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Welcome to the show notes for the Episode 68 of the OT School House Podcast.
In this episode we are highlighting travel opportunities as an occupational therapy practitioner, but that's not all. We will start this conversation by discussing what you need to know if you are looking into a travel therapy position as an employee for a 3rd party company. But we are also going to discus with Devon how she used a coaching model during the pandemic and what she learned from this.
Links to Show References:
Occupationaltherapy.com (affiliate link)
Download the Transcript or read the episode below!
Jayson Davies & Devon Breithart
Amazing Narrator 00:01
Hello and welcome to the OT schoolhouse podcast, your source for school based occupational therapy tips, interviews and professional development. Now to get the conversation started, here's your host, Jayson Davies. Class is officially in session.
Jayson Davies 00:18
Hey everyone, and welcome to Episode 68 of OT schoolhouse podcast. My name is Jayson, it hasn't changed, I swear it will always be Jayson. And thank you so much for being here today. I'm excited to have you joining me. It has just been a great day, a great week, a great month at the OT School House. And I am just super excited. And I know many of you have actually shared that excitement with me because you've been emailing me and letting me know. And I just love those all of those messages of kindness of appreciation. It has just been a great time here at the OT School House. So I really do appreciate you taking a moment to listen today. Today we do have on a very special guest by the name of Devon bright heart and she is going to kind of give us all the details on what it is like to be a travel therapist. And she's also going to share with us a little bit about what she has learned throughout the last year of the pandemic and how she developed a coaching model to use during teletherapy services. Before we dive into the interview, though, I actually want to share some great news and that is that the Back To School Conference being held in August is now officially an AOTA approved course good for 11 hours, meaning that you will get a certificate if you are registered and attend for 11 hours toward your recertification or your state re licensure. This is going to be an amazing conference. I cannot wait it is 100% virtual, but it's also 100% live in the sense that everyone the presenters and myself included will be presenting live for you to interact with I cannot wait for it. Some of the amazing presenters that will be joining us for the Back To School Conference include Dr. Susan Bazyk who will be talking about her RTI program every moment counts. Olivia Martinez-Hauge, who was on the podcast a few episodes ago talking about sensory and stress, we are going to continue to build off that discussion that we had and go so much further. And another presenter that I would like to highlight right now is Meg Proctor. She is from learnplaythrive.com, and she will be discussing strategies for kids with autism. So you do not want to miss out on these presenters and more we have discussions on assistive technology and so much more. You can learn all about the conference at otschoolhouse.com/conferenc And also be sure to register now, early bird pricing is going to end at the end of April, the price will increase. So OT month is here we're gonna get through t month and then the price will increase so be sure to check it out. Now. Again, you can find all the details at otschoolhouse.com/conference With that, let's go ahead and jump into our interview. We have Devon Breithart, talking about what it's like to be a travel therapist and a little bit about a coaching model in the times of COVID and how she's going to now bring that forward as kids start to return back to school. So without any further ado, here is Devon Brethart. Hey, Devon, welcome to the OT School House podcast. How are you doing today?
Devon Breithart 03:19
I'm good. I'm really excited to be here.
Jayson Davies 03:21
Yeah. And I'm excited to get to know you as well. We've been getting to know each other a little bit over social media. But I'm excited to have you here on the podcast. So today we're going to talk about travel therapy. But why don't we go ahead and start off with maybe how you became an occupational therapist. What drove you to this profession?
Devon Breithart 03:38
Yeah, so I feel like I have a different story than a lot of the other OTS I've met. Because I didn't actually know what OT was until I was looking at colleges. I never had any family members who received it growing up, it was just a profession that, like the rest of the world I was blissfully unaware of until I was doing college visits. And I actually thought I wanted to be an art therapist because I really liked art. And I also really liked psychology and I knew I wanted to do something kind of in the healthcare field. So I started looking for programs near me that offered art therapy and went on this great college visit to one was touring the campus enjoying myself. And then, you know, the person leading the tour was like, oh, what are you thinking about majoring in? And I was like, Oh, I heard you guys have an art therapy program. He's like, well, we don't. I was like, Oh, he said, but we do have an occupational therapy program. And I said, well, what's occupational therapy? And then he told me, and I was like, Oh, well, that's it. That's what I'm gonna be. It's funny just made sense. Yeah.
Jayson Davies 04:39
So were you a big artist growing up in
Devon Breithart 04:43
bits and pieces, you're in there. So I won't talk too much about this because I don't want to be like too down on myself. I was friends with a lot of really talented artists, like much more talented artists than me in high school. So I took a lot of art classes and it took a few painting classes in college too. So I wouldn't say I'm like, talented. And even now I'm like, I'm not doing any art on a regular basis anymore. But it was it was a big part of my life for a while there.
Jayson Davies 05:08
Yeah, it's always fun hearing what OTS did before OT. Because I mean, yeah, I feel like a lot of people have done some form of art. I did actually film. So in high school, I did all animation. And then I took some film classes. And now I have a podcast, which allows me to kind of do some of that a little bit. Yeah, that's really cool. So let's go ahead and fast forward now a few years, what was OT life like the first few years after OT school?
Devon Breithart 05:33
Yeah. So as soon as I graduated, I knew I wanted to try to get into pediatrics that was always a place that had my heart, even in OT school. And even the jobs I held before I was done with OT school. So I just started applying to different pediatric outpatient clinics near where I was, and the one that I was really interested hired me like a month before I was set to like, fully graduate and be done. And that was great for a while. And then after a few years of that, I started feeling a little stagnant and a little bored. And I knew I needed to make some sort of change.
Jayson Davies 06:07
Gotcha. Okay. So then, what happened from there. So,
Devon Breithart 06:12
I had always been kind of interested in travel therapy, you know, when you first graduate from OT school, there's always like recruiters, you know, they'll be at events or little like, find your phone number or email address somehow. And they'll call you and offer you a job in Nebraska that you really don't want. But they're very certain that you do want to care about it, and they keep calling. So it's always been kind of in the back of my mind, I moved around a lot as a kid and grad school, like college, and then grad school was really the longest amount of time I'd spent in one city in a long time. And, you know, after a few years of working in the outpatient clinic, and doing some early intervention, I was like, you know what I'm going to, I'm going to do it, I'm going to try travel therapy, my partner had recently gotten a remote work job. So I was like, Oh, it's perfect timing, we can take this job anywhere, I'm getting a little stagnant at work. Let's do travel therapy, let's just see what it's like. And if we completely hate it, we can always just move back.
