise career choice, she concluded.

Taking a chance on travel

Originally anxious about starting a travel OT career, Urbanowski said she’s pleased to have so much support from the recruitment team at AMN Healthcare. “My recruiters have done so much work to help me, from getting licensed to setting up interviews and being the liaison between myself and prospective school districts,” she said. “Working with them has made my job so much easier. They’ve all been fabulous.”

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