Tennessee and Missouri share their borders with 8 states each, more than any other state in the nation. Both are compact states, and both are actively issuing compact privileges. Each has 6 of their neighbors in the compact, including each other. Tennessee has one advantage over Missouri – Tennessee’s neighbor, Georgia, currently has legislation proposed to adopt the compact later this year. Therefore, I hereby rule, Tennessee is the center of the PT Compact World.
You don’t need me to tell you where the center of the compact is. Just look at the most recent national PT Compact Map – you can easily tell we all revolve around Tennessee. Come on Missouri, “show me” I’m wrong. <— hehe, hope you caught the MO joke in there.
The compact has come a long way in the last year. 23 states have adopted the compact – 9 of those are active, issuing privileges to PTs and PTAs. If you’re in a state that has approved the compact already, but is not yet active, don’t worry. Most likely, if your state has approved the compact but isn’t active yet, they are actively working on making it happen.
The compact is a scripted piece of legislature that states are individually approving into their laws. Each state has to approve the exact compact language. Any changes in the language would void the compact – essentially, it’s an agreement between states to accept licenses from other states – each state’s law has to match. So, if your state has approved the compact, but isn’t active yet, your state board is working to align its requirements with those of the compact.
It’s complicated, I get it if you don’t understand yet. A great example of an existing state compact is drivers’ licenses. Each state has the exact same language in their laws acknowledging every other states’ drivers’ licenses. That is exactly what the PT profession is trying to accomplish – license reciprocity among all states.
What I have heard about the actual compact experience is very positive. The people I have talked to have gone online, paid their fees, and immediately have license reciprocity! If anyone out there has had an experience, good or bad, with using the compact, lease post in the comments. I think it’s important that we start to collect some info on how the compact is doing in the real world.
There are 23 states onboard and another 5 are currently working towards adopting the compact. There is a very realistic scenario that we could have over half of the country on the compact by the end of the year – that is a very big feat in a very short time! As more states sign onto the compact, the states who are not onboard will find themselves being the odd-man out. States without the PT Compact will likely suffer staffing shortages. In a world where we are expecting PT staffing shortages through at least 2030, I can’t imagine why a state wouldn’t want to decrease whatever barriers it can for workers to come work!
That’s all I’ve got on the compact for now. Please do share any positive or negative experiences you have had accessing compact privileges. Ask any questions you might have. I’ll be replying and writing on this topic in the future as things progress forward.
I recently received an email question about setting up your own travel contract without an agency. Here is the question and response.
I was just reading your post on independent contracts. I’m wondering if you were able to negotiate a pay package comparable to what a clinic would pay a staffing company. For my first assignment I found out that the recruiting company took about 37% off the top of what I made. Would you be comfortable sharing how much you were able to get out of independent contracts?
Thanks for you time and help! Really appreciate your website.
Great to hear from you again. Glad to hear you are enjoying your travel experience!
I truly only did independent contracts when I couldn’t find an assignment through a recruiter in the area I wanted to go – or when there was only one job available and my wife or I needed a second job. I always had the dream of making crazy-money by offering to work for just a bit less than what a clinic would pay an agency, but it never worked out that way. I made typical travel money on my independent contracts.
Two examples of independent contract pay that I can think of off the top of my head: one private practice was paying me $52 per patient in a typically low paying state, another place paid me $1800 weekly. After taxes, those work out to about typical, if not low, for travel money. So, I never achieved the dream of beating the system and making more money than I would through an agency.
I guess my takeaway is that independent contracts are a good way to find a contract when there’s not one to be had, but it never really worked out for me to make crazy money.
Hope that helps, do let me know if you have other questions.
For more info on making your own independent contracts, check out these resources, along with examples of actual contracts:
Combined Sections Meeting has grown into Physical Therapy’s largest professional conference. With over 15,000 PTs, PTAs, and students expected to attend this year, there’s only so many conference centers in the US that are big enough to hold the conference. The mainstay of the conference has always been the educational programming put on by each of the APTA’s 18 Specialty Sections (Ortho, Neuro, Pediatrics, Women’s Health, etc) – hence, the name of the conference. As the conference has grown in size, so too has the schedule. Many attendees find themselves booked with official events from 6 AM to 11 PM and hopes of socializing outside of those hours. If you don’t prioritize what you choose to participate in at CSM, you will be out of gas by the time the last courses on Saturday roll around.