Jayson Davies 07:02
Okay, that makes more sense. Now, for some reason, in my head, I just always thought that you are a travel therapist from day one, but totally makes sense. Let's go ahead and kind of start with just a general overview. What does travel therapy even look like?
Devon Breithart 07:16
Yeah, so basically, you take short term travel contracts, that can be anywhere in the United States, there are some international contracts too. But those are way more complicated, and a whole other can of worms with Visas is in that process. So mostly, it's just contracts in the United States. But there'll be for different facilities that for one reason or another, have trouble finding a qualified ot. So that could be just due to like the geographic location, it could be just like a really rural area. It could be because there's no OT schools around the area of like, California is such a huge state. And there's only a few OT schools for the entire state, like out of all the states I've looked at California has like, the highest like OT to like citizen ratio of any of the states, which I think is interesting. And you know, it's just, it just depends on the reason why they're seeking an OT and why they haven't been able to find one through traditional means. But usually, it's something like that, where they've tried, and just due to geography or whatever other reasons, they haven't been able to find one.
Jayson Davies 08:13
Yeah. And so when you're saying short term, what is what is short term?
Devon Breithart 08:16
So for most travel contracts, which are I would say not usually in the school system, I'm a little bit of a rarity, because I do just take school system contracts. But most of the time, they're these short term medical contracts that are usually around three months,
Jayson Davies 08:28
three months to 12 weeks or so.
Devon Breithart 08:30
Yep. kind of similar to like a level two fieldwork. You did three month fieldwork sessions.
Jayson Davies 08:35
So what about, I mean, are there long term contract positions? And if so, have you ever done them? or What did they look like?
Devon Breithart 08:42
Yeah, so the longer term contracts are most of what I do now. And by longer term, I still don't mean like, multi year or anything like that. It's usually like a school year, like so it'll be, you know, a nine or a 10 month school year contract. Sometimes you can find contracts that include EMI as well, really, you can be in the same area up to like one calendar year, like minus one day, I think, or something like that. So if you do find a district you like and you want to work for, you know, that whole year plus, yes, why that's possible. It's just when you start looking into, you know, working for that district again, the next year that it gets a little squirrely from the travel therapy perspective.
Jayson Davies 09:18
Gotcha. Sorry, when you were saying, you know, one year minus a day, it just made me think of an IEP like, like an IEP right services tomorrow, and then it goes to one day before the next it is. Yeah, it's funny. So tell me then, where have you been fortunate enough to kind of go around and work.
Devon Breithart 09:37
So I was pleasantly stuck in California for a few years. California is really hard to leave. I had never been there until I moved there for travel therapy. But it always been a place I wanted to go. I was always really interested in San Francisco in particular. And it just been a place that I'd never gotten to travel to like on vacation or anything like that. So I took my first contract that was in northern Cal fornia a super small town that even other northern Californians often never heard of called kelseyville. Okay, have you heard of that? No. See, there you go. And I know you're not quite in Northern California. But yeah, I would talk to people in San Francisco about it. And they'd be like, oh, I've never heard of that place. But really small town that's north of Napa and Sonoma. So kind of in that winegrowing region Oh, so beautiful. Yeah, very beautiful. The worst roads imaginable to like, get in there, because it was literally like on a mountain. But very beautiful place. Right after that. I went a little bit further south into Santa Cruz, and I was there for close to a four year actually, maybe nice place to be. Yeah, beautiful area again. I mean, it's hard not to find beautiful. You're in California. It's just a really beautiful state.
Jayson Davies 10:46
Yeah. But pretty lucky. And then
Devon Breithart 10:48
yeah. And then after that, I moved a little bit more up into the bay area. And I was in a district that was in Silicon Valley.
Jayson Davies 10:55
Oh, that must have been interesting.
Devon Breithart 10:57
So interesting. That's actually where I was when the pandemic started. So that definitely had an interesting role to play and how, how my services were delivered, and just that kind of stuff.
Jayson Davies 11:06
Yes. And so how did you end up now in Seattle?
Devon Breithart 11:10
So after? Well, I guess we should say during the pandemic, I was like, Oh, my gosh, am I going to keep traveling? And I get this question frequently, right, even outside of a pandemic? Or like, oh, when are you going to stop traveling? When are you going to come home? Or when are you going to settle down? And my answer is always just like, I don't know. I guess what, I get sick of it. And so far, I'm not sick of it. But during the pandemic, I was like, Oh, no, no, I really need to make decisions about if I am going to keep traveling and what that looks like and where we're going to go because it is like, you know, especially in California, we were so locked down, we weren't doing any leisure travel, like we were barely even leaving our houses for a long time there. So I was like, I really don't want to have to move during a pandemic, and especially not moved to like another state. But then it's also like, my home state is Kentucky. So the other option is like driving from California to Kentucky. So nothing, nothing really sounded like a great option. But I think that's a similar experience that a lot of people had, nothing was a good option in a pandemic. So I knew I wanted to get to Seattle eventually. And that had always been my tentative plan for the school year. And then when Seattle became like the epicenter of COVID, in the United States, like in March, the first recorded cases were in Seattle, I was like, oh, maybe I don't want to go. But you know what I ended up here. Anyways, it was, you know, it's a pandemic across the whole country. So by the time I was up here, it was bad everywhere. So gotta be somewhere.
Jayson Davies 12:39
And so I actually want to use this as an example. How did you even acquire a contract while you were in California? Like, did you decide, hey, I wanted to go Seattle? Let me find a contract? Or did you say, Hey, where can I find a contract? Oh, there's a contract in Seattle? Let me go to Seattle? And how does that work out?
