How Do You Find the Best Travel PT Companies?

Finding the Best Travel PT Companies

One of the most common questions we get regarding travel physical therapy is which companies we work with and which travel companies are the best. Surprisingly, we’ve even gotten this question more often than questions about travel PT salary recently. Most new or prospective travel PTs don’t realize that there are well over 200 travel therapy companies out there. With that many different choices, there’s no way to interview them all, much less pick one or two that are better than all the rest in every situation. That’s certainly not to say that there aren’t some that are better than others.

When Whitney and I first started traveling as new grad PTs in 2015, there was very limited information about the travel therapy industry available. Even with limited information, we did our best to find a few good travel companies to work with by word of mouth from current travelers. While that was certainly better than picking companies randomly from a Google search or signing up with a travel company at a conference booth, we quickly found that some companies and recruiters that were recommended to us weren’t very good. The reason for this wasn’t that the travelers we talked to didn’t have our best interest in mind, it was simply because they had limited experience with various companies. When you’re trying to find your first travel job, you only have so much time to put into finding good companies and recruiters, so most travelers pick a couple and then end up sticking with those same ones for their entire travel careers. They may like them well enough, but their perspective is understandably limited. So, the best recruiter and company that they have worked with may very well be in the bottom half of all the options out there. Add to this the fact that current travelers are incentivized to recommend the recruiters that they work with in order to receive referral bonuses, so they’ll often highlight the positives and overlook the negatives of their recruiters and companies. The result of these issues combined are a lot of bad recommendations being given to new travelers!

The Problem with Taking Travel PT Company Recommendations from Current Travelers

Whitney and I were not only impacted by this with the recommendations that we got for ourselves initially, but also when we gave recruiter recommendations to friends and acquaintances during our first couple years as travelers. Once I started writing articles on our original blog FifthWheelPT and gradually built a following, I started to get frequent questions about which companies I’d recommend. Being a new traveler, the only companies and recruiters that I knew of were the few that I had interacted with, so I started sending everyone to them. After all, why not? They had found Whitney and I jobs, been pretty decent, and they would also give me a bonus for sending people to them. It sounded like a win-win. The issue was that once I started branching out and talking to other companies, I realized that a couple of the initial companies/recruiters that I worked with either didn’t pay very well, weren’t very responsive, or were lacking in other ways. In short, they certainly weren’t the best travel PT companies.

It was then that I realized the flaws in the travel company recommendation system laid out above. Here are those flaws:

  1. New and prospective travelers don’t have tons of time to interview dozens of companies and recruiters to find a good fit.
  2. Since they don’t have the time, they rely on current travelers that they know to recommend companies and recruiters to them.
  3. Current travelers are incentivized to recommend companies and recruiters that they work with, even if they aren’t the best.
  4. The new traveler takes those travel PT company recommendations and begins working with subpar companies, and since they don’t know any better, they may or may not be happy with the choice.
  5. The cycle repeats itself when the following year new prospective travelers look for advice and get recommended those same companies/recruiters from the previously new PT, who is now incentivized to recommend them as well.

What’s the Solution to Finding the Best Travel PT Companies?

I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out ways to avoid this cycle.

It drove me crazy over the years having travelers reach out and ask me questions, only to find that they had been being severely low balled or taken advantage of by their travel company, simply because they didn’t know any better and the company had been recommended to them. These situations are what give travel physical therapy a bad name. Those travelers have a bad experience with a recruiter that is not only paying them a low travel PT salary but also pushing them to take jobs that are not a good fit for them. They end up quitting travel PT after only a couple of contracts and telling other PTs to avoid travel as well. We talked to many of these therapists when starting out as new grad travel PTs, and they really made us second guess our decision for a while. That’s a shame, because with all the talk of burnout in the physical therapy world, I think that travel PT can be a solid choice for many new grads to avoid burnout.

Unfortunately there is no easy solution, and there certainly is no best travel PT company for everyone. They all have their pros and cons depending on desired setting, location, benefits, and pay. That is a major reason why we decided to start this website. We realized that individual travelers can’t put in all the effort to talk to dozens of companies to find which ones would be a good fit for them, but we could. Then when prospective travelers contact us looking for the best travel PT companies for them, we can ask them questions about their needs and desires, and then do our best to match them with a few companies/recruiters that should work well for them. Since starting this website, we have interviewed several dozen companies and recruiters to do our best to find which ones would be best for various different scenarios. We are now able to give recommendations with a much broader perspective than we possibly could have after only a couple years of being travel PTs and working with just a handful of recruiters.

Ways to Find the Best Travel PT Companies: Ranked from Best to Worst

#1 (Top Choice)

Take recruiter recommendations from a service that has put in the time to interview many different companies to find which ones are great and which ones are not.

We have spent a lot of time finding some of the best ones so that you don’t have to keep searching!