So, here’s a quick guide to help make the most of your time at CSM, especially if this is your first CSM and you are considering Travel PT as a career path.
Education at CSM comes in three different main formats.
You have your main Education Sessions which take place in a variety of room sizes – from seating for several thousand to just several dozen. These courses are what you should build your conference experience around. Four 2-hour segments of courses are scheduled each day Thursday to Saturday, and they are presented by some of the most prominent experts in our field. If you can build yourself a schedule of the courses you would like attend, most everything else on your schedule can be fit into the cracks. Try to get to these courses early, because they sometimes completely fill up – even in rooms with a couple thousand seats. If you find yourself in a situation where the course you were planning on attending is full or the subject matter isn’t as exciting as you thought it would be, moving onto some platform presentations or the exhibit hall are good options.
Platform presentations are put on throughout the conference and separated by Specialty Section and like-minded topics. These presentation are frequently done by PT Students on their DPT research and are just 20 minutes in length – rapid fire. One presentation happens, there’s a few minutes for questions, and then new presenters start the next presentation. The platform presentations can be a great way to switch up your day and get a lot of forward-thinking research-nuggets in a small amount of time. Look into the topics and see if any time blocks of platforms pique your interest, they can be really great. I stumbled across a time-block dedicated to Global Health Service Projects a couple years ago and heard a lot of inspirational stories about PTs and Students doing fantastic work abroad.
Another form of education at CSM is Poster Presentations. Throughout the 4 days of CSM, hundreds of research articles are presented on posters in the Exhibit Hall. Generally, the researchers will be standing with their posters to walk you through the findings of their research and answer any questions you might have – lots of fascinating topics.
You won’t be able to miss the Exhibit Hall. The hall is a huge warehouse-sized-room full of hundreds of vendors at their booths – with the poster presentations lined up in rows in the back. If you’re thinking about starting travel PT or looking for a new recruiter, look no further. There are a huge amount of travel agencies exhibiting at CSM. This is your chance to interview some of them and get a feel for each of the agencies and what their priorities are.
“Unopposed” hours are the times when there is no educational programming and thousand of people flock to the exhibit hall. While this time is fine for exploring the hall and getting some free schwag, you probably won’t get a chance to chat at any length with a recruiter you may be interested in working with. If you are serious about traveling for an agency, play hooky on an education session and return to the Exhibit Hall to chat during those less busy hours.
The main point: You don’t have to be invited, just go.
Various APTA groups will be hosting receptions. These are a great chance to go network with people in whatever corner of PT you are interested in. Professionals love when students show up to these things – if you are a student, go. Typically, there are some free au d’oeuvres and a cash bar. Don’t forget to check if your alma mater is having a reception too. This can be a great time to catch up with old classmates and professors.
The receptions are held as a social gathering to connect people and allow them to network, if you don’t show up, you can’t connect. Go, chat with people – you might end up talking with your PT-hero or at least find others with similar interests. If you’re lucky, you might even make some new friends for life.
Social Media, Technology, and Other Events
What I have describe above is just the bare-bones of CSM. There are so many other meetings and events (official and unofficial) squeezed into the spaces before, after, and during the days’ programming. All of the official events can be found in the APTA Conferences App – here’s the link for the app on Google Play and for iPhone. Take some time with the app to explore what education you may want to attend and what other events may be happening during the conference that you would like to get to. There’s so much going on that it can be a bit overwhelming, but spending some time planning can help you fit the most meaningful experiences into these wildly packed 3.5 days.
A lot of events taking place in the bars and restaurants surrounding CSM can be found on social media, particularly Twitter. The most commonly used tags are #APTACSM and #APTACSM2019. Browse frequently to see what others are doing all around CSM. APTA will be putting out video updates from CSM covering current hot topics in PT and summing up the things you might have missed.
Enjoy your time in Washington, DC! If you want to chat Travel PT, I’ll be strolling around. Reach me on Twitter @hobohealth or by email at James.Spencer.PT@gmail.com.
Physical therapists find ways to live this crazy travel-life in a bunch of different ways and have to overcome a variety of obstacles to find the flexibility in their lives that can allow them to up-and-go to different jobs at any time. People travel with their friends, with their spouses, with their pets, and with their families. Any of these obstacles adds a little complication to travel, but by no means should these be reasons not to travel.
