If you’ve made it to this page, you may have already started looking for a traveling therapy job and found there are many details to work out. If you haven’t started looking yet, don’t let all this information overwhelm you. Choosing to be a traveling therapist can be one of the most personally and professionally rewarding decisions you’ll ever make.
These are the basics of what you’ll want to know before accepting a contract through a recruiter. You likely have an idea of where you’d like to travel, so get started on licensure and start talking with recruiters, but use some of the tips below along the way. I urge you to visit our discussion boards, do some more reading there, and ask any questions you still have. We’re just two travelers who have been at this for a while trying to help other therapists find their way into the world of traveling therapy.
Finding an Assignment as a Traveling Therapist
Your first step is to contact a recruiter. Your recruiter, or one of their coworkers, will be talking with potential employers. You ultimately have the choice of where you’ll go and what setting you’ll work in. You need to decide your priorities: Practice setting? How close to your chosen start date are you willing to get before compromising what setting you’ll work in? How far from where you plan on living are you willing to commute? Typically recruiters are paid on commission and will want to get you into an assignment as quickly as they can, this is why it’s important for you to remain confident in your own priorities for the assignment, don’t be afraid to say “no” when assignments come up that you don’t want. Also, find out what benefits are offered to you before committing to an assignment. It is common for a therapist to work with 2-3 recruiters at the same time to improve the chance of finding a desirable assignment for the specific time and location. We recommend not working with more than 4 recruiters, it can get complicated and messy when recruiters start finding you the same jobs. One cardinal rule of travel therapy is that once a job is presented to you through one recruiter, that job is off limits for you through other recruiters. However, feel free to continue interviewing for other potential jobs until you have signed a contract. Click here for a deeper dive into the process of finding your recruiter and searching for a travel therapy job.
Once a potential employer is found, a phone interview will be arranged. Sure, the potential employer is technically interviewing you, but use this chance to interview them and learn about their practice. Many of the potential pitfalls of a “bad assignment” can be uncovered at this point – ask who your co-workers will be, ask who your supervisor will be, ask about expected productivity, and ask about anything else that comes to mind – this is your best chance to ask anything about the facility before you show up there for your first day of work.
Accepting a Travel Therapy Job!
Ultimately the staffing company you work for is your employer in all the traditional senses of where your paycheck and benefits come from. Also, it is the staffing agency you are signing a contract with, not the facility you will be working in. The staffing company will typically work out a separate contract with the employer that outlines their agreement. You should read your contract word-for-word; here are a few things that it should stipulate: all of your benefits and pay, your start and finish dates (typically 13 weeks but may vary in certain situations), your expected hours of work per week, the amount of notice you should receive if your contract is terminated by the facility, and any penalties if you decide to leave the contract. Click on”benefits and pay” to find out what might be included in your compensation.
Licensure is handled on a state-by-state basis. However, if you took your licensure exam 1996 or later, getting licensed in additional states should not be an issue. Since 1996, the exam has been standardized nationally and passing is the same in every state. Start at www.fsbpt.org to find exactly what process is needed for each state. Your recruiter should have a good idea of how long it takes to get your license in a particular state, but start early since it can take several weeks typically or up to 4-6 months for particular states. PTAs, some states don’t require any license at all while others do, so do your homework early in the process!
For more details, link to our Travel Essentials, a collection of our meatiest, most information-filled blogs on travel therapy that will help you get out there on the road successfully and enjoyably.
I can’t picture my life without traveling PT. I love it and plan on traveling for at least several more years. I’ve learned so much working in different clinics, different settings, and different states. However, traveling does have its risks and it is up to each traveler to protect him or herself by asking the right questions to recruiters and potential employers before accepting a contract. When done right, it’s the opportunity of a life time!