Devon Breithart 12:59
So what most travelers do is they'll go through a recruiting agency, and those agencies are actually who acquire those contracts and help place travelers in them. It's not a situation of like your recruiter says, hey, you're going to Seattle, and you don't have a choice about it. But it is a situation of Hey, here are the available contracts we have. Are you interested in any of them? Do you want to interview for any of them? And then if it's a good fit, at the end of that interview, you can choose to go there, you can choose to sign the contract or not. So it's kind of in the middle. It's not like you're just getting assigned to a place without any input. But it's not. It's not like you can also just say, you know, I want to go to New York City and be like, right in Manhattan, because that's not always an option, either, when there's a really desirable place that has no has no trouble filling OT positions.
Jayson Davies 13:43
Yeah. And so, again, kind of going off of that you mentioned recruiters, do you always go through a recruiter? Or have you ever gone where you are your own? Alright, and I can't talk right now, where you are your own contractor per se, or independent contractor, having a contract directly with a district or directly with a hospital.
Devon Breithart 14:04
So I have never done just like pure independent contracting, this is something that all travelers want to know about, like, either as soon as they start traveling, or like after they take a few contracts, they start thinking, well, what if I didn't have this recruiter at all, because they are, you know, to some extent, a middleman they are taking a portion of the pay from the contract, you know, you see it and you think, Oh, I could, I could contact school districts, I could set up a contract. I could do this all on my own. And what most travelers find when they do attempt to do that stuff on their own is that it gets a lot more complicated than they had envisioned. And you know, I'm a W two employee, I get paid, like on a W two, I'm not a I say contractor, because I'm taking short term contracts. But like, in the eyes of the IRS, I am an employee of my car, my travel agency. So that makes it a little less complicated. And when you are doing that pure, independent contracting, and you're having to pay all those self employment taxes and just all the other labor that you're putting into like by In sourcing a contract, it ends up being a wash for most people. So I have never, I've never ventured into the side of like, truly, truly independent contracting for that reason. But I know a lot of people are curious about it.
Jayson Davies 15:12
Yeah. And I think there's also, I mean, when you talk about independent contractor, I know that there's also people that are independent contractors, but work through a third party. And so kind of, they're in the same situation as you except it's not a W two, it's a 1099. And then they have to figure out taxes, so Yep. Okay. Very cool. So, what do you enjoy most about travel therapy?
Devon Breithart 15:35
I'm, like, normally, I'll give my answer like workwise and then not work. My might not work wise answer is not a great answer right now. Because it's literally the travel. I love seeing new places, I really love food, I love going to restaurants, I love just like walking around cities. Like I just love traveling. And so to be able to have a job that allows that travel to be like, part of the job is awesome. You know, when I was working at the outpatient clinic, and I had a permanent position, that was one of the things that I was like, that was a big reason why I look to travel therapy in the first place. Because, you know, I wasn't getting a ton of vacation time. And then even the vacation time I was getting, I wasn't making a ton of money. So it's not like I could do these like big pool trips very often, because I just didn't have the paychecks to support it at the time. Whereas with travel therapy, the paychecks tend to be a little bit higher. And you know, you're already traveling just by virtue of taking the job in and of itself. So it was able to fulfill that for me really nicely.
Jayson Davies 16:34
Nice. Yeah, I have heard that they tend to pay a little bit more, but that is because you're, you have to up and move your life points. And so I don't know, maybe that leads into some of the cons. I don't know, what are some of the cons of, of travel therapy? And maybe again, you want to do personal versus versus work?
Devon Breithart 16:55
Yeah, I would say. I don't know, I think for me, the biggest con is like, I don't know that period of like instability, where you're like, not quite sure where you're going to go next. Because people always ask, I get a lot of questions. Can you tell, but people are always asking, like, Oh, where are you gonna go next? Where are you gonna go next. And I really don't know where I'm going to go next until like, you know, sometimes not even like a month or two beforehand. And like for some of those travelers who take like the more short term contracts that are in like outpatient clinics, or sniffs like, they don't know, until like a week beforehand, or a couple of days beforehand, like, it's a, you have to be okay with being flexible and being able to like, think on your feet a little bit. Because very often you will not know where you're going to be in a month. And that's, that's a hard space to live in for a lot of people. So I would say that part is tricky. And it's not even, it's not even for me like being able to like not make a lot of plans, because I don't know where I'm going to be where I am. But it's more that fielding those questions. And like, I don't know, just like the physical act of moving is, is such a bear. And like, luckily for me, I'm usually only moving once a year since I am taking these full school year contracts most of the time, but it's still just like, it's a lot. And I don't even move with that much stuff like we My partner and I share one car, we have a hatchback. And all of our stuff goes into that car. And if it doesn't fit, it does not come with us. But even that in and of itself is like it's it's hard to move.
Jayson Davies 18:15
Oh, I bet that's gonna be tricky. And what about your partner? Does he or she have a job that they can move around? Or how does that work out?
Devon Breithart 18:22
Yeah, so he's been with me the whole time. And I said earlier, you know, he had got this remote job. And I was like, Oh, this is perfect. Now we can go travel. And then you know, he actually quit that remote job like a month before I started my first contract. Yeah, of course. So that job ended up just really not being a great fit for him for a lot of reasons. And so we actually moved to California, sight unseen with me like having this travel contract job and him being unemployed and not quite sure what his next steps were. Which again, is like you have to be okay with being flexible and rolling with the punches and travel therapy because that's like situations like that just to happen. And it's it's hard to deal with that kind of stuff when you're across the country from friends or family or support systems. But my partner also has a history in education, so he worked as a substitute. Previously, he had been a pair educator for a while. So as soon as we got to California, he started working on his sub credential there. And I will tell you the sub credential in California is much harder to apply for than the sub credential in Indiana where he was previously previously working in Indiana, like they will let you sub if you were a warm body and you maybe took a college class once in California, it is like a miniature teaching license like they wanted his essay t scores, his college transcripts like all of this different stuff, just to get that sub credential. So even that was a process in itself when we first got there, but that's what he did for a couple of years. And now he is now he's actually tutoring. He has a bachelor's degree in math. So when we moved to Silicon Valley, he started working at a math tutoring center eventually moved up a little bit in red There, and now he is still working for that same company online, actually, because like public school, they also shifted all other services online when the pandemic started. So when we moved to Seattle, he was actually just able to keep that same job because he's been working online since March. So
Jayson Davies 20:17
Alright, so everyone out there here, it is possible to have a partner and to be traveling. Yeah, it's possible.