Traveling in an RV has always seemed to me to be the best way to overcome housing struggles. Having your own, mobile space solves many of the difficulties of shuttling kids around from state-to-state or finding a short-term apartment that will allow pets. In 2014, we lived in a camper on Martha’s Vineyard to solve the issue of not being able to find affordable housing. The camper was a major part of what made that one of my all-time favorite travel assignments. There are pieces of our lifestyle that summer that I wish I could make more consistent staples of my everyday life. If Kate and I ever did continue to travel with our daughter, it would be in a camper again – like the Partridge Family of Physical Therapy.
A couple resources:
I have been enjoying reading PT Adventures and some of their recent posts on traveling with a baby – some on traveling with a dog too.
Highway Hypodermics is a facebook page for healthcare travelers living in RVs. The page has over 5,000 members and is definitely the best resource if you have any questions about living the travel life in a camper.
Travel PT With a Significant Other
If I know anything, I know how to find two travel PT jobs at once, because Kate and I were travel PTs together for about 10 years. I can’t think of a time that we weren’t able to travel to where ever we wanted because we couldn’t find two jobs – though, we did have to be flexible and inventive at times.
Normally, our first line of attack would be to find two jobs close to one central town. This approach would typically work. We never put any effort towards trying to work in the same clinic, but often a recruiter would find us two jobs at the same workplace. The agency would present us as a “travel team” which is advantageous for a facility trying to fill multiple positions – one stop shopping for multiple therapists. This easy solution was sometimes nearby where we wanted to be and not necessarily exactly where we wanted to be (i.e. commuting to work in communities just outside a major city we wanted to live in). The most frequent settings we would find work together in was in smaller community hospitals (CAH) or working for a home care agency.
Even if you’re not romantically involved with another traveler, you might consider traveling with a friend. Two travelers working contracts together can be a great way to get ahead financially – getting two housing stipends and having only one rent is a great way to keep some more cashola in your pocket.
In the rare occasions that we couldn’t find two jobs in the same area, we would start calling around the area to private practices looking for independent contracts. One of us would have the “official” travel job with benefits, and the other would find an independent contract. Here’s a more detailed post on the process for finding an independent travel PT contract.
Living with a significant other who isn’t a Physical Therapist should not be the lone reason not to travel. I have met many couples along the way who have figured out how to make travel therapy work for them. One good friend (PT) met a Speech Therapist while traveling. They eventually got married, settled down, had kids, the whole nine yards. But, for a while, they took year-long travel assignments – her as an SLP in schools, him in a variety of settings as a PT. Additionally, I know several PT/OT couples who have had the same positive experiences we did – there’s a lot of facilities out there looking for PT/OT teams. I’ve also met many couples traveling as a PT with a non-healthcare worker (even one PT/recruiter couple!). If the non-therapist doesn’t have an easily portable job, he typically has to be more flexible in his work – odd jobs, seasonal work, Ridesharing driver, Amazon delivery, etc. With a little determination to get on the road, it’s easy to work odd-jobs for a few months at a time in many regions of the country.
Traveling when you have add-ons (family, pets, etc.) ultimately comes down to the final conclusion that so many things in travel therapy do – flexibility helps! The more flexible you can be with where you’re willing to travel, what setting you’re willing to work in, or what you’re willing to live in, the more opportunities you’ll have. A little flexibility goes a long way in finding happiness through traveling therapy.
As pumpkins take over the world, traveling therapists begin to think about their next assignment that will last a good portion of this winter. Where do you want to be this winter?
Ocean, check. Mountains, check. Yeah, I could do San Diego. Does anybody know what San Diago means?
On the beach? On top of a snowy mountain? Somewhere exotic and outlandish? Are you going to hibernate, or are you going to thrive? I’ve got you covered, here are some of the best places I’ve been in the winter and other places I would love to go in the future.
I always wanted to do an assignment in San Diego, but somewhere along the way it fell off my list. It seems like it would be a great place to get a January tan. I know lots of people who have taken assignments throughout Southern California and absolutely love it there. Home care offers really good pay rates in SoCal if you’re willing to try out that setting. The only hitch to working in California is that getting a license can take 4 to 6 months, so get started now if it’s on your list.
