Why and How to Work with Multiple Travel Therapy Companies and Recruiters

Written by Whitney Eakin, PT, DPT, ATC

Understanding The Process

When therapists are looking at getting into traveling therapy, it can be challenging to learn the ins and outs and understand how it all works. If you’re new to travel therapy, you’ve hopefully already learned that you need to find a great recruiter and company to help you navigate the process of finding contracts and landing your dream jobs. However, did you know that you should be working with multiple companies and recruiters? We, as well as most other travel therapists you’ll talk to, recommend this. But why? And how does that even work? How can you work with more than one company? If you want to learn more, keep reading!

Why Do I Need Multiple Companies/Recruiters?

The answer: options! Not every travel company has access to the same jobs, so if you are working with only one company, you’re limiting your job options. This is especially true if you have a specific location or setting in mind, or if the market is particularly slow for your discipline, such as for PTAs and COTAs (and somewhat for OT’s) currently.

Why do different travel companies have different jobs? Facilities can choose who they advertise job openings to. Some staffing agencies (travel companies) have exclusive or direct contracts with certain facilities, that other agencies don’t have. Whereas, the majority of jobs are listed on a type of database called a Vendor Management System (VMS). All companies will have access to jobs listed on VMS’s. This is where you will see a lot of overlap in the job availability among different companies, but the outliers will be the exclusive or direct contracts each one has.

Besides job availability, another reason to work with multiple companies is that each company may be able to offer you different pay and benefits. Every company operates differently; depending on the size of the company and how they manage their budgets, some may be able to offer higher pay for the same job. Also their benefits can differ, including health insurance options (and start dates), retirement accounts (and when you can contribute), and additional benefits such as reimbursements for CEUs, licensing, and relocation. If you don’t work with multiple companies, you won’t ever know the differences and what benefits could be available to you with different companies. This is important to learn in the beginning when you’re first researching and talking to companies, but it’s also important during each and every new job search. Even if you tend to like the pay and benefits better with Company A, sometimes Company B might have a job that Company A doesn’t have. So it’s important to maintain communication with them both.

In addition to the differences in companies, there are differences in recruiters. It’s important, especially in the beginning, to work with multiple recruiters so you can find out which ones you like the best, as well as learn from them. Different recruiters may divulge more or less information about the process of finding travel jobs, the contracts, the pay, the benefits, etc. This is helpful for you from a business perspective. The more you can learn about the industry, the better off you’re going to be in your own career as a travel therapist. By working with only one recruiter, you’ll only ever know what that person tells you. You have no basis for comparison for whether this information is accurate or whether this is the best recruiter. You can also learn from the way that one recruiter/company does things and presents things to you, and compare that with the way another one works so you can ask better questions and grow professionally. All of these things can help you to find the best jobs, get the highest pay, and have overall the best experience as a travel therapist.

But, How Does it Work?

Okay so now you understand WHY you need to work with multiple recruiters/companies. But how?

So when we say “work with,” this just means maintain communication with them. You’re not technically working for them or an employee of theirs until you take a contract. So, the whole period where you’re searching for jobs, you are a “free agent.” You can be in communication with several different recruiters and have all of them searching for jobs for you.

We recommend initially you talk to 3-5 different recruiters and “interview them” to find out who you like. Here are some questions you may consider asking them to figure out who’s the best. Then narrow it down to about 2-3 that you like and would be happy working with/taking jobs with if the right opportunity arises. Then, you’ll need to fill out the necessary paperwork for each company, so that they are able to submit you for potential job offers. They’ll need some basic demographic information, your resume, usually a couple references, and sometimes even your CPR card and SSN in order to set up a profile for you that they can submit to potential employers. It’s important to understand that giving this information to 2-3 companies does NOT mean you are employed by them! They just need to have this information on file so that they can submit you to POTENTIAL job offers for interviews. So once you decide on your top 2-3 recruiters, don’t be hesitant to give them this information and fill out the necessary paperwork. Otherwise, they can’t submit you for potential interviews, which is the next step to getting you to your dream travel jobs!

Now, once you’ve got your 2-3 recruiters on the prowl for jobs for you, they’ll start letting you know when they see a good job that fits your search criteria. It’s important that you let them know you’re working with a few different companies, so they should not “blind submit” you to jobs. This means they should be asking you first (“There is a job in Tampa, Florida, start date 7/1, Skilled Nursing. Can I submit you to this job?”). When you’re working with multiple companies, it’s important that you don’t let them submit you to the same job, resulting in a “double submission.” (Although this is not the end of the world if it happens, it’s not ideal). If more than one of the recruiters has the same job offer, you need to pick which one you want to go with. Sometimes this comes down to which company can offer better pay or better benefits for the same job.

As far as communicating to the recruiters that you’re working with multiple, we always recommend being up front about this in the beginning. If you’re working with a good recruiter, they will understand this. If a recruiter gives you a hard time about working with others, this is not a recruiter you want to work with.

So, once you’ve been submitted to a couple jobs, maybe by a couple different recruiters, and you’ve had the interviews, then you may get an offer or more than one offer. You will decide then which job you want to take, based on how the job sounds, the pay package, the benefits etc. Once you’ve decided on a job, and you sign a contract, then you are now employed by that travel company that got you the job, just for the duration of that contract. This is when you let your other recruiters know that you’ve secured a position and are no longer searching, and no longer interested in the other potential job options they had for you. You let them know your end date for that contract, and when/where you’ll be looking for your next job.

While you’re on this contract and employed by this company, this recruiter will be your main point of contact. The company will manage your pay and benefits for the duration of that contract. But, you can still keep in touch with your other recruiters to let them know what you’re thinking for your next contract (“When I finish this job on October 1st, I’d like to take my next job in California.”) So as your contract nears its end date, you’re back on the market for a new job, and have no obligation to take the next job with the same travel company. You can switch between companies whenever you want.

How Do Benefits Work When Switching Between Companies?