 

#2

Get recommendations from an experienced traveler (3+ years). Even though an experienced traveler has probably not interacted with tons of companies over the years, they will still have much more knowledge about the industry than a new traveler. And they have likely changed companies at least a few different times, which gives them more insight into what to look for in a good recruiter and company.

 

#3

Get recommendations from a new traveler that you know (0-3 years). This is certainly better than picking a company at random, since hopefully you can trust that person to not recommend someone that has been bad for them. But, it’s important to recognize that they will likely have a very limited perspective and will just be recommending to you the same companies/recruiters that were recommended to them.

 

#4

Use Google searches and job websites to find reviews for various companies and research them yourself. You can sometimes find good companies this way based on reviews, but you’re limited by the names that you know to search for, and there are also limitations to reading through various good/bad reviews. The biggest issue here is that even if you find a great company, you don’t know if the recruiter you get set up with is good or not. The recruiter can really make or break your experience with a company, not only in terms of communication, but also in terms of pay as we’ve found out over the years.

 

#5

Go to PT conferences and talk to different recruiters and companies to find a couple that you like. This can work, but you have to remember that recruiters are salespeople and your initial conversation often sounds wonderful. They’re trying to sell you on their company and themselves as a person. That initial conversation doesn’t tell you anything about how good the company really is, or how responsive that recruiter will be when it really matters. Also, what often happens is you get signed up for call lists that are nearly impossible to get off of!

 

#6 (Last Resort)

Rely on advertisements for travel companies and cold calls from recruiters. This is the worst. Not only does this almost ensure that you won’t get a good recruiter, but often the companies that spend the most on advertising and marketing pay the least! We’ve found this repeatedly over the years. Typically, recruiters making cold calls are either not very good recruiters, or are new, which can be hit or miss. The best recruiters get plenty of business from referrals and have no need to call random people to try to drum up business. Stay away from ads and cold calls!

 

Other Considerations when Finding Travel PT Companies

We’ve learned a lot over the years about the travel industry and how it works. Here are a few other considerations that you should pay attention to as a new travel therapist looking for the best travel PT company:

  1. It is vital to work with more than one travel PT company/recruiter on each job search. The main reason for this is so that you have the largest number of job options available to you to find a job that seems like the best fit for you. This is especially true for new grad PTs. Another reason is that this introduces some healthy competition between the recruiters that you’re working with and makes them more likely to give you their best pay offer right off the bat. Recruiters are only paid a commission if you take a job with them, so if they know that you will be getting offers for jobs from recruiters at other companies as well, then they know if they try to low ball you on pay then they’ll likely miss out on landing a job for you.
  2. Even if you find the best recruiter ever, that doesn’t mean they will always be good. You see, recruiters are people too that have things going on in their lives, and personal issues can easily lead to a recruiter being less responsive or spend less time job searching for you. In addition, good recruiters can quickly become very busy from word of mouth and referrals, and the more busy they become, the less time they have to spend on each individual traveler. We’ve had this happen several times over the years.
  3. Some recruiters and companies really shine in certain areas, but fall short in others. This is a major reason why taking company recommendations from current travelers with limited experience can lead to issues. For example, you might get suggestions from a traveler that is a school based PT and has found a company that has found them consistent contracts in that setting. You, on the other hand, might be a die hard outpatient PT (like me), and maybe that company has very few jobs in the outpatient setting. Most recruiters aren’t going to tell you upfront that they don’t have as many jobs as other companies in a certain area because they want your business. This can mean that you get strung along and eventually placed in a less than ideal situation once you become desperate and settle. Avoid that!

Bottom Line on Finding the Best Travel PT Companies

Unfortunately there is no one “best” company or even a few best companies since so much depends on your unique situation. Taking recommendations from current travelers is certainly better than choosing companies/recruiters at random, but it can lead to a lot of issues since the traveler is incentivized to recommend companies that they work with whether they’re truly above average or not. This becomes obvious when you see the majority of brand new travelers on Facebook and Instagram raving about their recruiters and companies and offering to give their info out to anyone that wants it. Not only are they incentivized to recommend the ones they work with, but they also have a very limited perspective to know what a good or bad company/recruiter actually look like. Even if their recruiter and company truly are amazing, that doesn’t mean they will be the right fit for you with your unique needs! This is an issue with no easy solution, but we’re doing our best to methodically interview companies and recruiters to find the best travel PT companies for many different situations to give more informed recommendations.

If you want us to help you in your search for companies and recruiters, then fill out this questionnaire and we’ll match you with a few based on your situation!

If you have any questions about this topic or anything else travel related, check out our other articles as well as our weekly Facebook Live videos! If you don’t find the answer to your question then contact us!

 

Written by Jared Casazza, PT, DPT

img_8842

What is Travel Physical Therapy?

