Travel Therapy: Working as an “Internal Traveler”

When considering US based travel therapy careers, there are a few different options for how therapists can become employed. Most travel therapists and other traveling healthcare providers work through staffing agencies who help them to find travel jobs anywhere in the country, with any type of facility (this is what we do personally and is by far the most common route). Some travelers choose to arrange their own contracts directly with facilities, which is called being an independent contractor (you can learn more about independent contracting here). A third option would be to work directly with a particular therapy company or hospital system as an “internal traveler” who only goes between the facilities that company has. For example, you could work at any location that a certain hospital system has, an outpatient physical therapy company, or a chain of skilled nursing facilities. Below we are featuring Lesley Sheeley’s story, a physical therapist who is currently working as an internal traveler, to help you learn more about this type of employment!


Background

Hi! I’m Lesley. I am a military brat and was born in Colorado Springs, but I primarily grew up in Warner Robins, GA. I went to the University of North Georgia in Dahlonega, GA where I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Athletic Training in 2017 and continued on to graduate with my Doctorate in Physical Therapy from UNG in 2020. 

I love to travel (duh), I also enjoy all things outdoors and CrossFit. It is not super uncommon to find me at a winery every now and then either 😉

After graduating as a Doctor of Physical Therapy in 2020, I took a position with Upstream Rehabilitation as an internal national traveler.

Upstream Rehabilitation is an outpatient orthopedic company with over 850 clinics across the United States. Some of the common clinic names you might recognize under the Upstream Rehabilitation “umbrella” are Benchmark, Drayer, and Serc Physical therapy.

My Why

I decided to take an internal traveler position as a new grad physical therapist due to it providing more stability and support than “traditional” travel positions through staffing companies.

With Upstream, I am able to remain in outpatient orthopedics, go through a 1-year mentorship program, have set documentation system, set salary, set benefits, and the opportunity to go permanent with the same company following my time as a traveler with them.

Perks to My Job

With Upstream, I make an average salary for a new grad in the Outpatient Orthopedic setting. I qualify for benefits such as loan repayment, 401k with matching, health/dental/vision insurance, and continuing education money.

Due to getting a full salary, the stipend is more of a set stipend rather than based off the area’s cost of living. So my income month to month remains the same no matter where I am working. The stipend is untaxed and follows the regulations of any other traveler stipend to help cover housing, meals and incidentals when I’m at my travel location.

Cons of Internal Travel

As an internal traveler, some cons compared with working as a traditional traveler would be:

  • I do not have as many options of locations
  • Cost of living does not always determine the amount of pay
  • I do not get to experience other settings

Logistics


Relocation: The company reimburses me for mileage to travel from one location to the next. I have been responsible for moving myself from A to B just like a traditional traveler. I pack everything in my car that I need to bring! The time moving between jobs has varied from a weekend to a week depending on the distance. If I had to take a longer time between assignments, I used my PTO through the company to cover that time and my annual salary remained unchanged.

Licensing: I do have to get licensed in each state just like a traditional travel therapist. The company pays for my licensing costs, and I take care of the licensing application process myself.

Housing: So far, I have found housing on my own for each location through people at the clinic I am going to, Furnished Finder, or Airbnb. I believe the company would help me if absolutely necessary, but I have gotten lucky with each one so far and have not needed their assistance!

Assignment Length: The time spent at each location varies based on the clinic needs. They aren’t the typical 13 weeks like for traditional travelers. My jobs have varied from 10 to 18 weeks so far.

My Experiences

So far I have lived and worked in:

  • 2 different clinics in Georgia
  • 1 clinic in Olympia, WA
  • Currently going between 2 clinics in Eugene, OR 
  • And I will be heading to Kansas City, MO next!

The locations are more limited and are determined by need. When originally hired, I gave a list of the states I was willing to go. Based off that list and the need in those states, they then offer me a position. If they offer a position I do not want, I am allowed to decline. There are not as many options, but still plenty to choose from in my opinion!

Switching clinic to clinic has been a wonderful learning opportunity as a new grad. I love to see the different ways clinics are operated, do scheduling, and treat patients. As someone who looks at going into leadership in the future, the experience is great!

I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to be an internal traveler! It has been a wonderful experience.


Thank you to Lesley for sharing her insights about being an internal traveler! If you have specific questions about internal travel therapy, please contact Lesley below. If you have questions about being a travel therapist in general, please contact us!

I am happy to answer any and all questions you may have! Feel free to email me at lesleysheeley@hotmail.com or message me on Facebook at Lesley Ashton Sheeley.

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