Tips for Pediatric Travel Physical Therapy

Tips for Pediatric Travel Physical Therapy

Pediatric physical therapy is a niche practice.

Travel physical therapy has become a popular career path for many physical therapy professionals. With significantly high vacancy rates for PTs, especially in outpatient practices, many facilities have begun to bring in travel therapists to fill these open positions.

What do travel physical therapists do?

Travel PTs are also often hired to cover extended medical and maternity leaves. They work on a contract basis, with travel contracts that are typically around 13 weeks but can go much longer (sometimes up to 9 months). Once that contract assignment is completed, travel PTs can move onto another role, extend their current one or even take a break from working before starting a new contract.

Travel physical therapy opportunities are available in different settings with patient populations of all ages, even pediatrics. While there can be obstacles in treating any population, working with children can be a unique but sometimes challenging experience. There is no perfect way to create a relationship with a pediatric patient as each child has their own barriers and fears.

A PT must learn how to break through those barriers and help the child overcome those fears to have an effective impact on their rehabilitation journey. Below are some tips for pediatric travel physical therapy.

Get exposure and experience

Pediatric physical therapy is a niche practice. While most PT doctorate programs provide introductory courses on pediatric physical therapy, it can be beneficial to complete additional coursework and/or internships. In travel roles, there may not be a strong onboarding or training process due to the urgency to fill the clinical need. Pediatric travel PTs must be ready to take on the possible challenges.

All therapists interested in pediatrics should consider taking pediatric PT continuing education courses. They should work with a mentor in the field prior to taking on any pediatric PT assignments.

Additionally, when considering a contract, be sure to ask your recruiter about support in the role. Ask if you will be working closely with other therapists. These colleagues can be a resource for treatment ideas, feedback, and assistance in harder cases.

Earn the patient’s trust

As a healthcare provider, it can be difficult to create a successful relationship with a pediatric patient. Many children have fears of healthcare professionals and medical offices. It can take many sessions to create an open line of communication with these patients.

As a travel therapist, you are even more limited as your contracts are typically only a few months long. This restricts your time spent with the patient. Pediatric travel PTs need to be able to quickly earn a patient’s trust to have an effective treatment approach. Children are often observant and absorb what’s going on around them. Talking them through the plan of care and demonstrating each activity will help them understand each intervention.

Children sometimes need multiple reminders or demonstrations to understand what to do. PTs need to be patient and help guide them through each exercise or activity. Most importantly, PTs need to be empathic and comforting when a child is expressing frustration or fears.

Recommended course: Addressing Emotional Regulation with Mindfulness in Pediatrics

Be creative

When working with children, the original treatment plan may not always work out. Sometimes the child is not interested in the activity or tired and not willing to participate. Therapists need to be quick on their feet and be prepared to quickly change up the intervention to get the patient engaged.

As a travel PT, you may be working with limited toys and supplies depending on your assignment. Being creative with what’s on hand to provide an effective treatment session is necessary sometimes.

For example, using imaginary play to create exercise games or taking some basic equipment to make a gross motor skill obstacle course can be effective and fun for the child.

Make therapy fun

As a travel pediatric PT, you need to make a good first impression with the kids you work with. It’s important to make the activities fun so they will enjoy your time together. Use games, toys, prizes, or anything you can think of to make the interventions more kid friendly.

Sometimes, pediatric PTs conduct group sessions or host therapy sessions in a playroom or on a playground with other kids around. The APTA has some creative, fun games and activities to use with children to challenge things such as balance, strength, and coordination.

This article was written by Jami Cooley

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