Okay so this is always the next question. If you switch companies, what happens with your benefits? This can be the downside of switching between companies. This situation will vary company to company. It’s important to ask each recruiter how their insurance coverage works. Many will start on the first day of your contract. So if you finish up a contract with Company A and your insurance terminates on the last day of your contract, let’s say Friday- but then you start a new job with Company B on Monday, hopefully you’ll only go 2 days without insurance between jobs. However, if Company B’s insurance doesn’t start until day 30 or the first of the month, you’ll have a lapse in your insurance. Or, if you decide to take a longer period off between jobs, you’ll also have a longer lapse.

However, if you take your next contract with Company A (take two back to back contracts with the same company) and take a few days to a few weeks off between jobs, usually your insurance will carry over during the gap. This is a big benefit to sticking with the same company. It does vary by company the length of time they’ll cover you between contracts, but usually it’s about 3 weeks or up to 30 days.

There are some exceptions to this. There are a few smaller companies who have more flexibility in their agreements with insurance companies that will allow coverage to start before your job begins, or can extend coverage beyond your contract end date, even if you aren’t working for them during the next contract. But this is more rare, so you’ll need to ask around to find out if your travel company can do this.

To learn more about your options on insurance coverage, including using COBRA to manage lapses in coverage, check out this article on insurance as a traveler.

Besides insurance, another company benefit to consider is your retirement savings account, or 401k plan. This can be another downside of switching between companies, as many require you to work for them for a certain period before you are able to contribute to their 401k. This is the fine print you’ll need to look into if a company sponsored retirement account is important to you. Being eligible to contribute continuously to a 401k with your travel company may be a consideration that sways you to stay with the same company continuously.

There are some companies that allow contributions to 401k immediately, so it’s possible you could contribute to one during one contract, then another during another contract. In this case, you could be maintaining more than one 401k account. Then later, it’s pretty easy to roll them all over to an individual retirement account (IRA) that you manage rather than keeping different accounts with different companies.

Summary

So in summary, there are lots of benefits to working with multiple travel therapy companies/recruiters, but there are downsides as well. Most travel therapists, us included, will recommend you maintain communication with multiple to give yourself the most job options, help ensure the best pay, and learn the most about the industry to help set yourself up for success. However, this process can be challenging at times and does come with certain limitations when switching between companies during different contracts.

If you want to learn more or have questions, please feel free to contact us. If you’d like recommendations on travel therapy companies and recruiters we know and trust, we can help you with that here!

Travel Therapy Licensing Process

Written by Travis Kemper, PT, DPT with contributions by Whitney Eakin, PT, DPT, ATC


Licensing and housing are probably the two most frustrating and challenging aspects of being a travel healthcare professional. We will cover housing in future articles, but let’s dig in to the current state of licensing, and I’ll give an overview of how my wife Julia and I, as well as Jared and Whitney, have attempted to navigate licensing as traveling physical therapists thus far.

How Does Licensing Work as a Travel Therapist?

In general, if you want to work in a different state as a travel therapist, you need to get licensed in each individual state where you plan to work. There is a “PT Compact” license that has begun for physical therapists, which makes the licensing process much easier for those who are eligible for the compact. Some type of compact license is also in the works for occupational therapists, but has not been passed yet. But, with the exception of the small percentage of therapists that can take advantage of a compact (or multi-state) license currently, the rest of us have to take care of licensing the old fashioned way.

What does licensing entail? Generally, an application, a fee, sometimes a jurisprudence/law exam (usually can be taken online or sent in on paper, but some states require you to test at a testing center), sometimes fingerprinting, and sending in a lot of verifications including: school transcripts, original board exam scores, and verifications that your license is in good standing from all other states in which you are licensed.

In some cases, travel therapy companies can help with the licensing process. Generally, this means they will reimburse you for a license once you’ve obtained it yourself and have accepted a contract with their company in that state. Sometimes, they can help you with the licensing process up front, including paying some of the costs and doing some of the leg work for you. But this is usually only once you are already a current traveler of theirs and are looking into your next contract with them in a new state.

Our Approach to Licensing Thus Far

We certainly don’t have all the answers, and like housing, there are multiple approaches and techniques to the licensing process that can all be successful for different travelers at different times. As a couple, finding positions has generally been time consuming and difficult, and starting contracts when we want has been challenging. Our friends who travel solo have found it much easier to find positions in the states in which they are interested and in a more timely manner than we have.

At first, we decided to only look at quick license states, meaning that we could look for jobs in states that would allow us time to find the job first and then get the license second. Therefore, we would ensure that we were only paying for the license once the job was already secured, instead of wasting time and money getting licensed in several states without knowing if we would actually take a job there. This tactic was primarily because we were broke after grad school (I’m sure most of you can relate) and couldn’t afford to pay for multiple licenses out of our own pocket up front, with the hopes of taking positions in those locations and then getting reimbursed.

We started with our first license and job in Arizona, because that is our home state, and we were getting that license no matter what. Next, we went to South Carolina, because it was a quick license state.

A note about “quick license” states: They are quick once they get all your paperwork, but most still require paper verifications from your current licensed states, and this can be a very timely process in itself. Licensing makes me speak very negatively about our state governments when they take two weeks to print out and send a piece of paper that I paid them $15-$25 to send! In the case of South Carolina, our start date was delayed two weeks because of the license verification from Arizona.

After that fiasco, we became more proactive and decided to get licenses up front in West Virginia, Kentucky, Maryland, and Tennessee while on contract in South Carolina, so we would not have a delay again in starting our next contracts. This seemed like a great idea at the time, and we figured a couple thousand dollars we spent on these licenses could be recouped fairly quickly.

This once again turned out to be a losing plan, after taking two extra weeks to find positions, we finally accepted positions in New Mexico (notice New Mexico was not on the list of licenses we had!) and started that licensing process there due to not being able to even interview for any positions in the other states. Again, the other states where we were already licensed made getting this license expensive and time consuming. New Mexico also lost half of the documents that were sent in. Luckily, the staff there was actually helpful unlike other states (cough West Virginia cough), and after 8 hours on the phone, we were able to get our licenses pushed through even though they did not have all the physical documents that were required.