Did you know that you can get paid to travel for work as a physical therapist (PT)? In fact, physical therapist’s assistants (PTA), occupational therapists (OT), occupational therapist’s assistants (OTA), and speech language pathologists (SLP) can all get paid to travel!

Maybe you’ve heard of travel therapy (or travel nursing) before, but don’t really understand what it is or how it works. Travel physical therapy (“Travel PT”) and other travel therapy careers are growing in popularity, and for good reason, as it is actually a very accessible and lucrative career path.

Keep reading if you want to learn more about the basic ins and outs of travel physical therapy (and other disciplines!), and how you can get started!

 

What Is Travel Therapy?

Travel therapy is a career option for PTs/PTAs, OTs/OTAs, and SLPs/SLPAs allowing them to work temporary, short-term contracts while moving around to different facilities all over the United States. The length of each contract varies from a few weeks up to a year, but the most typical travel therapy contract length is 13 weeks (3 months). Travel therapists work at facilities that need a temporary employee for various reasons which could include: a temporary medical leave, a seasonal increase in caseload requiring increased staffing, or a short term staffing need while trying to hire a permanent employee.

Why Choose Travel Therapy?

There are many benefits of choosing a career in travel therapy. Financial gain is a major reason many therapists choose to travel, since travel therapists typically earn a higher income than permanent therapists. Another perk of choosing travel therapy is being able to explore new areas of the country and experience new adventures. Therapists can also gain experience in new practice settings, learn new skills, and meet new friends and co-workers. Plus, travel therapy can afford therapists significant lifestyle flexibility, as they can choose to work when they want to and take off from work when they want to. For example, we have been able to work only one or two 13-week contracts per year, while taking 6 months or more off from work each year to travel around the world for leisure!

For more on our domestic and international travel adventures, check out our travel physical therapy blog

How Does Travel Therapy Work?

There are different ways that a therapist can become a traveler, for example by working through a travel staffing company, working as an independent contractor, or working as an internal traveler through a particular medical system. The most common way is working through a staffing company, often referred to as a “travel company.”

Travel therapists, especially new grad travel therapists, often ask, “Which is the best travel company?” The truth is that there are well over 100 different travel companies out there, and they all have their pros and cons. Each travel therapist has their own unique situation and needs that will influence which travel company is best for him/her. Finding the ideal travel company for you can be difficult, but it helps to get individualized recommendations based on your situation.

If you’re wondering which travel company to choose, send us a message and we’ll give you personalized company recommendations based on our experience!

When working through a travel company, the therapist’s primary point of contact is the recruiter. Your recruiter helps you find travel therapy jobs, assists you throughout the process, and is a resource to you during your contract. The individual recruiter you work with can make or break your experience with a particular travel company. It’s vital to find a great recruiter at any company you choose to work with in order to have a successful travel therapy career. You want to search for a recruiter that is personable, trustworthy, attentive, and understanding. Unfortunately there are many recruiters out there that are willing to low ball travel therapists on pay and push therapists into a bad situation just to make money off of them. Be sure to choose wisely and reach out if you need help!

Travel therapists should communicate with more than one company in order to have the most job options, because not all companies have access to the same jobs. This also introduces a bit of healthy competition between recruiters, which discourages low ball pay offers that I mentioned earlier. Since the recruiters are working to get your business and are aware that you have other options, they are much more likely to present the therapist with the highest pay offer possible in order to not lose out to a different recruiter/company. Therapists are free to work with as many companies as they want, and they are only employees of one company during the length of one contract. There are no binding commitments to stay with one company for a certain length of time. Travel staffing companies are simply there to help you through the process and offer positions for you to pursue.

Travel therapists have a choice to take as many or as few contracts as they wish. They can work one 13-week contract, then decide they want to take a permanent job after that, or they can continuously work travel contracts for their entire careers, with short or long breaks between jobs. They also have a choice as to where they would like to go and when they would like to work. However, finding a position depends on the jobs that are available and the timing. Therapists have three major factors to consider when searching for positions: location, setting, and pay. The more flexible therapists are on these factors, the more job options they will have. If they are too particular, for example only willing to work in one setting and in one state, there will be less job options and may lead to extended periods of unwanted time off.

How Much Money Do Travel Physical Therapists Make?

Travel physical therapy salary is a major concern for many prospective travel PTs. This is no surprise with the massive amounts of student loans that many new grad physical therapists begin their career with these days! Travel physical therapists can sometimes make up to double what a permanent physical therapist would make! Similarly, travel OT’s, SLP’s and assistants can make quite a bit more than permanent therapists in these professions.

A typical weekly pay for a Travel PT would be between $1500 to $1800 after taxes. This is the equivalent of a permanent gross salary of over $120,000 in many cases! Some travel physical therapy jobs can pay as high as $2,000/week after taxes, although these jobs are usually on the west coast and in the home health setting. Travel SLPs and Travel OTs make similar weekly take home pay, while assistants can expect to make between $1100-1300 per week after taxes.