Devon Breithart 20:23
Jayson Davies 20:23
let's Cool. All right. So you did mention earlier that you had you before you started traveling, you had a full time job for about two years, you were in a pediatric clinic, essentially? How do you compare the difference between not just being from a clinic to now mostly school days, but from that travel to more permanent? What? What's been the biggest difference for you? Other than, right, I
Devon Breithart 20:48
mean, really, there were so many differences. I mean, just shifting from outpatient pediatrics to school in general, you know, I really thought I was gonna be okay. And like, long, long term, I was okay. But I was like, Oh, you know, I've worked in pediatric outpatient for a few years, I've got this, I'm a great therapist, I'm going to be able to pivot to schools so easily. And I don't want to say that it was impossible or incredibly hard, because I got there. And I did it. And I was proud of the work I did in that first district. But it was still like, I mean, you know, it's just such a different setting than any other pediatric setting. There are so many laws, there's so many regulations, and it's just not something that you are prepared well, for an OT school, or at least, my OT school didn't spend a lot of time on the interesting intricacies of school based practice. So I mean, that was the biggest change, by far for me was just the really narrowing down the differences between those two settings that I'd previously thought were like, fairly similar. Mm hmm.
Jayson Davies 21:42
Yeah. And as you and I both know, there, there is a big difference between outpatient and school. And we'll talk more about that mentoring and some schools in just a moment. But first, you mentioned your partner, he actually had to kind of shift in the ability to get a different type of license to be a substitute teacher or whatever, in different states. Same things with OTS. Obviously, we're licensed in each state. In fact, I think Washington is even when it comes to school based OTS, I think they already have a credential program there. Yeah. But talk about that process of originally being licensed in one state, and then having to move that over.
Devon Breithart 22:17
So for travel therapy, you do have to get a license in each state that you're actually practicing in. So I actually maintain a few concurrent licenses, I still maintain my Kentucky license, just because that is still my home base. And if I ever am like to go back and work, even if it's just PRN, or something like that, I want to be able to have that license. But now I also have my California OT license and my Washington OT license. And I will say for anyone who's listening to this, who's like, Oh, I want to go to California or the west coast. If you want to start traveling apply for the Washington and California license now because they are be slyke. I will my Kentucky OT license I applied for like as soon as I was done with grad school, and it was so easy, and it cost me $50. And that was it. And then of course California is is much more expensive than that. I think once you count in like getting your passport photo and getting your live scan and getting like all these extra things done. I think it was between two and $300 for my initial California license. And then of course it was due for renewal like the very next year because of the way my birthday fell. And oh, yeah, I don't have so much more expensive licenses and much more complicated processes on the west coast.
Jayson Davies 23:25
Everything is more expensive here. In California, everything. An LLC is more expensive. license is more expensive gas is more expensive everything. Yo man. You talked about Kentucky being your home, is that when it comes to taxes, you typically filed taxes in your home state. So do you have to file taxes in multiple states? If that if you're getting paid for multiple states? Or how does that work?
Devon Breithart 23:50
Yes, and I will say I finally broke down this year and hired an accountant. I've done my own taxes. Like since I was a teenager, I was always very proud of that. And now my taxes are complicated enough to where I'm like, okay, I I'm not the expert on this anymore. Like, there are questions that I don't know the answer to. So you do have to file taxes in each state that you're working, as well as your home state. So for me, that's Kentucky, I'll file a Kentucky return as a resident last year, I'll also file a non resident California return. And normally I would have to file a Washington State return to as a non resident, but Washington State actually doesn't have income tax. So they don't do state tax returns in the same way that a lot of other states do. But yeah, it's very common as a traveler, you know, especially if you're taking those more short term contracts, and maybe you're bopping around several different states in a year to have to file you know, the IRS, like the federal taxes and then like three or four different state returns, just depending on where you worked.
Jayson Davies 24:46
Yeah. So this is my disclaimer, we are not tax attorneys or tax professionals. seek out help. Absolutely. Okay, I again, I want to get to this mentorship in a second but I'm taking advantage because you are in Washington right now. I've heard a little bit about OTS in the schools and Washington having some form of credential. I know you haven't been there long. But do you know anything about this?
Devon Breithart 25:09
Yes. So in Washington state, in addition to your OT license, which is done by the Department of Health, you have to have a credential called an ESA, or educational services associate to do any work in the school system. So this is basically a credential on top of any other OT schooling, licensing anything like that, that you've done that's specific to OTS, in the school system.
Jayson Davies 25:30
As a contractor, do you need that?
Devon Breithart 25:32
Yes, I think there's a like, I think if you're not going to be practicing in the state for like, you can you can get around it, I think it's that if you are not going to be in the state for longer than a year, you can technically not apply for it and not do it. But once it hits that year mark, it's like you're already late. So it's like oh, like we'll give you the entire first year that you're practicing in Washington to get this credential. And then I know some travelers will probably just say, Well, I'm only going to be there nine months, so I'm just not going to apply for it. But then as soon as they want to take another contract, they're, you know, they're already going to be due to have that credential. So I wouldn't have hadn't just did mine. It's not, it's not a behemoth. Like the OT licenses, like, it's still kind of is I still had to fill out an application online on very antiquated software that was like, what, like, what high school did you go to? And I was like, Why? Why is this a question right now. But it was it was not as arduous as the OT license. Or at least it didn't feel that way to me at the time.