What We’ve Learned About Licensing

So, where are we currently with licenses and what have we learned? Well, as of this point we are back working in Arizona, and seeing as that is our home state, we will be keeping that license. We still have New Mexico and Kentucky, but will be letting Kentucky expire in March 2019 instead of renewing. We already let the rest of them expire instead of paying to renew them.

Right now we are in the process of getting our California licenses, because California is reportedly a gold mine for travel therapy couples, and it is a gorgeous state. The current plan is to hang out in California and Arizona until our home state of Arizona starts issuing compact license privileges, and then use the compact to be able to move around the country again.

You can find out more about the PT Licensure Compact here.

What About Jared and Whitney’s Experience?

So far, Whitney and Jared have had a little better go at licensing than us, for the most part. Similarly, they chose to start by working in their home state of Virginia. After that, they were methodical in their licensing choices, and chose to get licensed in advance in each state rather than wait until after they found jobs to get licensed. They always chose states based on trends of which states tended to have the most PT jobs, since they also travel as a couple.

They chose their next state, Massachusetts, based on seeing a lot of job options in that area, and that choice worked out well with them being able to find two jobs together for their desired start date after they were already licensed. Next, they chose North Carolina, for the same reason. They wanted to be in South Carolina, Georgia, or Florida ideally, but they were seeing a lot more jobs show up in pairs in North Carolina, so they went with that. And, that ended up being another good choice, with them able to start with two jobs in the same area right on time, after they were already licensed.

After North Carolina, they chose Illinois due to seeing a lot of jobs there in general, but this choice never quite panned out. They ended up letting this license lapse and never used it. For what ever reason, the timing wasn’t right and they weren’t able to nail down two jobs together in Illinois. Similarly, they got licensed in Arizona due to a high number of PT jobs, but so far the timing has not worked out for them to go to Arizona either. They plan to keep this license though and use it in the future.

So, their travels have been a little limited due to licensing restrictions, and they’ve only ended up working in Virginia, Massachusetts, and North Carolina so far in 3.5 years of being travel therapists. But, a big reason for this also is that they were risk averse, and did not want to waste a lot of money on licenses if they didn’t think they’d use them, so they’ve held off on some opportunities because of that.

They too are holding out for their home state of Virginia to start issuing compact license privileges, which will significantly open up their options. Otherwise, they plan to get one to two more licenses, including California and possibly Washington due to lots of PT opportunities in those states, making it more likely to find two jobs together as a pair.

Take Home Points

The licensing process can be challenging and frustrating as a travel therapist, especially when traveling as a pair. All of this is at least twice as easy if you are traveling as a solo healthcare professional, but you may still have some of the same challenges that we have faced.

In general, you have a few different strategies you can use to approach licensing, which include:

  1. Pick a state you think will have good job options, one at a time, and get licensed in advance. Have the license in hand, then start looking for jobs there.
  2. Look for jobs in quick license states, and then if you find a job, get the license there afterwards.
  3. Get a few different licenses up front to open up your options before starting to look for jobs.

Although this process can be cumbersome, it is still doable. Many therapists don’t have near the trouble Julia and I have had, especially those traveling by themselves. Jared and Whitney had a fairly easy time with licensing and job finding for the first 2+ years, and have only recently run into some hiccups. If you play your cards right, you’ll still have a great experience as a travel therapist, as long as you’re somewhat flexible and willing to go with the flow if setbacks do happen.

Let us know what strategies have worked or failed for you for licensing! We are always open to hearing ideas from fellow travelers. Have questions for us about licensing? Send us a message!

Questions to Ask a Travel Therapy Company and Recruiter

Written by: Whitney Eakin, PT, DPT, ATC


So if you’re looking into travel therapy, by now you may have figured out that you need to contact travel companies and decide who you want to work with. In general, we recommend therapists work with at least two to three companies, in order to give themselves the most job options. It’s a great idea to talk to a few different ones at first to get an idea of which recruiters you like and which companies you like. Once you’ve found a few good ones, you’ll have them as your main contacts when it’s time to look for jobs.

Just to clarify, having two to three you’re working with doesn’t mean you’re an employee or locked in yet! You’re only locked in once you take a job with one company, and then you’re just locked in for that assignment. After that, you’re back to being a free agent and can mix and mingle with all your recruiters for the next job search.

But what should you be looking for in these companies and recruiters? What questions do you need to ask them to find out if they’re any good? Are there red flags to watch out for with recruiters? These are questions we hear from many therapists who are just getting started looking into the travel world. So let’s dive in and cover some of the things you should consider and some questions you should ask!

Recruiters

*Ok some of these aren’t actually “questions to ask” more just things to consider!

  • Do you like them?
    • Yep, this is important, you should like them and get along well, because you’ll be talking to them a lot and depending on them to help you.
  • Are they responsive?
    • Getting back to you quickly via calls, texts, and/or emails is important, especially when it’s crunch time and you’re searching for a job!
  • Can you reach them after hours/on weekends?
    • We have to respect the recruiters’ personal lives and encourage them to have a work-life balance, but sometimes things come up outside of business hours (since, of course, we work during business hours too) and on weekends. It’s nice to know whether you can reach them by cell phone in case of an urgent situation.
  • Are they trustworthy?
    • You have to feel this one out a little over time, gauge whether they’re being open and honest with you, or whether they’re holding back information and being shady.
  • How much experience do they have?
    • Ask how long they’ve been a recruiter and how long they’ve been with that company. This may or may not be a huge deal breaker, because they’ve all got to start somewhere. But gauge how long they’ve been in the business, and if they’re newer, how much training they got and who trained them.
  • How many travelers do they work with at one time?
    • This can vary from 15 to 50 or more. Ask them how many they usually work with, and what happens if they feel like their desk is getting too busy and they have too many travelers.
  • Do they work with a team?
    • Some companies work as a team of recruiters, but most work independently. But figuring out who else is in the office and who covers for your recruiter if he/she is out is a good thing to know. Also building a relationship with the recruiter’s manager might not be a bad idea in case your recruiter is ever out.