Travel therapist pay works a little differently than salary pay. Typically the travel therapist will be paid an hourly rate, plus a stipend for housing, meals and incidentals. The stipend is not taxed, as long as the therapist meets the IRS requirements for maintaining a proper tax home and traveling away from that tax home. Since part of the pay is untaxed, the net amount that the travel therapist keeps is much higher than with a permanent, salaried position. The bottom line is that a travel physical therapist salary, when working consistently throughout the year, is very high, and that is even the case for new grad travel physical therapists!

In What Settings Do Travel Therapists Work?

The most prevalent travel physical therapy jobs are in Skilled Nursing Facilities and home health, followed by outpatient and acute, then schools. Specialty settings such as pediatrics, neuro, and women’s health are less common to see for travel physical therapists. Skilled Nursing and home health are by far the most common for Travel PTA’s and Travel COTA’s. Travel OTs and Travel SLPs most often work in Skilled Nursing, acute, home health, and schools.

Do You Have to Be Licensed in Each State?

When moving to a new state to work as a travel therapist, you must have a license to work in the new state. Traditionally, therapists apply for licensure in each individual state in which they plan to work. Currently, physical therapists in some states are eligible for an an interstate licensure agreement called the “PT Compact” which makes licensing easier between states. Hopefully in the future, all 50 states will participate in this agreement, which would be a huge perk and make life much easier for travel physical therapists! Occupational and speech therapy organizations are in the process of working on this type of compact licensure as well, which would greatly benefit Travel OT’s and Travel SLP’s.

Do Travel Therapists Receive Benefits?

When therapists take travel contracts through a staffing agency, they become employees of the staffing agency, just like the recruiter with whom they’re communicating. During that contract, they are eligible to receive benefits (including health insurance, liability insurance, 401k, etc.) through the staffing company. They would maintain these benefits as long as they are on contract, and the benefits would carry over to the next contract and during short breaks between contracts if the therapist takes the next contract with the same company. If, however, the therapist switches companies, the benefits would change and switch to the new company.

If therapists choose to work as independent contractors, or choose to decline the benefits from the travel company, they would be responsible for maintaining their own benefits. For more information, check out this article explaining how benefits work as a travel therapist.

What About Housing?

There are many options for housing as a travel therapist. The staffing agency can help you set up housing, however it is often better to set up your own housing. If they set up your housing for you, they will not pay you a housing stipend, and your weekly pay would be reduced. If you opt to set up your own housing, they will pay you the tax-free housing stipend, and you are responsible for making your own housing arrangements.

There are a variety of ways to go about searching for short term housing as a travel therapist. Some real estate agencies and apartment complexes allow short term housing arrangements. Therapists can stay in extended stay motels, or many therapists choose to use sites such as Airbnb, VRBO, Furnished Finder, and Craigslist to find short term housing. Some travel therapists choose to stay with friends or family, or search Facebook communities to find housing options using their peer groups. You can also contact the facility where you would be working and ask if they have any housing leads. Others choose to live in an RV and stay at campgrounds, like we did for several years! Finding short term housing as a travel therapist can be a hassle, but there are many options!

Is Travel Therapy Limited to the United States?

The typical travel therapist is licensed to work in the United States and takes contracts within the United States or the US Territories.

Therapists who are trained outside of the US can pursue travel therapy within the US, but there are more regulations and hoops to jump through, so often this is not an easy career path. It is generally recommended that foreign-trained therapists apply for their work visas within the US at a permanent position prior to pursuing travel contract positions.

US-trained therapists who would like to travel for work outside the US will encounter similar challenges. It is possible to arrange short term travel contracts in another country, but it is certainly more challenging and not the norm. US therapists may have more success applying for a work visa in another country and applying directly to a certain facility to work there, rather than searching openings to try to obtain short term contracts.

How Do I Get Started?

If you’re interested in getting started as a travel physical therapist or other travel healthcare professional, check out our guide to starting your travel therapy career to learn what steps to take.

If you’d like our recommendations on travel therapy companies and recruiters that we’ve had a good experience with, fill out this form and we will send you personalized recommendations for your situation!

To learn even more about travel therapy, you can visit the other articles on our Travel Therapy Mentor website, and check out some of our own personal stories on our travel physical therapy blog “Fifth Wheel Physical Therapist.” Feel free to send us a message if you have more questions about pursuing a travel therapy career!