Jayson Davies 26:31
There wasn't like any courses that you had to take or anything like that was it,
Devon Breithart 26:35
I did also have to take a course with it. So it was a pretty short course. And it was just like two days, over zoom. Normally it would be in person. But since it was a pandemic, it was over zoom, there was like two eight hour days. And it's honestly, like it's a good course to take. I would recommend people take it if they're not familiar with school based practice, because it does go into a lot of the intricacies that OT schools don't go always go into. But as someone who had already practiced in the schools, just in a different state, it was a little repetitive. I was, you know, it was already a zoom, eight hour zoom call on a Saturday. So that's hard enough in itself. It was also it's also information that I mostly knew, but at the same time, I'm like this is valuable information for people that aren't yet familiar with.
Jayson Davies 27:20
Yeah, be great for I mean, it'd be a great requirement or brand new school based OTS. Yeah, Washington. Right. That brings us to something that you and I are both very passionate about mentorship, and probably something you and I both lacked in our first few years as practitioners of mentorship. What about? I mean, does mentorship exist in travel therapy?
Devon Breithart 27:41
So I'll say yes and no. And short answer, no, it doesn't, unless you seek it out, you'll find that a lot of travel companies will say oh, we offer mentors will place you with a current traveler who's experienced. But then a lot of times that mentorship actually looks like someone who's on the East Coast while you're on the west coast, and then the time zones never worked out, or then they leave the company or their contract ends, and they're no longer available to mentor you. And even with that mentorship, you know, anytime you take a travel contract, unless it's like explicitly stated by the facility, those places really expect you to hit the ground running like my first day of my first school based contract, like I was providing OT services, you know, it wasn't like I had a lot of time to get my feet wet. And I was also the only OT, so it wasn't, you know, like I even had this department of other more experienced school based OTS to look to it was, Hey, this is it, you're the OT for this district. They also didn't have an OT for the entire first semester of that school year. So I owe a bunch of compensatory time that I also want to pick up. So it was just kind of like, and I don't want to say, you know, this district didn't put me in a bad position. They were very supportive. The actual caseload itself was pretty low, so that compensatory time was actually manageable to make up. And they really supported me as much as they could. But they weren't OTS, so they didn't know they didn't know everything, right.
Jayson Davies 28:58
Yep. So then what did you do in order to compensate for that? Did you take courses? Did you seek out friends of speech therapist or PTs that can help out? What did you do?
Devon Breithart 29:10
Yeah, so I did a little bit of everything. I luckily had a really close friend of mine in grad school who had been working in the schools for several years, basically, while I was an outpatient, she was in the schools. So I leaned on her very heavily, especially those first couple months. They're just constantly calling or texting or asking questions. I also joined a lot of Facebook groups. And Facebook groups are great. And I don't want to, you know, speak badly of them because I have a Facebook group about 30. And I think it's really valuable. But at the same time, I was also like, you know, just spending so much of my time trying to wrap my brain around school based OTD like, I was doing all the school based OT work during my work day. And then I would find myself like at home or on my lunch break. Scrolling social media, I tried to do you know, like a leisure occupation. And then it turns into work because I like look at this question on a Facebook group. And I'm like, Oh, that's a good question. I should read this whole Read and then it's two hours later. And I'm like, well, I've learned a ton about school based practice, but I really probably should eat something at some point today. Um, and then courses to, you know, I really got into occupational therapy, comm mentor or membership whenever I first started travel therapy just because it was a lot easier to get online see us rather than planning where it was going to be in person. And that was helpful. So I just took all the school based courses on there I could, I leaned heavily on my school Sykes, my speech therapist, luckily, it was like a really small, close knit team, the director of special education, his office was actually like caddy corner to mine. And I was able to talk to him every day, which does not happen in large districts. So I was grateful that it was a small and supportive district that like, understood where I was coming from understood, I had experience with the pediatric therapy bit of it, but really needed some support with like the legalities and regulations part.
Jayson Davies 30:52
Yeah, I had no idea that you're in that same type of similar situation. I was I was a school employee. But I was again at a smaller district, like what you're talking about this, the head psych was across the hallway from me, the director of special education was next door to me. I mean, next door in the very next office, not next door. But yeah, and it was just learning so much. Even though they weren't OTS, I was the only occupational therapist in the district. But I learned so much about special education, just from other people that had no idea really what OT was. Right. So yeah, great experience. So my next question on here, I totally blushed. I asked, Do you think school based OT is under emphasized in school based OT? That's supposed to be Do you think school based OT is under emphasized in occupational therapy school? Or when we get our, our actual credential?
Devon Breithart 31:42
Yeah. And, you know, I didn't even really start thinking about this until the last couple of years, when I realized just how many therapists were in school based practice, but it's it's over 20% of occupational therapists in the US that are in school based practice. And, you know, I can't speak for every OT program across the country, obviously. But if your program was anything like mine, which it seems like a lot of people's were, you really didn't focus on school based practice. You know, I had one big pediatrics class and we had to fit outpatient and acute hospital early intervention. And then there was like, you know, a tiny little sliver where we maybe spent a week talking about IEP s and five oh, fours and that kind of stuff. It just really wasn't. It did not prepare me adequately for what, what is going to be being the only OT in a school district. We'll put it. We'll put it succinctly.
Jayson Davies 32:29
Yeah. And you know, a minute ago, you also referenced occupationaltherapy.com. There's others out there. Medbridge. A few others. Can you think off the top of your head, one particular course whether it be live online, that really helped you? I know it's hard. They all blend together? Yeah.
Devon Breithart 32:46
Right. I'm trying to think of a course I took in that first year, that was really helpful.
Jayson Davies 32:52
And maybe it was even just a topic that you just kind of remember.
Devon Breithart 32:56
You know, I think there was one that was actually about RTI, and I'm going to mispronounce her name, but it's Jean, Paula, maybe. I can't remember I might be pronouncing that wrong, or totally butchering it. There's a course about OTS and PTs getting involved in RTI in the schools. And that was really valuable. Because, you know, that was another thing that we I don't even think we touched on that in my grad school program. If we did, it was long, long forgotten, by the time I actually got to school based practice. So that one was really nice, because it helped me say like, oh, like, this isn't just like a one to one treatment kind of scenario, like you can really have more universal global support for students in the schools, which I really appreciate it.
