Travel PT 101 – What is travel therapy?

Recently we have been receiving emails from potential travelers, often PT students, requesting some basic information regarding what is travel PT?

To answer that very broad question I have decided to take an abbreviated approach and list out the basics of travel physical therapy.  Also included at the bottom are some remarks about housing and job selection as they too are frequent topics of concern for the newbie therapist.

What is travel therapy?

In a nutshell, travel therapy is a short-term contract job that is completed within a specified time frame, occasionally with the option to extend or become a permanent staff member at that facility.

  • Contracts are 13-52wks long (think 3 month minimum – though a few exceptions apply)
  • You work directly with a recruiter (middle man).  Their agency reaches out to clinics needing PTs and try to connect you with a clinic/hospital in the vicinity of your choice, where you are hoping to work.
  • Your recruiter proposes a job to you (location, setting, maybe general pay scale) and it is up to you to approve being submitted to the position (like applying to any job).
  • If the clinic likes your resume and is interested they ask for an interview via your recruiting agency, who then set it up with you.
  • If you then rock out the interview you will be offered the position
  • Now you negotiate with your recruiter on specific days off (vacation, trips, etc), pay scale (there is always some wiggle room), benefits, housing or no housing.
  • Part of your pay will be in an hourly wage, and another will be in the form of a tax free stipend also called a per diem (this tax break is one of the ways travelers get paid so well)
  • To qualify for the tax free stipend you must have “duplicate expenses” meaning you are paying rent back home in a location that is TOO FAR to do a daily commute to and from.
  • Once you all are settled you take the job and your officially a TRAVELER!

Over the course of the contract you may be offered two things.  

  1. To extend and stay on longer (up to a yr is permitted before signing perm) which often comes with a slight raise.
  2. To sign on permanently right now (your recruiting agency will get a head hunters fee).

Both of these are great options!  One of the biggest perks of traveling is having that little confidence boost when nearing the end of a contract and the clinic director asks you to extend or stay for good.

YOU ARE IN CONTROL!

One of the main things I want you to understand is that YOU ARE IN CONTROL!  This is why my wife and I left perm jobs in our dream town.  Crappy pay and 2 wks of vacation each year (and we could only take 1 week off together!) was no longer worth it.  We wanted to take jobs in the places we could explore, get paid nearly 2x as much (or more), and take as much time off as we choose!

One word of caution:

If you EVER have a recruiter tell you that you are “assigned” a job, or that you can ONLY work with them exclusively its a HUGE RED FLAG!…..run.

Job selection

Generally you will tell your recruiters (use 2-3) a few towns or general areas that you think you want to live in.  Also include any specifics that you are looking for – acute care, rural/urban, if high pay is your priority, etc.

They then will tell you what positions they are able to find you.  If you like them great, if not, that is ok too. 

Some places are tougher to land jobs in than others.  Portland, OR in the summer?  Forget it!

Housing

As far as housing goes that is also up to you.  We opt to NEVER take it from our agency because they often take too big of a cut out of the tax free money that travelers get paid.  We have not had a situation where it was going to be worth it.  Some PTs like to take the housing however.  One of our best travel buddies says she makes enough as is and is willing to sacrifice a little extra to have one less thing to worry about.

yellowstone national park
Yellowstone National Park

Hopefully this provides you all with a brief summary of what travel PT or travel therapy is really like.  Whether you are a new graduate or potential traveler I urge you to seriously consider the travel therapy path.  It has opened more doors than we imagined and we have had experiences that we never dreamed could have happened to us!

If you have any further questions please continue to peruse this blog or shoot us an email at OurPTAdventures@gmail.com or contact us here.

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Travel PT 101 - What is travel therapy?
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Travel PT 101 - What is travel therapy?
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I have decided to take an abbreviated approach and list out the basics of travel physical therapy.  Also included at the bottom are some remarks about housing and job selection as they too are frequent topics of concern for the newbie therapist.
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