 

Written by Whitney Eakin, PT, DPT, ATC

Whitney Eakin headshot

Top 5 Things to Avoid During Your First Travel Therapy Contract

Written by Whitney Eakin, PT, DPT, ATC

Starting your first travel therapy contract is an exciting time, but there are definitely a lot of factors to consider when choosing your first contract, and mistakes to avoid once you get there! Since we covered choosing your first job recently, now we want to cover things to consider when you’re working at your first travel placement! These things apply both for new grads and experienced clinicians starting travel therapy for the first time. Some of these do have to be negotiated in advance as well, and they will come into play once you start working!

Productivity

Productivity is a dreaded word in healthcare. But, unfortunately, it is a part of our jobs as healthcare professionals. It’s important that you ask about the productivity expectations during your phone interview for the travel therapy job and consider whether the expected productivity is reasonable and realistic.

This will look different based on your discipline and setting. For example, for a SNF placement, the expectation could be anywhere from 75-95% (or potentially even higher with the new Medicare Patient Driven Payment Model changes on the horizon)! We urge you to consider whether the suggested productivity expectation is doable if you remain within ethical and legal guidelines. In general, we feel anything close to 90% or above is not realistic, especially for an evaluating therapist (PT, OT, SLP). In most cases, 85% is probably the max we would accept. For an outpatient physical therapy clinic, you might be looking for how many patients per day or per hour you are expected to see. In our experience, for an 8 hour day, between 10-14 patients is what we feel comfortable with. But, the therapist’s ability to meet these productivity standards in any setting is going to depend heavily on how the clinic is set up and how it operates.

When presented with a productivity standard that sounds high, we would encourage you to have a discussion with the manager or interviewer. Find out how the facility operates on a daily basis to help you decide if the productivity will be achievable. Are there techs or aids to assist with ancillary tasks such as setup/cleanup or patient transport? If it’s an inpatient or home health setting, is the productivity weighted based on what type of patient session is performed (evaluation, treatment, discharge, etc.)? When are the full time therapists able to complete their required documentation throughout the day? These are all important things to consider and ask during your interview.

In general, we don’t recommend you sign a contract that has the productivity standard written into the contract. This happens sometimes with SNFs, and sometimes they try to use this to say that if you drop below the written productivity, they can deduct your pay. If possible, avoid taking contracts like this, and if you see it written in a contract, talk to your recruiter to get it removed.

Once you’re on the job, be aware whether the productivity, and the various factors that affect productivity, are in line with what was discussed (and promised) during your interview. Is the clinic what you were told it would be, or is it totally different? Are you being asked to suddenly meet unrealistic productivity standards? Are things like the documentation system, support staff, and scheduling conducive to you being able to meet the productivity?

As a travel therapist, you are generally expected to be able to “hit the ground running” without much ramp up time. Sometimes facilities are able to provide more or less ramp up time or training than others, it just depends on the contract. But regardless of these expectations, you have to be honest with yourself and your supervisor. If the productivity expectations are not reasonable enough for you to meet them within your regularly scheduled hours, you need to stand up for yourself as a healthcare professional. Don’t let anyone guilt you in to stretching the limits of your ethics and legality, or your personal sanity, to meet unrealistic productivity expectations. Always remember, it’s your professional license and your quality of patient care at stake.

Working Off The Clock

Discussing productivity leads directly into our next topic, working off the clock. All too often, if the productivity standards at a facility are unrealistic and cannot truly be achieved during a standard workday, it leads to employees working off the clock to get their documentation done. For permanent employees who are on salary, there isn’t really such a thing as “working off the clock.” So, often, they will be in the habit of coming in early, staying late, working through lunch, or taking paperwork home with them. If you’re a practicing clinician, you are undoubtedly familiar with this, and as a student having gone through clinicals, you may be as well.

However, as a travel therapist, it’s important to remember that you are an hourly employee. You are paid by the hour that you work. Therefore, you should be able to complete all required work (including documentation) during your scheduled work hours. This can be difficult for employers/supervisors to cope with, because they’re used to their salaried employees. So if necessary, if this becomes an issue, it may require a conversation with your recruiter and/or your supervisor.

We encourage you to get paid for all of your time. So if the schedule and productivity expectations are not conducive to you completing your required work within your regular hours, something needs to change. This could mean a conversation about your schedule to reduce the caseload or allow built in time for paperwork. Otherwise, if you are working beyond your scheduled workday, you should be getting paid overtime.

Overtime

This leads in to the next topic. As stated above, if you’re working overtime hours, you should be getting overtime pay.

Typically as a traveler, facilities do not want to pay overtime. So, we have approached this situation in a couple different ways. Either we would let them know upfront that based on our schedule and our documentation, we would be going into overtime, and see what they say. Or, we would just do the required work, and if this required 30mins to an hour of overtime, we would then write that on our timesheet for the week. If nothing was said, we would just continue to write our hours down as we worked them, even if that meant overtime. But, often if you put down overtime hours, this will spark a conversation from your recruiter or supervisor. This is then the time when you would want to discuss the various factors of your day that make you unable to complete the required patient care and documentation within your normal hours. Then, perhaps the supervisor will work with you to make changes to your schedule, or they will agree to allow you overtime.