Jayson Davies 33:35
Yeah. No, I think you're spot on, though, I do think that there wasn't enough time to talk about school based OT, and I don't want to get into the whole OT D, all that good stuff. Right now, I know that's a hot topic. But I kind of feel like, if there's going to be an OT D, it should be that real specialization, like I should really go in, and I'm going to focus on school based OT or I'm going to focus on peds. outpatient or whatever it might be. That's what I think OTD should be about. I know some schools have it like specialized a little bit like that. But I don't think that everywhere. And so that's my two cents on the OTD. I don't know if you have any thoughts about it? Well,
Devon Breithart 34:18
I go back and forth on it. Because it you know, on one hand, I'm like, Yeah, OTD, like, let's get like respect for our profession. That's a, you know, an easy way. Well, I don't want to say easy, because it's not easy to get a doctorate degree. But that's like a box, you can check that makes it a little bit easier to say, Well, you know, well, I'm, you know, I don't even know if I would ever introduce myself at an IEP IEP meeting and Dr. Breithart, but I could if I wanted to if I wanted to pull in that authority. But then again, I think about entry level OTG and thinking about, you know, the students who are currently in those programs, you know, you really haven't had a lot of exposure to it at all. You've had your level two fieldworks. Hopefully by the time you're working on your capstone project and working on The more doctorate level courses, but at the same time, like, there's just so much you don't know, when you don't know what you don't know that I think it's really hard to do something like very intensive in scholarship or even specialization when you just really haven't been working in the OT field, like hardly at all. So I go back and forth on OTDs or entry level OTD is at least I should say,
Jayson Davies 35:20
Yeah, I get that now, because I never really thought about it from the entry level, I always kind of think it from my point of view, like, I'd be going back to get odd. And yeah, like, I know what I want to do now. Right, but six years ago, eight years ago, I don't know what I would have been doing. Heck, I didn't even think I was gonna be a school based OT. So you know, go figure. But anyways, back to travel therapy a little bit. Oftentimes, when we're not in a pandemic, we all go to these conferences, big conferences, a otaa type of conferences, and we're walking around, and there are contractors everywhere. I mean, they're always trying to get us with their pens or pencils, their squish balls, whatever, you know, the swag. What would your recommendation be to a new OT or maybe someone that's just kind of thinking about going into travel therapy? What should they what questions should they asked when they approached these contractors?
Devon Breithart 36:16
You know, honestly, I would say, and I don't want this to sound mean, but I wouldn't even engage with those. I was recommending someone getting into travel therapy, because it is so salesy, you know, like people are at these conferences, they're only there for a short time, and they are like there to sell you on signing up with their travel company. And I will tell you, if you haven't already had this experience, if you give that person, your phone number or your email, they will contact you for years after the fact like I still get calls sometimes from recruiters that I have never worked with, like, never worked for their company never worked with them don't know who they are. And they call me and they asked me about doing a hospital assignment in Iowa. And I'm like, I have not, I haven't even worked with adults in like four years at this point. Like, you don't want me working in a hospital right now, I promise, like you might think you do, you really don't. So I would say if you're going into travel therapy, you know, I wouldn't really recommend connecting with recruiters at conferences like that, just because it's, it's easy to get into a situation where someone is going to be cold, calling you quite frequently. There are a lot of great resources for travel therapy online, there's a lot of great Facebook groups for that too. And especially if you have like a personal connection, or even someone you know, in your OT graduating class that went into trouble therapy, ask them, you know, ask them if they like the recruiter, if they like the agency they're working with, and try to get that personal recommendation, either from someone that you are friends with, or is at least you know, within your larger OT community, rather than just going straight to the to the booths with the squishy balls and the squiggly pens and all that kind of stuff.
Jayson Davies 37:47
Yeah, I also typically find that at the conferences, very rarely are the people that are they're actually OTS or know anything about us, don't even know like what contracts they have available. And so you can talk to them, but their whole purpose is just to get your name and your phone number and your email. Yeah, like, that's all they're there for. So yeah, no, I agree with you on that. That's true. Just grab the swag and run. Yep. All right. So let's talk about this past year, obviously, we are coming around to march here shortly. And it's been almost an entire year of the pandemic, school shut down March 13. Or so depending on where you were, how have things changed for you.
Devon Breithart 38:32
so I'll say I feel like I was better set up than most when the pandemic first started because I was in a district that was in Silicon Valley. And so not only did we have just a lot of access to technology, you know, most of the families around there already had a fast internet connection, or they had devices at home. And if they didn't, you know, the school district was in a really easy position to provide them with it. So that was really nice. And I recognize how lucky I was like to be in that position when the pandemic first started, because I know that was not the experience of most school based OTs across the country. Because it was in Silicon Valley. I also had like the most educated group of parents that I've ever worked with. I actually got to orient the next OT whenever I left that contract, I oriented heard all my caseload, which was nice to actually have some overlap and training someone for once. And we would have these conversations with parents where they were talking about their kids, and they were using OT language, you know, they were talking about sensory processing, they were talking about gross and fine motor skills, and they were using all the same verbiage that we would, and we would get off these calls with these parents. I'm like, they're, they know what they're doing. Like. They were also there was a high school only district. So these were parents who had kids with lifelong disabilities who had been doing it for a while, had probably had IEPs for over 10 years at this point. So they were just really familiar with their kids really familiar with their disability, really familiar with the special education system. And you know, it was just, it was very, I was very lucky to be in a district that not only had that access to technology but had this group of parents that was like, really educated and really involved with their child's education too.
Jayson Davies 40:08
And I know sometimes when you're working with parents that really get it really understand everything. You have to take a different approach. Because, hey, they know a lot. And sometimes you'll be talking to them. And they're like, yeah, I already know that I already know about proprioception. I already know about vestibular. But how did how did that work for you? How did you make it work? These kids who? Let's be honest, they're, they're well off, and they have a great family life. Okay, I won't assume that. But they're doing it seems like they have parents that are supportive. So how did you change from more of a in person type of, you know, sometimes pulling a kid out to see them or even going into the classroom? What did your model turn into?