Companies

  • What states/areas do they cover?
    • Find out what states and areas they staff, and if there are certain areas where they tend to have more jobs. Most agencies staff nationwide, but sometimes they’ll have more connections in a particular area.
  • Do they work with only therapists or other healthcare professionals too?
    • Some companies do only therapy, while others staff everything from nursing to imaging technicians. Typically, they will have different departments for different professions, such as have a separate nursing division that isn’t involved with the therapy division. Just something good to know and understand who your company and especially your recruiter specializes in working with.
  • Are they considered a “small,” “medium,” or “large” company?
    • This just helps you understand what their overhead is like and how that might affect pay, as well as how their company runs and their job availability. For example, a bigger company may have more jobs but lower pay; a smaller company may have less jobs but higher pay. But it varies greatly!
  • What are their benefits like?
    • You’ll want to compare the benefits packages for each company. Here are some key things to look for:
      • Insurance: When does it start? Does it carry over between contracts? What company is it with? Do they have different tiers of coverage? How much is taken out weekly from your paycheck?
      • 401k: Do they offer it? Do they offer a match? When can you start contributing? When does the match start? When is the match “fully vested”? (meaning, if you leave the company after 1 or 2 contracts, do you keep the match, or do they take it back?)
      • PTO: Is there any opportunity to build PTO?
      • Others: Do they offer any additional perks, such as life insurance, disability, etc.
  • Do they offer reimbursements?
    • Some companies offer reimbursements for things like state licensing, CEUs, and travel to/from facilities. However, some companies have this just come directly out of your pay package for that particular contract, so you really end up with the exact same amount of money, just divided up differently. Whereas some companies have a different department and budget allocated for these reimbursements, so while it probably affects the company’s overall pay to all travelers, it does not directly affect your paycheck on an individual assignment. So if they say yes they will reimburse, ask where it’s coming from.
  • Do they offer CEU access?
    • Some companies instead of reimbursing you for CEU’s will give you online access to CEUs via a website where they have a subscription, so you can earn CEUs online for free while on contract with them.
  • What does an average pay package look like?
    • It’s important to find out what a normal range is that they see for your discipline. For example, they might say anywhere from $1500-1800/week. You might want to see how they break this pay down as well, including what numbers they use for hourly taxable pay (Ex: $20/hr) and how they break down your stipend/per diem money (Ex: hourly, or weekly). This is all a little more advanced, but you’ll learn as you go along and work with a few different recruiters and see how they break things down.
  • Do they offer a 40 hour guarantee?
    • This may depend on the company itself or the client they’re working with (the facility). Find out if they can secure a 40 hour guarantee for your contract, and if so, what does it cover? Does it include only if census is low, or does it also cover holidays and clinic closures due to inclement weather?
  • Where do their jobs come from?
    • Do they have a lot of direct clients, or do they mostly rely on Vendor Management Systems (VMS)? This is also a little advanced, but it’s good to understand where their jobs are coming from. All companies will have access to the jobs on the VMS systems usually, so companies that rely heavily on that will tend to have most of the same jobs.
  • Do they “cold call” if they’re having trouble finding jobs for you?
    • This is an important thing for them to be willing to do for you if they’re unable to find jobs in the particular area you’re looking for. “Cold calling” means they’re willing to call around to facilities in the area or ones they’ve worked with in the past, regardless of whether they have any job openings listed at that time. This puts them, and you, ahead of the game and can dig up some good job options that may not be posted yet.

These are some of the key things we feel it’s important to consider and ask when looking into travel companies and recruiters. Many companies will be similar in terms of jobs they offer and benefits, so sometimes your recruiter will make a big difference for you. You want to find a couple of recruiters you really like and trust, and build a good relationship with them. This will help you to have a great travel experience!

If you’d like to know the companies and recruiters we recommend, please reach out to us and we’d be happy to help you!


Whitney

Author: Whitney Eakin, Doctor of Physical Therapy, Certified Athletic Trainer, and Travel Physical Therapist since 2015

Pursuing Travel Therapy in 2019

Written by Whitney Eakin, PT, DPT, ATC


Are you thinking about starting travel therapy in 2019? You’re not alone!

The start of a new year is a popular time to be thinking about pursuing travel therapy. New grads who wrapped up in December or those looking forward to graduation in May are considering travel therapy. Experienced clinicians looking for a change in career path are considering it too. Maybe you’ve been thinking about it for a while, but now’s the time to finally jump in!

New year… new you… new job… new travels!

If you’re considering starting a travel therapy career in 2019, here are a few tips to help you get started:

1. Contact a few travel therapy companies & recruiters.

  • You need to talk with a few to find out who you like best and who you want to work with. You should do some research online and ask around, but it’s most important that you talk with the recruiters yourself and find out who fits best with you! Ask about the company benefits, in what areas they have jobs, and what a typical pay package looks like!
  • You’ll want to work with 2-3 usually at the same time to give you the best options for jobs. Remember, “working with” or “talking to” several companies does not lock you into being an employee of that company. You’re only committed to them when you take a contract with them!
  • If you would like our recommendations for travel therapy companies and recruiters we know and trust, send us a message!

2. Start researching states where you want to work.

  • It’s important to look at the job market and see where you are likely to find the best job for you. Some states tend to have more jobs than others, and some states will have more jobs in a particular setting than others.
  • You need to find out about the licensing process for each state and get started on licensing for where you want to go!