As far as overtime pay goes, this works a little bit differently for travel therapists. Typically, overtime pay is a standard “time and a half” on your hourly pay. However, this amount does not make sense for a traveler, because time and a half on our hourly is actually lower than our standard 40 hour pay when you account for the stipends received during our normal working hours. To learn more about overtime pay, check out this article.

The bottom line is that if you are going to be working overtime hours, you need to get compensated appropriately for the overtime hours. Hopefully you were able to negotiate an appropriate overtime rate when you signed your contract (in general for PT/OT/SLP this should be at minimum $45/hour but could be up to $85-100/hour). But, if for some reason you find yourself in a travel contract where you are actually working a lot of overtime hours, and your overtime pay is still only time and a half of your hourly, you need to discuss this with your recruiter and get it increased. Sometimes they can create an addendum to your contract to add a higher overtime rate, or they may be able to pay you a bonus at the end of the contract to compensate you for the difference in what you should have been receiving for overtime. Either way, make sure the overtime pay you are receiving is worth your time. Otherwise, don’t agree to work overtime, and instead make sure your schedule is adjusted accordingly.

Work Drama

Switching gears a bit, our next recommendation for your first contract (and all subsequent contracts!) is to avoid the work drama! As most of us healthcare professionals know, there is usually some type of work drama at any facility, whether it be interpersonal relationships, a bad manager, a bad coworker, staffing issues, or new rules and changes happening at the facility. This should be one of the best parts about working as a travel therapist. You’re only there temporarily, so you shouldn’t have to worry about this drama at work!

Not only is it good for your mental health to avoid work drama, but this recommendation will also help you to be more productive and get out of work on time. I can’t tell you how many times I made the mistake of getting caught up in the work drama and happenings of the clinic, and I ended up sitting there talking to a coworker for an extra 20 minutes, hour, hour and a half, when I should’ve been getting my notes done and getting out of there! Take our advice, and avoid the work drama as a travel therapist, and you’ll come out ahead in all respects!

Planning for Your Next Contract

The last thing we encourage you to consider during your first contract is planning for your next contract! This can be a tricky part of being a travel therapist, and this will be your first time navigating the transition. If you wait until the end of your current contract to start looking for your next contract then you’ll be way behind! We recommend that around mid-contract, you start to consider where your next move will be.

Are things going well at your current contract, and maybe you’re considering extending? Usually you can get a feel for this after the first few weeks. You might also already have an idea whether the facility might need you to extend or not. Have they found someone to cover their staffing needs already, or are they still searching? Is the caseload still high, or has it dropped and they won’t need anyone any longer? By about halfway through your contract, if you want to extend, you should start talking to your supervisor about it. Sometimes they will approach you themselves, but often you have to ask. In the past, we have usually approached the supervisor and said something along the lines of, “It’s about halfway through my contract and this is when I need to decide what my next move will be. I was wondering about your current staffing needs, and if you think you might need me longer than my 13 week contract?” This is usually a good opener to the conversation. If you do want to extend, and they need you to extend, you then go back to your recruiter and proceed with the contract extension negotiations.

If extending your contract is not an option or not something you want to do, then you need to start thinking about where you want to work next, and when you want to start. If you’re interested in going to a different state, you need to already be working on the next license. We always recommend having the license in hand before applying to a job in a certain state. Sometimes while you are already on contract with a company, they will be able to help you start the process of getting your next state license.

If you plan to start work immediately after your current contract, it’s best to start looking for your next job about 6 weeks out from your end date. We usually try to have our next contract locked down within 2 to 4 weeks of our end date. If we get down to 2 weeks from our end date, that’s when we start getting a little nervous, and also when we might consider expanding our search criteria and getting a little less picky.

This is an important factor to consider as a travel therapist on your first contract and on all subsequent contracts. 13 weeks goes by a lot faster than you think! In order to avoid a lot of unwanted (and unpaid) time off, you need to be on top of your job searches. Hopefully you have a team of recruiters that is proactive and will also be reminding you of this and helping you with the process. But we encourage you to be proactive in your job search, because ultimately you’re the only one who is going to go without work and without pay if you don’t lock in a contract.

Conclusion

While there are lots of things to think about during your first contract, these are the main ones we wanted to highlight that we think pertain to all travel therapists. There will undoubtedly be a lot of other factors, especially various clinical nuances, to consider. But, in terms of being successful as a travel therapist, the biggies are: making sure you’re not being taken advantage of in terms of productivity, not working off the clock, and overtime; as well as avoiding work drama; and planning ahead for your next contract!