Devon Breithart 40:50
So I actually didn't have a ton of students on direct service at that district, which was another thing that made the pandemic at least initially, an easier experience for me, but because they were high school students, and because most of the students on my caseload were kids with lifelong disabilities. At that point, Director services weren't really indicated for a large portion of my caseload. So I had a ton of consult students, I had a ton of students that I was collaborating with their teams. But I had like a fairly small caseload of students who were still receiving direct weekly OT support. But with those families, I was like, you know, we're gonna, we're gonna give this teletherapy thing a try. I was the only OT in that district, too. So I also had to, like research, like the laws on that, and like, how to get consent. And like, you know, do you need written consent or verbal consent, or like what is okay to do with teletherapy? Here, lots of frantic emails to the California board that time, I'm sure. But anyways, so we tried it out. And, you know, it was nice, because I already had students who had goals that were appropriate to the home setting, too, because they were high schoolers, and any kids that I was still working with directly, really didn't have pan writing goals, they really didn't have these like, kind of like entry level, fine motor poles, it was all much more functional. These were all transition age students who were looking at life after high school and what that was going to be. So it was a lot of self care skills, it was a lot of like job vocational readiness skills, I did have some students who weren't as severe, who I worked with on executive function and access to assistive technology. So it was all stuff that really lended itself pretty well to working in a completely different virtual home setting versus like working on things in a classroom. But obviously, it's still different, working on self help skills through a computer screen that it is, you know, working directly next to a person doing them. So what I really leaned into during that time was more of a parent coaching model, where I did have a parent on the other end of the call. And again, I'm very fortunate, I don't want anyone listening this to be like, well, I just, I don't have parents who will come to their students OT session. So I can't do this, I definitely don't want to make anyone feel like, you know, it's an imperfect time. And we're all just doing the best we can, it's my pleasure through this whole thing. But I did have, you know, adult support, whether it was parents or another family member, or even a nanny, like these kids, like, had a lot of adult support at home, which was really nice. And so I was really able to lean hard into that parent coaching model of actually like working with the parent and having, you know, them kind of be my hands. And like, you know, teaching them the strategies that are things that I love teaching are things that I like love helping parents and families do. And it was really, it was kind of like a return to my outpatient days in a way because I did have much more access to parents and I would have sessions where parents were just in the session the whole time, or even my early intervention, you know, kids where I was like in the home actually working on stuff. So it was really nice, in a way. Pandemic aside.
Jayson Davies 43:38
Yeah. And so what do you think about this parent coaching model? is going to? Well, let's stay here, actually, first, do you think you're going to get more follow through because you're using a parent coaching model, as opposed to trying to directly work with that student over the computer?
Devon Breithart 43:55
Absolutely. I had kids who over the spring, like I had this one mom, at the end of our time together Tell me, you know, I was so worried when distance learning happened, I was really just worried that my daughter wasn't going to make any progress at all. And I was honestly worried that she was going to regress, and we were going to have to spend like, all this time just catching her up. And with OT, I feel like she actually made progress. Like, I feel like she's actually doing better than she was in the fall. And I completely agreed. And she was just one of many students that I felt that way about where it was like, Oh, you have this parent, like this person who cares so much about their kid on the other end of the call, you're training them to do these strategies that they can implement everyday with the students, you know, which is what we already tried to do is school based OT with paraprofessionals and teachers, but, you know, and not to speak badly of any of our parents or teachers, but no one's gonna love your kid as much as a parent loves their kid. Yeah. And those parents are gonna have that follow through in a way that's just not always possible to be there when a kid is just at school working with a pair or teacher.
Jayson Davies 44:55
Yeah, absolutely. I'm finding the same thing. Especially. I mean, like you said earlier, not every Family is in the situation to be able to do that. Not every parent can be there and give you their full attention. I completely understand that. But I have seen a lot of progress with those who were able to do that. So, yeah. Now, moving forward, as we are kind of getting to the point where some people are, are either back at school or heading back to school? How are you going to take that, and now potentially use it in your actual physical school building? Or do?
Devon Breithart 45:30
I think so, you know, even as my district is looking at heading back into a hybrid model, which, you know, over here on the west coast, I think we're taking things much more slowly and cautiously than a lot of other states, I know, there are some school based oaties, who are working fully in person right now. But at least for my purposes, I'm going to be hybrid, I'm probably going to be doing some sort of remote therapy for a while, at least till the end of the school year, if not into the next school year. And maybe that's let's not even think about that yet. Enjoy the summer and pretend that it's all going to be typical. Once we returned in the fall. I think even during providing remote therapy, you know, I do have some students now who are starting to return to school buildings, and they do have a pair of their supporting them. So you know, it's similar to, you know, there, there have been OTS offering teletherapy. In schools, even before the pandemic happened, that was just the way a lot of school districts while I won't say a lot, that was the way many school districts fulfilled their OT services, you know, again, it's those rural districts are those places that you have trouble recruiting, in person OT, they'll contract with some sort of teletherapy agency that provides a OT for them. And so being able to have the skill of like coaching a parent or coaching an adult, and being able to apply that to you know, a paraprofessional, working with a student, I think that's something that I'm still going to be really able to utilize this upcoming year. And then even beyond that, you know, I don't even want to say parent coaching, but just parent involvement. I feel like I was missing out on so many opportunities to involve parents, you know, previous to the pandemic. And now, especially seeing the progress that some of my students were able to make really did have that family support. I was like, Oh, my gosh, I should have done this, like I should have, I should have been calling parents at the beginning of the year, it should have been emailing the check in more regularly, I should have been asking for more updates at home or what they were struggling with. And it's not like I wasn't doing those things, you know, I was calling parents but it was more centered around their annual IEP is coming up or they're trying to do is coming up, how's it go. And so I think just in the future, I'm going to be contacting or trying at least to reach out to parents much more regularly even when we are fully in person.
