How Do You Find the Best Travel PT Companies?

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

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What is Travel Physical Therapy?

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

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