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

Happy Holidays from Travel Therapy Mentor!

Written by Whitney Eakin, PT, DPT, ATC


Having time off during the holiday season to spend with friends and family can be difficult for healthcare professionals since healthcare is an essential business that must go on despite what day it is. Hospitals and nursing homes don’t close for holidays, and the patients that we care for at those facilities still need us.

As traveling healthcare professionals, we may sometimes be able to have more control over our schedules and be able to plan for time off, but that isn’t always the case. And, whether we have to work or not, it may also be difficult to see family and friends depending what part of the country we’re in.

We here at Travel Therapy Mentor wanted to let you know what the holiday season looks like for us this year and in years past, as many of you can probably relate!


Travis and Julia

Travis and Julia recently on their trip to Hawaii

Travel therapy mentor Travis and his fiancee Julia, both physical therapists, will be spending this Christmas with Julia’s family in Arizona. They are fortunate to both have Christmas day off this year, with Julia working in outpatient and Travis at a Skilled Nursing Facility. However, they both had work on Christmas Eve (Monday) and will have to work the rest of the week after Christmas.

This Winter, they chose to arrange contracts independently (not through a travel company) near Phoenix, AZ which is where they currently call home and plan to return PRN to these locations in the future. So they are not on what we might call a “traditional” travel assignment currently.  But, this arrangement worked well for them for the next several months, and it also allowed them to be near Julia’s family this holiday season while still continuing to work. They will not however get to see Travis’s parents who will be in Alabama this Christmas.

In years past, the two have not always spent the holidays with family due to traveling for work. Last year, they spent Christmas together in South Carolina and made their own holiday dinner in their camper. They have been fortunate to never have to work (so far) on Christmas Day.

Travis and Julia are embracing the travel healthcare life, even if it means ever changing holiday traditions.

Travis and Julia’s Christmas Tree at their apartment in Phoenix – with a tree skirt made by grandma!

Whitney and Jared

Jared and Whitney in Hong Kong last week

Jared and I have had quite the unusual year and a very non-traditional schedule! We worked a travel physical therapy contract from January-July 2018, then we took off around the world for 5 months! We just returned to the U.S. on December 17th! We planned to continue to be off work until after the New Year so we could spend quality time with both of our families in Virginia for the holidays.

We are very fortunate to have a job that allows such flexibility, as long as you plan and save wisely. The only downside to our plan is that we have found it challenging to find jobs that start just after the New Year. Many travel therapists have similar plans, to finish up a contract before the holidays in order to be with family, then resume work after January 1st. In addition, many facilities have already secured therapists to work through the holidays and into January. This combination of factors has made jobs for January scarce. So as of now, we are unemployed indefinitely until we can find contracts to begin sometime in January. But we are fortunate that we have saved a significant amount, so a few extra weeks off work (on top of already 5 months off!) won’t bother us.

In years past, we have secured jobs in December that carried over through the new year, while asking for time off for the holidays as able. We have worked on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Eve before, but we’ve always managed to make it home to Virginia for Christmas Day, whether we asked off or the facility was closed. So far we’ve always been working in Virginia or North Carolina within driving distance of home during the holidays, and that has worked out well for us.

Jared and Whitney’s families in Virginia on Christmas Eve
Whitney with her sister and mom celebrating with extended family in NC

Being a travel therapist around the holidays can sometimes make it easier to be able to see family, but it can sometimes make it more challenging!

Our hearts go out to those of you working the holidays this year, those spending the holidays geographically far away family, and to the patients who would love to be home with family as well!

Happy Holidays from us here at Travel Therapy Mentor!