3. Do your homework on pay packages and tax laws.

  • You want to be an informed traveler and make sure you’re not being taken advantage of when it comes to pay. You also need to understand your own personal tax situation, as your recruiter may not be the best person to give you advice on this.
  • To learn more about how pay works as a travel therapist, check out this comprehensive guide to pay as a traveler.
  • We also recommend you read up on tax laws pertaining to working as a travel healthcare professional at TravelTax.com.

4. Start thinking about the logistics!

  • There’s a lot that goes into being a travel therapist. Where will you live while on assignment? Do you understand what a tax home is and have yours all set? What will you bring with you? When is your anticipated start date, and how much time will that give you to get from A to B? Are you traveling alone, or with pets, or with a significant other?
  • This is an exciting, stressful, fun, and crazy time! There’s a huge learning curve when you first get started, but once you get the hang of it and embrace the lifestyle it’s an amazing journey!

Do you have questions about getting started on your travel therapy journey? If you would like to learn more, check out our Ultimate Guide to Getting Started as a Travel Therapist.

If you have any questions about travel therapy or need advice on getting started, please feel free to reach out to us! We are happy to help!

Wishing you the best of luck in your travel therapy adventures in 2019!

~Travel Therapy Mentors Whitney, Jared, and Travis

How to Find Travel Therapy Jobs

Written by Whitney Eakin, PT, DPT, ATC

Getting Started as a Travel Therapist

For those who are just getting started and looking into becoming a travel therapist, they often wonder how to find travel therapy jobs. The process can be pretty straightforward and easy sometimes. But, depending on your preferences, the process might look a little different and might be a little more challenging. Here I’ll outline how the process works and some routes you can take to best find the travel jobs that are right for you.

Working with Travel Therapy Agencies

The easiest way to find travel therapy jobs is by working with a travel therapy agency/company. There are hundreds of companies out there, and most of them will have access to many of the same jobs. However, each company may have individual connections with certain facilities or in certain areas of the country, allowing them to have some jobs that are different from other companies. Many jobs are offered through a “Vendor Management System” or VMS, which is a central database that lists jobs in a standardized format. Some larger companies may get “first dibs” to these jobs, then if they are not filled within a certain time frame, the jobs will be opened up to other companies.

It’s generally best to work with two to three different travel therapy companies at a time so that you can keep your options open for the best choices of job listings. You will find a lot of overlap in the jobs available, but sometimes there will be outliers. In addition, each company may be able to offer you a different pay package for the same job, based on the amount of overhead and other costs that the company must incur. You can better understand these pay differences by reading about how pay works as a travel therapist and what a travel therapy contract bill rate is.

By “working with” a few companies, this just means you are in communication with a few recruiters at different companies, and you’re having the recruiters search for jobs for you. They will probably have you fill out some paperwork for them so that they can build a traveler profile for you in order to submit you for jobs. By doing this with a few companies, you have not committed yourself to be an employee of that company. You are only an employee of that company once you have accepted a travel position with them and have signed a contract to work at a facility. Otherwise, you can be in communication with as many companies as you want and have profiles with all of them, but not be committed. While you can work with an endless number of companies, we feel about 2-3 is usually enough since more than 3 can start to become a headache when trying to communicate with each recruiter, and you likely won’t get much additional benefit from working with more than 3.

The Process of Finding Jobs with Travel Agencies

Once you’re in communication with one or a few travel companies, you need to make some decisions regarding your preferences. You have to decide about where you’d like to work, in what setting(s)when you can start, and how much money you’re looking to earn.

Based on your preferences, when working with a travel agency, the recruiter will notify you of jobs they have available. Sometimes they will be able to provide you a lot of details about a job upfront, sometimes not, depending what information is available to them. If they present you with a job, and you like it, they can “submit” your application/profile to that job for consideration.

Here are the things you need to consider when communicating with a recruiter and being considered for job submissions:

Location: Are you most concerned with the state you’re in, the region of the country, or a certain city? You usually need to already be licensed in a particular state before you are submitted for any jobs there, so you need to plan ahead. However, sometimes job listings will be posted far enough in advance to have time to get licensed in a particular state, if it is a short licensing process. Work with your recruiter and the state’s licensing agency to better understand how long licenses usually take for each state. This can be a tricky game of limbo, and in general we recommend being licensed in a state before allowing travel companies to submit your application for jobs there. Often, therapists will choose to be licensed in more than one state to allow them more flexibility with job options. For physical therapists, a “compact licensure” is in the works and has recently been enacted for certain states. If you are a PT and your home state is part of the “PT Compact” then you are in luck regarding your job options. Other disciplines may have the state compact licensure option in the future but not currently.

Setting: You need to let your recruiter know what your preferred setting(s) are, which ones you would consider, and which ones are a definite “no” for you. For example, you’d prefer inpatient acute, would consider SNF, but definitely could not do outpatient. Depending on your other preferences, including location, start date, and desired pay, you may have to be more flexible on setting. But for some therapists, setting is the most important, and the other factors are more flexible.

Start Date: You need to have a start date in mind and let your recruiter(s) know. Usually jobs are posted with “ASAP” start dates, which generally gives you up to about 4 weeks depending if the facility can wait and if another clinician interviews and could start earlier. Sometimes jobs will be posted with a specific start date in mind, usually no more than 2-6 weeks out. Rarely, you’ll see jobs that they know will be available 2-6 months in advance (for example if there is a planned maternity leave). But for the most part, when you’re about 4-6 weeks out from your desired start date is when you’ll start seeing jobs posted for that time frame.

Pay: You need to have an idea of your desired weekly pay. For example, many physical therapists will look for jobs somewhere around $1500-1700/week “take home pay.” This can vary highly across different regions, settings, and disciplines. You also need to take into account the weekly pay amount vs. the cost of living in a certain area. $1500/week is going to mean a lot more money in your pocket in rural Virginia vs. coastal California. Usually letting your recruiter know what a “minimum” pay would be for you will help them narrow down job options and avoid submitting you to jobs that are very low paying. However, some therapists will recommend you don’t give the recruiter a minimum pay number, because hopefully the recruiters will offer you the highest pay available for each position based on the bill rate, and not “low ball” you based on knowing you’ll accept a lower number. Again, this part can be a bit tricky and why it’s vital to have a recruiter that you get along well with and trust to not take advantage of you.

