We love to share unique travel therapist stories, so today we’re bringing you Marcela’s story about working as a Travel PT in the US Virgin Islands! We’d like to note that it’s not very common to see travel therapy contracts in the Virgin Islands, and most travel staffing companies do not staff in the Virgin Islands. But on rare occasion you might see a job opportunity pop up there! If so, hopefully Marcela’s insights can help you learn what to expect from a contract there!
Good day, you guys!
My name is Marcela and I’ve been a Physical Therapist for 7 years and a Travel PT for 5 years. I went to PT school in Virginia– the same school that Whitney went to actually! I’ve worked in multiple settings including acute care, skilled nursing facilities, home health, and outpatient. So far, I’ve worked in Virginia, Texas, and St Thomas. In this article, I want to share the details about my assignment in St Thomas, US Virgin Islands with you all since it’s a unique contract location!
How Did I Land an Assignment in the US Virgin Islands?!
It was pretty simple really, but mostly by luck and good timing! One day while scrolling on Facebook, I saw a job posting on the Facebook group Travel Therapy Job Opportunities for an outpatient PT assignment in St. Thomas. It was with a company and recruiter that I had never worked with before. I reached out to the recruiter, set up a phone interview with the clinic manager a few days later, and got the assignment!
The Licensure Process
My next step was to get my USVI PT license, which I didn’t know at the time is infamous for taking a really long time. I’ve heard of one PTA that took 6 months to get his license! Upon signing the contract for the assignment, I was given the contact information of an island PT, Erin, who has a side business of helping people expedite their USVI PT licensure. At the time, Erin charged $1,000 — but it was absolutely worth every penny! She helped me get my license in only 4 weeks. At different times in the process, she was able to go into the licensing office and figure out what was slowing down my licensing application. She truly did shorten the whole ordeal, as I had a few snags which were totally out of my control. Without her help, it easily would have taken 6+ weeks, and the clinic in St Thomas was holding a spot for me which I did not want to miss out on! If you need help getting your USVI license expedited, you can contact Erin at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Housing on Island
While Erin was working hard for 4 weeks to help me with the licensure process, I then turned my attention to finding housing. I usually find cheap furnished housing by renting a room in a home for my travel assignments. I am okay with cheap housing and living with others, as I’d rather spend my money in other categories. Well, unfortunately for this assignment, I quickly found out the islands are not a place for cheap housing. Almost all places cater towards tourists, so you’re going to get tourist prices. Expect to pay about $2,000/month or more if you want a clean place with the amenities you’re used to on the mainland. My landlady is currently not renting rooms anymore, so I sadly don’t have any current housing leads to share.
I want to add something else about housing that will be very important to know. The USVI has one utility company and its infrastructure is dated. In 2017, two category 5 hurricanes, Irma and Maria, hit the islands and further damaged the already struggling infrastructure of the utility company. Because of this, it’s very common to lose power on island. One week I was there, we were without power for 30 hours. If you’re there during hurricane season, just assume you won’t have power for a while after a storm. I grew up close to the Southern US coast and have experience living through hurricanes and without power before. You either have to be okay with living like this or willing to pay extra to stay at a place that has a backup generator.
My PT Contract
I ended up working for 4 months on island at this contract. It was a private practice outpatient PT clinic. I had the opportunity to work a schedule of 4, 10 hour days each week, which was great for having 3 day weekends and being able to explore. As far as pay, the pay tends to be a bit on the lower end than what I’ve seen for mainland contracts. But it’s kind of like taking an assignment in Hawaii: you don’t go there for the pay, you go for the experience! And contracts in Hawaii usually tend to pay on the lower end as well. In addition to my weekly pay, I did also receive reimbursement for my flight to the island.
Insights on Island Living
St Thomas does have public transportation, but the route is limited. The type of public transport is called a “safari” which is essentially a diesel pickup truck with covered open-air benches in the back. It’s a great way to assimilate with the local culture and enjoy the wind. But like with all public transportation: be patient (haha)! The hours are limited and so are the locations to which they travel. St Thomas is very rocky, so the safaris don’t go up the hills. If you plan to live up a hill, you’ll have to get a car or walk a distance to get to a safari. I did not want to have a car on island, so I relied heavily on safaris, walking, and taking taxis.
Another thing to take into consideration is that you’re living on an island that does not have the same resources that the mainland does. Lots of things are imported and therefore the cost of food and other supplies reflects that. The islands also don’t have the same variety that the mainland does in terms of resources. But, you should totally enjoy the food that the islands do have to offer. If you eat local food, it greatly helps! Plus, you get to eat all kinds of tasty fruits, juices, and sea food!
Many people in the Caribbean like to call themselves West Indians. West Indians are probably the nicest people I have ever encountered. Once you learn the proper way to greet in the Caribbean, people will easily give you directions, help you with a ride, and share food with you. It’s truly a village mindset. Everyone’s also on “island time” there, so don’t expect anyone to be prompt. Haha. As patients, they have been the best population I’ve ever worked with. They are respectful and hard working. I often found myself telling them to stop doing extra sets to allow their bodies to rest.
The good stuff!
Now onto the super fun stuff about living and working in the Virgin Islands!
The beaches are to die for! Sand so white it glitters, water you can see straight down into for yards, sunsets you can frame, waves so calm you can soak and float, and water activities for everyone! Snorkeling, kayaking, waterskiing, parasailing, regular sailing, yachting, scuba diving, sea planes, and hiking! (I know, not a water activity but would be a shame to not list). Each island has its own vibe, so visiting all three major USVI islands is required. And many more islands in the archipelago are also worth visiting! Depending on which island you’d like to visit, most can be reached by boat/ferry, but some of the further islands require private boat or a flight.
If you think you can handle life in the islands, then I recommend trying to get an assignment there. If interested, I can give you the name of the recruiter I used. You can reach me here via Facebook.
We’d like to thank Marcela for sharing her insights with us about her travel therapy contract in the US Virgin Islands! Please feel free to contact Marcela via Facebook or message us with any questions!