When you have an interview for your travel assignment, it is usually your only chance to ask questions directly to the facility you might work at. Asking the right questions can tell you a lot about your potential job. Missing key questions can lead to you taking a job you otherwise would have avoided. Let’s go over the must-ask questions that will help reveal potential red flags.
Do Your Research
Employers check your social media pages and anything they can find on you, why shouldn’t you do the same for them? First, go clean up you Facebook page, then do some research on the company you are interviewing with. Check out their website, look for reviews on their practice, even plug some therapist names into google or facebook if you have them. The amount of info you can grab online in a few minutes may give you an indication of whether you think this practice will be a good fit for you or not. Since many assignments are initially presented to a traveler generically (i.e. “an Outpatient Practice near Portland, Maine”), you may have to ask your recruiter for the name of the practice shortly before you interview.
In addition to the benefits you get from knowing more about the practice you are interviewing with, it’s nice to be able to demonstrate your knowledge to the interviewer. When they describe their practice, tell them you had seen some of the basics of what they do when you went on their website. Employers love it when you go out of your way to learn about their practice, feel free to to flaunt your knowledge a little bit.
Who works there?
Knowing who you will be working with can tell you a lot about what work will look like on a daily basis. As a new grad, knowing how many other therapists you be working with can help you anticipate what opportunities might exist for mentorship and learning from your coworkers. I love to know if there will be OTs or SLPs – an interdisciplinary team has so much to offer each other and the patients. As a therapist or a therapy assistant, it is essential you know how many assistants you will be working with. Definitely avoid the factories that have more assistants than therapists – not a good situation. By asking about the mix of people you be working with, you can identify opportunities and red flags that may exist.
Who is the owner? Who is the boss?
I once worked for a clinic where the wife/PTA was the primary financier of the practice. The husband/PT was the head clinician. They did not get along, at all, on business topics. If I had known of this arrangement ahead of time, it wouldn’t have necessarily been a red flag, but it might have raised an eyebrow. On a different assignment, which I ultimately terminated the contract on, I was at a clinic run by an unlicensed South African educated Chiropractor. Ask who owns the practice and who your clinical supervisor will be. This question, if not asked, can be the single most important piece of information that would help you avoid an awful, but otherwise decent sounding job. I would have avoided the only nightmare assignment I have ever had if I had asked the right questions.
What are the productivity expectations?
I don’t think I really need to say much more on this, but I will. Briefly. Over the last 8 years , I have worked only jobs that allow a full hour, one-on-one with patients. I have had 1:1 for an hour in hospitals, private practice, and home care in many different regions of the country. Some areas of the country are more notorious for high-volume standards, but you don’t have to be one of those therapists. Multiple patients per hour is not best-care, don’t trick yourself into thinking it is. If you are working in a permanent job seeing 2-3 patients per hour, reconsider your current professional life, it doesn’t have to be this way.
What is the patient population like?
This is a great question to get an idea of what you’ll be working with. It also gives you a chance to describe (or brag) to your interviewer what your treatment style is like. Many travel assignments are in areas that need someone to cover a variety of conditions – many community hospitals that treat all sorts of disease and dysfunction hire travelers. If you allow yourself to go slightly outside your comfort zone, you’re likely to gain a wealth of new knowledge about treatment. Once upon a time, I was an outpatient ortho-only therapist. By repeatedly reaching just a little outside of my comfort zone to different patient populations and treatment settings, I have gained a huge amount of information on a very wide portion of the spectrum of physical therapy. Travelers that are open to new clinical and cultural experiences can grow to be the most well rounded clinicians anywhere. Ask about patient population where you are interviewing to try and find an assignment you’d enjoy, but also so you can prepare and be the best clinician you can be to those patients. Being a traveler is can be a primarily selfish endeavor to satisfy a desire for travel and exploration – or, done right, it can be an incredible opportunity to give your skills and knowledge to the populations that are most at need for good care.