Once you’ve let the recruiter(s) know about your preferences, they will start the job search for you. They will notify you of a potential position, and ask if you would like to be submitted. You should avoid giving permission for the recruiters to “blind submit” you to any jobs. They should ask your approval first, to ensure that it is truly a job you’re interested in, so as not to waste your time, their time, or the facility’s time. In addition, you want to avoid being “double submitted,” or submitted to the same job by two different companies. If two companies present the same job to you, you can decide who you would like to submit you based on the pay package each company presents and the benefits they’re able to offer. If you do end up accidentally getting double submitted, it’s not the end of the world, and normally the facility will give you the choice of which company you’d like to take a contract through if offered the position, but it’s best to avoid if possible.

In addition to the recruiters searching for jobs for you, you may also be able to monitor their websites or search online for jobs, then ask the recruiter about those jobs. But generally speaking, the job listings on the travel company websites are usually not the most up to date, and the recruiter can let you know about the most up to date listings a lot quicker.

Finding Jobs on Your Own as an Independent Contractor

For most therapists, working with a travel company is going to be the easiest for finding travel therapy jobs and setting up contracts and benefits. However, some therapists choose to search for jobs on their own and set up their own contracts.

The perks to this may be that you can make more money by “cutting out the middle man” and you may be able to find some jobs that are not open to the travel therapy agencies. But do keep in mind that you will also lose out on company benefits such as health insurance, which will usually be a lot cheaper since the company gets a group rate. By opting for your own health insurance, you may have higher out of pocket costs, which should be accounted for in your bottom line. You also wouldn’t be able to contribute to a company 401k plan, although you may choose to set up your own solo 401k as an independent contractor, but there will undoubtedly be more work involved.

If you are able to find your own position by searching job listings online or by “cold calling” facilities, you may be able to negotiate a higher rate and negotiate your own contract terms. Sometimes this may be in the form of a 1099 contract employee or as a direct hire employee of the facility, but with a mutual understanding you may only be there a short time. Travis and his fiancee have done this recently for a contract, so if you would like more information on this route, please contact us here.

Conclusion

Generally the easiest way to find travel therapy jobs is by working with one or more (preferably 2-3) travel therapy companies and having them search for jobs for you. Be sure to work with highly regarded recruiters/companies in order to avoid falling prey to being low-balled with pay offers. Determine which aspects of travel jobs are most important to you between pay, location, and setting. You can occasionally get a great job that has your preference for all three, but usually you’ll have to settle on 1-2 of these so it’s important to determine what is most important ahead of time. You may also be able to find jobs on your own by doing online searches and cold calling facilities.

I hope that this information has helped you to better understand the process of finding travel therapy contracts. If you have more questions or would like our recommendations for which travel companies we work with, please reach out to us!

Beginner Contract Mistakes and Self Advocacy as a Travel Therapist

Written by Travis Kemper, PT, DPT and Whitney Eakin, PT, DPT, ATC

When therapists are beginning to look into travel therapy, it can be hard to understand both a travel therapy contract and what the expectations are for you while working as a contracted travel therapist at a facility. For many, it’s difficult to learn how to appropriately advocate for themselves both during the negotiating period and while on contract. Unfortunately for us as travelers, not all companies, recruiters, facilities, and contracts are the same. We’d like to think that companies and recruiters have our best interest at heart, but sadly that is not always the case. Healthcare, including travel therapy, is a business. And as such, there are many factors at play, from the facilities we work for, to the travel companies we contract with, to our recruiters and the other staff members at the travel company. This is one reason it’s important to “interview” several travel companies and recruiters in order to find the best recruiter to have in your corner. And, it’s important to thoroughly “interview” the facility during your phone interview.

In our field, many therapists, bloggers, and companies are working towards making the industry more transparent to help new and prospective travelers better navigate the world of travel therapy, without having to worry so much about “looking out for themselves.” We hope that websites such as ours can help therapists to be more aware of the business side of things and instill confidence in their negotiating abilities and advocating for themselves as employees.

For those of you who may be just starting out, we want to share with you some “rookie contract mistakes,” as remembered from us as experienced travelers, as well as how you can avoid these same mistakes. Do bear in mind that each traveler may have different priorities, among which pay may not always be the highest. So while negotiating pay is a big part of this, there are also many other factors to consider in building a contract that suits you and advocating for yourself while on contract.

1. Overtime Pay Rate:

Everything is negotiable in your travel contract, including your overtime rate. We almost all made the mistake of not negotiating for a higher overtime rate in our first contract, but you can learn from our mistakes. While in general you will hear that most facilities don’t want you working overtime as a traveler, we have seen for ourselves that many facilities either don’t mind or will allow overtime when it’s really necessary. For example, if the facility is very busy and they don’t have any other full time or PRN staff, such as in rural areas, they would rather have their patients seen and pay you overtime than not have the patients seen. Jared worked over 400 hours of overtime in less than three years when starting out as a travel therapist so overtime opportunities are definitely out there! Also, as we will cover later, as hourly employees when you work past 40 hours, you should be getting paid overtime and not working off the clock. And we know for a fact that many if not most travelers work over 40 hours.

In my (Travis) and my fiancee Julia’s first contract, we had an hourly rate of $20 and overtime rate of $30 (time-and-a-half of the hourly rate). We ended up working a lot of overtime in that contract, and at $30 per hour, which isn’t even a normal hourly rate for many permanent physical therapists, it was not worth it to be working overtime. Personally, I really don’t want to work overtime. I am happy with my weekly pay. Money is not the number one motivator for me, and Julia is significantly less motivated by money than I am. But for some, having extra pay in the form of working overtime might help them reach their financial goals. But because it wasn’t important to us, in our second contract, we said no overtime at all. This also didn’t work out perfectly, and I don’t recommend it. Strike two. We will cover the problems with this strategy later. The third time is a charm, right? For our third contract, we decided that if we were potentially going to work overtime, we were going to make it worth the hours we put in. We negotiated an overtime rate of $70 per hour in our third contract. This is how we suggest you approach overtime rates in your own contracts to make the extra hours worth your while.