We hope this information helps to set you up for success during your first travel contract! If you have questions for us, don’t hesitate to send us a message!

If you’re still in the process of getting started with travel therapy and would like recommendations for recruiters we have worked with that will have your back during your journey as a traveler, fill out this form and we will get back to you with recommendations!

Top 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Choosing Your First Travel Therapy Contract!

Written by Jared Casazza, PT, DPT

If you’re worried about making mistakes when trying to find your first travel therapy contract, you’re in good company. When Whitney and I first started working as travel PTs as new grads over 4 years ago, we certainly made more than our fair share of mistakes. Information on travel therapy was scarce at that time, with very few resources available to new and existing travel therapists. We created this website to help new travelers learn from our mistakes and to go into the process much better informed than we were when starting out.

No matter how well informed you are however, finding your first travel therapy contract can be intimidating to say the least. This is especially the case for new grad travelers. Between getting licensed in different states, trying to sort through seemingly endless numbers of travel companies and recruiters, trying to understand what reasonable pay is for your situation, and trying to find a facility that will help foster your clinical growth there’s a lot that can go wrong. Hopefully we can help you navigate these waters by helping you avoid some common mistakes. Here are 5 of the biggest mistakes that we and the travelers we’ve mentored over the years have made when searching for first contracts!  

1. Getting low-balled on pay!

This is the most common issue we encounter with new travel therapists. If you’re unsure how travel pay works then check out this comprehensive guide to travel therapy pay that breaks everything down before continuing. New travelers are an easy target for travel companies looking to make higher profits and therefore pay the travelers less than they’re worth for a few different reasons. Usually new travelers are the least informed about the whole process and subsequently are most likely to take everything the recruiter says as gospel, whether it’s actually good advice or not. It’s vital to keep in mind that recruiters are paid by selling you on their company and on jobs first and foremost. Many times the recruiter will also have an incentive (bonuses monthly/yearly) for keeping higher margins, so they do their best to pay you as little as you’re willing to accept as a traveler. Of course many of them also want to do what’s best for the traveler as well in order to keep a good reputation and to ensure a contract with less issues, but that’s not always the case. Some companies seem to prey on new travelers and especially new grads by making huge profits off of them upfront with very low pay before they start to learn more about the industry and what’s reasonable. These companies are known to offer pay packages as low as $1,200/week after taxes to new travelers (PT/OT/SLP), and then suddenly be able to increase that pay by $300-$400/week or more once the traveler stands up for themselves. Dozens of people that we’ve mentored have gone through this exact situation. If you’re an informed traveler that is presented with a very low pay package, and you confront the recruiter about it, and then suddenly they’re able to offer a much higher pay package, that’s someone you want to get far away from. You won’t be able to trust any of their pay packages in the future! 

New travelers are also an easy target for low balling because they’re often comparing their pay to prior permanent jobs they’ve had or friends that are working permanent jobs. That’s a mistake! When comparing to a permanent job, even the lowest travel pay packages will look amazing. There’s a reason that travel therapists should make significantly more (sometimes double or higher) than permanent jobs! Our benefits packages are far inferior to permanent positions (no vacation or sick time), we have much less job security (jobs can be cut short occasionally with little warning), we have to pack and move often (a hassle for even the most experienced and minimalist travelers), and we have to duplicate housing expenses (having a tax home). Those factors need to be offset with high pay for traveling to be a viable option. 

2. Worrying more about the money than the job!

After that first mistake you may be thinking that pay is the most important thing to consider on your first contract, but that’s not the case. On the other end of the spectrum, some of the travelers that we’ve mentored in the past become become so fixated on getting the very best pay at their first travel job that they end up taking a job at a facility that isn’t the best just because it pays well. This is a big mistake! 

You should ensure that you aren’t being significantly low balled, but aside from that, pay shouldn’t be your primary concern. It’s much more important to find a job that fits you well than it is to make an extra $100/week when you’re already being paid a reasonable amount. A contract with a supportive environment, some ramp up time, support from the manager/other staff, reasonable productivity or number of patient’s per day, and in a location that you are likely to enjoy will all have a much more profound impact on your experience and impression of travel therapy than the extra $100/week. Sometimes facilities will pay really high for a reason, which may be that they can’t get someone to stay there due to the situation inside the clinic. We’ve talked to and heard stories from dozens of travelers that quit traveling after their first contract due to being frustrated by a bad experience, and that’s a tragedy. This isn’t always because they were dead set on getting top dollar, but sometimes it is. It’s best to focus on putting yourself in a great spot than to get the highest pay possible. 

3. Taking a job in a setting in which you aren’t familiar!

One of the things about traveling that appeals to new travel therapists is being able to try out new settings with only a 3 month commitment. If you’re someone that isn’t sure what setting fits you the best, then this experimentation can be a blessing. Even for those, like me, that are relatively certain which setting they like the most, getting out of the rut of practicing in one setting can be invigorating. I love outpatient and initially wanted all of my contracts to be in OP but was surprised to find that I also enjoy home health and will likely take some contracts in that setting in the future. 