Jayson Davies 47:30
Yeah, and you know, we hadn't planned to have this discussion near I mean, we're coming near the end. But I think that parents are going to be more involved than they ever have been. And education, or at least in a long time, because they have seen their kid sit in school for the last year now, they have seen what the teacher is doing in the classroom, they have seen what the OT is doing, they have seen what whatever other service is doing. And so they have a better understanding of what either A) is going great, or B) is not going so great. Ryan, so I think there's gonna be a lot more parent involvement just because of that, if nothing else, what are your thoughts?
Devon Breithart 48:09
Yeah, I totally agree. And I really hope that that can be the case, because again, like from what I've seen families that do have the time to be involved, like, it's been awesome. And it's really just like, I didn't even realize like how much I miss that parent contact from my outpatient days. That was the thing that I really enjoyed about outpatient was getting to have a parent there in the session the whole time. And I don't know, there's a lot you can do at school with teachers and paraprofessionals, and speech therapist and whoever else is on the IEP team at school. But until you really have that parent involvement, it's not going to come full circle, especially as we're thinking about transition age students. And after school outcomes, you really need to have that close family involvement to make long term change. And these students
Jayson Davies 48:50
couldn't agree more definitely. So as we start to wrap up, I do want to ask you, if someone's listening to this, and they're just blown away by the idea of being able to travel, provide therapy services all at the same time? What is your kind of 123 steps that they might want to start with?
Devon Breithart 49:05
Yeah, that's a good question. Um, so I would just start by researching travel therapy in general, you know, there's a lot of good resources online. I have a friend Julia Kuhn, who runs a website and a blog and a Facebook group called the traveling traveler. So that's a huge group. That's a great resource. If you're just kind of travel curious, but you're not quite sure yet. You're welcome to join. And she's got a lot of really good resources on just like, you know, what is travel and like how taxes work, and like, how do you even get started? Or like, what should I ask my recruiter, all those kinds of entry level questions, um, she's a great resource for that. And then I would start narrowing down. You know, once you get some recruiter recommendations from either your friends or maybe one of those big travel groups on Facebook, I would start narrowing down where you might want to go just keeping in mind that, you know, there's not always going to be a travel contract everywhere, but just have some general ideas in mind. And then once you start getting more serious about things if you are intending to go to a place has a very arduous licensing process. Maybe go ahead and get started on that license before you actually accept the contract.
Jayson Davies 50:08
Sounds great. So we're gonna wrap things up today. But I honestly just want to mention that, you know, you know, I have a course. But for anyone out there who isn't familiar with Devon, she also has a course that it's for school based occupational therapists. And so I want to give you a second to kind of talk about that.
Devon Breithart 50:26
Yeah, I mean, you know, I don't want to self promote too much, because I love this podcast. And I love your course. And I know your course is a great fit for school based OTS. And I really think that we created these courses, because we both had similar experiences in the school system, and really saw that lack of education and support and mentorship when we started as coaches in the school system. So my course is called the dynamic school OT. It's a good fit for, you know, OTS who are brand new to the school system. But I've also had several more experienced OTS take the course, which I have to admit, I'll be a little transparent, always makes me like a little intimidated and a little nervous. Because I've had some OTS who have been working in the school system for like, over 20 years, or over 25 years, take the course. And I'm like, Oh, no, like, this person who is obviously so much more experienced than me like, are they going to look at this and think, Oh, I know all this, or Oh, this is silly or whatever. But honestly, all the feedback I've received has been so kind. And it really gets deep into going beyond kind of that one to one treatment and looking at RTI and looking at Universal Design for Learning. And just looking at, you know, how you can change systems within school based practice. From a more global standpoint, where it's not just, you have this caseload that's unmanageable, and you have 70 students that you're supposed to see each week, and you are just drowning in paperwork and working off the clock. If anyone feels like that, I would love to have you in my course.
Jayson Davies 51:50
Absolutely, yeah, I agree with everything you just said. I've had, I've had that same exact feeling like oh my gosh, this person has like 10, 12, 15 years of experience as an OT, like, what are they going to learn from me? I've been, I've been an OT for eight or nine years. But you know what, we all have something to share. Yeah, I mean, a brand new OT is teaching one of your I mean, veterans, and vice versa. And we all have so much to share. I see so many of the updates that you're coming out with, you know, you're always working on new stuff. Kudos to you I am, I have no doubt that your course is amazing as well. So I
Devon Breithart 52:24
I feel the same about yours.
Jayson Davies 52:25
Thank you. So I just want to give you a second then to share if anyone wants to learn more about you, where can they go.
Devon Breithart 52:33
So I am probably most active on Instagram, that account is the dynamic school ot. So you can look that up. I do also have a Facebook group, also called the dynamic school ot. So pretty much anywhere. Any social media platform, you can find me there. I do have a website as well. But that website is actually going to be DevonBreithart.com So my first and last name calm. And you will probably need to put that in the show notes. Jayson. No, my name is both first and last name are hard to spell. But I'll post blogs and just other content related to school based OT there as well, if anyone wants to check that out.
Jayson Davies 53:08
Sounds great. And yeah, of course, all the all the links that we talked about will be up there, including the other. You talked about one of your friends, but by traveling travelers, we'll go ahead and throw that one up there as well. So be sure to check out the show notes for that. But yeah, I just want to again, say thank you so much for coming out of Devon, if I can say everything I'm sorry. Thank you so much. I appreciate having you on the show today. And yeah, I just look forward to staying in touch.
Devon Breithart 53:32
Yeah, it was so great to talk. Thank you so much.
Jayson Davies 53:34
Thank you Take care. Bye. All right, everyone that is going to wrap up Episode 68 of the OT schoolhouse podcast, I want to thank you. And I also want to thank Devon for coming on and talking about what it is to be in a travel therapy position. But not only that was so much more just talking about schools, talking about how to kind of use a more coaching model within the schools. It's just great to hear from her. And one last thing please do go ahead and check out OT schoolhouse.com forward slash conference to learn more about the back to school conference in August. Early Bird pricing that does end at the end of April. So be sure to check it out now. Take care and have a great OT month. Until next time, bye bye.
Amazing Narrator 54:17
Thank you for listening to the OT schoolhouse podcast. For more ways to help you and your students succeed right now. Head on over to otschoolhouse.com until next time, class is dismissed.