Where did I get this number?  I talked to a permanent PT at the facility and found out that their hourly rate was $46.50, which would turn into nearly $70 in overtime. We probably could have gotten even more at this particular contract, but we were happy with the rate we negotiated.

2. Never work off the clock!

While not directly related to contract negotiation, we feel that it’s important to cover this topic here to make sure that other travelers and healthcare professionals in general are advocating for themselves. Not only is working off the clock unethical, but it is also illegal! Working off the clock can get you and the company in a lot of trouble legally. You need to be compensated for your time. If you are being pressured to work off the clock, you have to stand up for yourself, talk to your recruiter, and flat out refuse. This is where our second contract overtime strategy mentioned above failed us. The facility would not approve overtime, which caused Julia to feel pressured to work off the clock to get her notes completed. Don’t do this. If you are working, you need to charge the company for every hour you put in. Anything less is allowing yourself to be taken advantage of and disrespecting your personal time.

We have all seen so many travelers and permanent employees clock out and continue to work or do notes, or take notes home. While this may seem like it’s just “part of the job,” it’s not. If you are a traveler working as an hourly employee, you are paid for the number of hours you work. Of course, do not take advantage of this, and make sure that you are working as diligently as possible. But if the productivity expectations are unreasonable and you are not able to complete all work, including documentation, during your contracted hours, you should be compensated for the hours that you work beyond 40. If the facility is unable to compensate you for overtime worked, then your caseload or schedule needs to be adjusted accordingly so you can complete all required work during the 40 hours.

3. Productivity standards:

This is also an important point to cover when considering working as a travel therapist. Unfortunately, productivity standards are part of being a healthcare professional, and they certainly still apply as a travel therapist. Some report that productivity expectations have been more strict on a traveler, others more lenient, or others just equal to the permanent employees. When considering a travel position, you want to get an idea of the productivity expectations before signing a contract. This may be something you want to wait until toward the end of the interview to discuss. You never want to sound like you are not qualified to handle a caseload, but you also need to be realistic with yourself and the facility. Sometimes productivity is something that will actually be written into the contract and you will be held to, otherwise your contract could be terminated. Whenever possible, we don’t recommend you accept these terms. Most of the time, the productivity will be more of a verbal agreement and expectation.

If it’s a SNF asking for 90% or greater productivity for an evaluating therapist (PT, OT, SLP), consider if and how that will be manageable. Is there a therapy aid to help with transporting patients or other appropriate tasks, or are you going to be transporting patients, cleaning your work area, etc in addition to patient care? Is there a set schedule for patients to receive therapy, or will you have to find the patients yourself and deal with patient refusals, interrupting other staff duties, etc? Is a laptop or tablet provided to allow for point of service documentation, or are there only computers and wifi in the therapy room? If the facility operations are not conducive to your success and productivity, then a 90% expectation is undoubtedly unrealistic as an evaluating therapist.

Similar cases can be made in other settings including home health, hospitals, and outpatient clinics. It’s important that you understand what is a realistic productivity expectation for you and the setting. You should also get an idea of whether there is leniency on the productivity during extenuating circumstances. For example, one week your caseload may be higher than another week. Is the manager understanding that your productivity may fluctuate based on the clinic flow? It’s important that you discuss this with the facility prior to accepting a position. Many travel therapists will get themselves into a bad situation with unrealistic productivity expectations because they are afraid to speak up, which results in many therapists feeling pressured to work off the clock. Don’t make that mistake!

4. The difference between guaranteed hours and weekly pay:

On your contract, you may have a “guaranteed hours” line which may be 32 hours, 35 hours, 40 hours, etc. Realize that your quoted pay from your recruiter will be for 40 hours. If the facility and/or travel company is only able to “guarantee” 32 hours, you are better off to calculate your numbers based on the guaranteed hours so you can budget more effectively.

For example, if you’re expecting to make $1600/weekly after taxes if you work 40 hours, but you are only guaranteed 32 hours, you may only be getting a paycheck of $1280 some weeks if you only work 32 hours. Ask your recruiter for more specifics on how they calculate your paycheck if you only work the 32 hours. For example, do they deduct your full hourly pay and stipend pay, or just the hourly pay?

On the other hand, if your company guarantees a full 40 hours, make sure you understand how this works. Normally, this means that if you are unable to work the full 40 hours due to low census or the facility calling you off, then you will still get your full paycheck. However, if you do not work 40 hours because of illness or asking off for an appointment, going out of town, etc, then you do not get paid 40 hours if the time off is not the facility’s responsibility. Likewise, some companies don’t pay the full 40 hour guarantee if the facility is closed for a holiday or inclement weather, but some do. It’s important to ask your recruiter these questions so that everyone is on the same page!

5. Understand that per diem (stipend) rates can be based on hours.

We alluded to this above, that stipends can be based on the hours that you work. This is a subject that seems a little sketchy because these rates are supposed to be for your housing and meals, but a lot of companies will tie these reimbursements to the number of hours you work. This means they can decrease your per diems (stipend money) if you work less than the required hours stated on your contract. A lot of travelers get angry about this, and we see their point, but at the same time the travel company only gets paid if you work. Make sure to discuss this with your recruiter and read the fine print in your contract to understand how many hours you are expected to work each week.