Pop Quiz: Question: How does a snowboarder order a meal? Answer: “Hey Bro, you gonna finish that?”
I love skiing, so I do the opposite of the snow birds. I love living in the mountains with skiing right outside my front door in the winter. There’s a lot of places to find jobs near skiing, but to actually live and work in a ski town is an experience that every avid skier (or snowboarder) should have. most hospitals in the Colorado Rockies hire directly (without staffing agencies) and you’ll need to pick up the phone and call or go check the hospital’s website for employment opportunities. You might have more luck around Salt Lake City which has more employment opportunities and all the world-class skiing you could dream of within a 30 minute drive. Wyoming and Montana offer more rural settings with great back country access and beautiful, pristine landscapes. New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine all have quick access to big mountain skiing – some of the best skiers (and snowboarders) in the world come from New England – Bode Miller, Ted Ligety, Simon Dumont, Jeremy Jones. If you’ve wanted to see the Northeast and you’re a fan of winter sports, winter can be a great time with a lot of job opportunities and decent access even as far south as Boston.
Hawaii, idyllic for any traveller anytime of year. Plan ahead, lots of people want to go to Hawaii and jobs are competitive.
I love my time in Hawaii, but I am never here in the winter time due to my aforementioned affection for skiing. Although, the summit of Mauna Kea at over 13,000 ft does offer enough snow to ski on in depths of winter – so there’s that option. During the Hawaiian summer, the surf is more calm and better for swimming – the summer brings less rain too. But the winter is when Hawaii really displays its beauty. Migrating whales visit Hawaii by the thousands in the winter. The increased rain brings deep green colors to the hillsides that are brown and parched during the summer. And the surfing world gets together on Oahu’s North Shore to hold competitions on the best waves in the world during the winter months. If you want to go to Hawaii, you have to be flexible – a lot of people want to go there, so finding an assignment or getting your resume in ahead of other people can be hit or miss. I normally recommend making sure your recruiter presents jobs to you before letting them submit you. But Hawaii can be competitive enough that getting your name in first can be a real advantage – when it comes to Hawaii, you may consider giving your most trusted recruiter the green light to submit you to any job that fits your criteria.
Huh? Antarctica. Hang with me here for a minute. Our winter is the southern hemisphere’s summer. The University of Texas Medical Branch staffs the 3 US research stations in Antarctica with contract workers. Each year they look for, “Licensed Physical Therapists who have a strong clinical background and a taste for adventure.” I think both of those qualifications need to be strongly met. In a position where you may end up being a fairly solitary clinician with limited resources, you must know your stuff, and you have to be able to improvise with whatever is available to you. A “taste for adventure” states it lightly. I have heard this job is essentially like working on a submarine except that you get to go outside occasionally. My understanding is that you rarely get off base, and when you do, there is NOTHING (except hungry polar bears)… but, you’re in Antarctica and that is pretty cool. I have also heard about the “Race Around the World” – A 5K race in a loop around the South Pole – that’s just hilarious and awesome.
US Virgin Islands
Did you know the US Virgin Islands are a part of FSBPT, the same body that all US states belong to for PT licensure? Oh yes. It is as easy to transfer your license to the Virgin Islands as it is to any other US state. There are jobs available in the Virgin Islands, it’s easy to transfer your license, and they are a short flight from anywhere east of the Mississippi. I’ve talked with a couple people who have worked there, and they’ve loved it.
On a side note, while FSBPT is in the conversation – if you are a traveling Physical Therapist or recruiter and you are unaware of the Physical Therapist Licensure Compact, educate yourself now. PT licenses between certain states will be reciprocal within the next two years – very exciting, make sure your state is included!
Choose Your Own Adventure
Don’t be limited by these 5 options. Choosing where to go as a traveling therapist is as personal choice as you could make. There’s all kinds of opportunities available in the Southeast and the Southwest – great, warm places in the winter. I’ve seen and heard wonderful things about Lake Havasu in Arizona and San Padre Island in Texas – I just know nothing about them, so they aren’t mentioned here. Why not make an adventure. Try finding an assignment in the Florida Keys. Don’t let any list limit you, go out and find the place YOU love, that’s what traveling therapy is all about.