Despite this wonderful flexibility that comes along with traveling, I’d advise against jumping into a brand new setting as your first travel job, especially as a new grad! Ideally your first travel job should be in the setting that you’re most comfortable with, the reason for this being that it will make the transition into travel therapy much more comfortable. Keep in mind that as a traveler, EVERYTHING will be brand new to you. New city, new living situation, new patients, new coworkers (accompanied by the possibility of new work drama), new documentation system, new commute, new gym, new grocery store… you get the point. For some travelers this can be overwhelming, and adding a brand new setting to the mix can easily make things more difficult than they need to be. 

After the first contract, even though everything will still be new on the next contract, you’ll be more prepared and more confident in your ability to handle it. Once the nerves from all the newness start to wear off a couple of contracts into your travel therapy career, that’s a great time to start experimenting with different settings. But we recommend getting a couple travel contracts under your belt first! 

4. Not asking the right questions on your interview with the facility!

An interview for a travel contract may sound scary to you. I know that it certainly did for me when starting out, and I still get a little nervous for them even over 4 years later. The good news is that these interviews are often nothing like any interview you’ve had for a job in the past. Out of dozens of travel therapy interviews, only ONE of them has been what I would consider a “real interview” with questions about my strengths and weaknesses as well as other typical interview questions. Many times, this conversation with the manager will be less about them asking you about your qualifications as a therapist and more about them trying to sell you on the facility and the location. Often the manager is eager to get a travel therapist in the facility to fill a position that is vacant and causing other staff members to be overworked. They’re motivated to get someone in there as quickly as possible, and usually that means they’ve gotten just about all the info they need to know about you from your resume and are now just trying to see when you can start. 

In some ways this is great, but in other ways it can lead to some less than ideal situations. On one hand it’s a huge relief to not be badgered by tough interview questions, but on the other hand it means that the ball is firmly in your court in regards to making sure the facility is a good fit and that you ask all the relevant questions. Usually this interview will be your only contact with the facility before the first day when you show up for work… assuming you accept the position. Be sure to go into the phone interview with a list of questions written down and take notes on the answer you’re given. I’ve learned from experience that I can’t be trusted to remember everything I need to ask (especially in the heat of the moment) so having a written list is vital for me. If you’re unsure of what questions you should be asking, here’s a list of what we ask for all our of contracts

5. Not having another therapist of your discipline at the facility!

This applies to all new travel therapists but is especially important for new grads. No matter how experienced or confident you are in a setting, when you go to a brand new facility you’re going to have questions. For me these questions usually involve things like the documentation system, post surgical protocols for the surgeons sending patients, where equipment is, how discharges are handled, scheduling patients, and how best to manage support staff at the facility. Having another therapist there of your discipline is the ideal person to go to for all of these questions because they can relate to exactly the position you’re in. Many times things will pop up that you wouldn’t have anticipated you’d be unsure about, but nonetheless checking with someone else to put your mind at ease is nice. It’s true that sometimes support staff or therapists/assistants of other disciplines can answer these questions, but sometimes they can’t or their answers don’t apply to your situation. 

As a new grad, in addition to everything mentioned above, you’ll undoubtedly run into clinical situations where getting some feedback or bouncing ideas off another therapist is extremely helpful. Even as a relatively experienced clinician, I still run into situations where I think I have a good handle on a patient situation but still want input from someone else to check my biases. 

The longer you practice as a therapist, the less importance this is likely to have for you, but I can guarantee that even the most experienced clinicians will have situations where they wish there was someone else there of the same discipline to consult with. On your first contract, it’s a great idea to ensure another therapist of your discipline will be there to make things easier on you. 

Conclusion

There are many other mistakes made by travelers when looking for their first contracts, but in our opinion these are the big ones to watch out for and avoid. No matter how well you prepare and inform yourself before starting your first travel contract, you will almost certainly make some mistakes and that’s okay! Travel therapy is a seemingly never ending process of learning and growing, so just take the mistakes and learn from them for next time. 

If you’ve gotten value from this article, please comment and let us know as well as share with fellow therapists interested in traveling so that they can avoid as many mistakes as possible as well! If you need help getting in touch with recruiters that will have your back, then fill out this form and we’ll help you out! If you have questions about these mistakes or anything else travel therapy related, feel free to send us a message.

You can also follow along with our travels on Instagram @TravelTherapyMentor (with occasional giveaways!) and tune into our weekly Facebook Live videos on the Travel Therapy Mentor Facebook page to learn more about travel therapy. We did a live video on this exact topic a couple weeks ago that goes a little more in-depth than this article! 

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