6. Get time off requests written into the contract in advance.

Travis and Julia have taken time off in the middle of every contract so far. Some reasons they took off were to go to the APTA NEXT conference and to hang out at Universal Studios. Others may need to request time off for a wedding, a family vacation, or for holidays. It’s important that you clear these requests with your recruiter and especially with the facility before you sign your contract. You want to make sure the dates off are agreed upon in advance and written in black and white. Sometimes the facility may not be able to approve your request, but it’s much better to know that up front. If you have a wedding to attend, and the facility needs you to work those days, you may have to pass on that contract altogether.

What if something comes up and you need time off once you’ve signed the contract? Things happen, and most facilities understand this. For example, you may be sick, or a family emergency could arise, or you may need to schedule a routine medical appointment during your contract but don’t know the date in advance. If you know that you’re going to have something like a routine medical visit during your contract, but don’t know the exact date, try to discuss this with the facility at the beginning of your contract. Let them know you need one or two days off during the contract, but will have to let them know the date later on. Usually they are going to be understanding and allow you to take the day off, unpaid of course. Or, depending on the facility hours, they might be able to let you shift some hours during the week to make up for that time off. For example, work a weekend shift and take a day off during the week. But it all depends on the facility and is not guaranteed.

In the case of illness or family emergency, neither you nor the facility have much choice in this matter. Hopefully the facility will be understanding, and the travel company can just deduct or adjust your pay accordingly. Sadly, there have been cases where the facility was not accommodating, and in rare and serious cases, some travelers have terminated their contracts due to a family emergency. Do know that these are circumstances where it may be completely reasonable for you to end a contract. On the other hand, if you have personal matters that cause you to miss too much work that was not previously agreed upon, the facility does also have the right to terminate your contract in that case.

 

These are a few key points that we wanted to cover about contract negotiation and self advocacy as a travel therapist, from our personal experiences as travelers as well as the problems that other therapists that we have talked to have encountered. If you have questions about a contract, the negotiating process, or self advocacy as a travel therapist, please feel free to reach out to us and we can offer advice based on our experiences!

Understanding a Travel Therapy Contract

Written by Travis Kemper, PT, DPT — Jared Casazza, PT, DPT — Whitney Eakin, PT, DPT, ATC

Important Aspects of a Travel Therapy Contract

If you’re like us, and most people we know, you rarely read an online contract or terms of service; just blindly hit the accept button online and assume all the legal rambling for your credit card and other contracts is just the normal stuff. However, you’ll want to get in the habit of making sure you analyze a travel therapy contract since it is much more important. Your contract is your protection, so you want to make sure it says what you want it to say. This is always the document to fall back on if any problems arise with either your travel company or the facility at which you’re working. Luckily, in our experience, these contracts are pretty short (only a page or two) aren’t filled with tons of legal nonsense and we can help you to understand exactly what everything means.

Here are the most important aspects:

  1. Start and end dates: Seems straight forward, but always make sure to double check that it’s the contract length you agreed on and the dates that you desire. Then make sure to mark your calendar accordingly. We’ve seen a traveler and the facility have different assumptions regarding start/end dates which led to significant confusion, and ultimately the traveler being cut out of work mid-week without a plan.
  2. Pay: Make sure your hourly pay and stipends are what you agreed upon with your recruiter. We have caught errors before, and it’s doubtful that that the recruiter/company had any malicious intent. Things happen, mistakes get made, and you want to find those mistakes before you sign a contract and are stuck with something other than what you thought you were agreeing to. Also, you want to check your pay breakdown according to IRS and GSA guidelines. Check out this post on pay to better understand how pay packages work and details on how to calculate exactly what your take home pay should be after taxes.
  3. Required time off (if applicable): We often build vacations and long weekends into our contracts in advance, so it’s agreed upon by us, the travel company, and the facility. This also applies to holidays or special occasions for which you plan to return home (weddings, graduations, birthdays, etc.).
  4. Cancellation policy: This is the policy that allows you, or the facility, to terminate the contract. Generally it’s going to be either two weeks or 30 days notice. This provides you security in case the facility cancels your contract, so you can make arrangements regarding living situation and finances. Ideally we recommend to always push for 30 days notice on any contract so that if the facility needs to end your contract early for any reason you’ll have time to find another assignment before the 30 days is up.
  5. Guaranteed hours: We all have always had guaranteed hours in our contracts, and we love that security. If your facility gets slow or has low census and needs to cut hours, you have the security of a guaranteed salary, so your pay is never in question. Sometimes the facility will guarantee 40 hours, sometimes only 32, but either way, that gives you a guaranteed base salary to budget with. A 40 hour guarantee is the ideal situation and should be pushed for in most cases. 40 hour guarantees on every contract for Jared has led to thousands of dollars of free money due to being paid for hours that weren’t actually worked for things like low census, holidays, and inclement weather!
  6. Overtime Pay: This is one that we all learned the hard way. With your decreased taxable hourly rate as a traveler also comes a decreased standard overtime rate. You can, and we recommend you do, negotiate a higher overtime rate that makes overtime worth your while. Personally, as a PT, we ask for a minimum of $45/hour but have often been able to get rates of up to $70/hour. Either way, make sure you at least get a rate that makes it worth your time. Most of the time, the facility won’t want you getting overtime as a traveler anyway, but Jared has worked over 400 hours of overtime in less than three years, so it definitely isn’t unheard of and can mean a lot of extra money when available. The bottom line with overtime is that if you agree to work overtime, you want to be compensated accordingly and negotiating a higher rate makes that possible.
  7. Reduced Hours Fee: You shouldn’t need to worry about this if you have 40 hours guaranteed, but if you don’t have guaranteed hours, or the guarantee is less than 40 hours, this statement says that the travel company can decrease your housing and per diem pay. You want to watch out for this if you don’t have guaranteed hours and be aware when making a budget that your pay could be lower if census drops at some point.

We hope this helps you better understand a travel contract and gives you some insight on things to watch out for so that you don’t make some of the mistakes that we did when starting out.

Is there anything we are missing? Feel free to send us a message or comment below letting us know! Also, if you want help understanding your travel contract, send us a message here and we will gladly take a look for free and see if we can offer some advice!