When I started traveling as a Speech Therapist, I had a hard time finding information about the industry and felt like I jumped into travel therapy very blindly as a new travel therapist. Most of the information that I knew about the travel therapy industry was either coming from recruiters over the phone or my fellow coworkers. Frustrated with the lack of available information and driven by an urge to connect with other travelers I started a Facebook group for collaboration between travelers called, Travel Therapists in 2014 which has now grown to over 5000 members. As admin of the group I have become a mentor to many wannabe, new and even veteran travelers. I started this blog as a response to many of the questions that I was receiving on a consistent basis and as a way to give advice to new travel therapy therapists.
A common question I hear is “What advice would you give to a new traveling therapist” and I have to admit that is a hard one to answer. I definitely made a lot of mistakes as a new traveler. I was able to learn from those mistakes and they have made me a stronger and better traveler. While everybody is going to have ups and downs on their journey here is the advice that I would give to wannabe or new traveling therapists:
1.Connect with a mentor
One of the best things that new travel therapists can do is to get out there and talk to somebody who is doing it or has done it. They can give you a view of what life is really like on the road. If you are sitting here thinking “but I do not know any travelers” then think outside of the box. When I started to travel I was working in a department that had many travelers coming in and out, but I realize that not every department utilizes travelers. If you do not have any travelers in your building start to network with your coworkers. Maybe some the therapists that you work with have been travelers in the past or have friends who travel. I have had many friends, former coworkers and even past professors who have reached out to me because they knew I was a traveler and have referred people to me for mentorship.
Members of the Travel Therapists group on Facebook also have access to a list of experienced PT/OT/SLPs who have volunteered to be mentors to the group community as well as daily posts that showcase the ups and downs of travel.
2. Find a recruiter (s) that works for you
Your recruiter is basically your personal agent. They are the ones who submit you to jobs and deal with any issues that you have on the job. They will be your primary contact point for a company and will likely impact your experience with the company more than anything else. There are several hundred agencies out there that staff traveling therapists and thousands of recruiters. So in a sea of thousands how do you find the hand full that work for you?
Suggestions for finding a recruiter:
Get a referral from somebody that you know. If a traveler has worked with a recruiter for more than 1 assignment that recruiter likely doing something right. If you are on Facebook Groups there are constantly recruiter recommendations coming from people who travel. Although do beware that what works for one person may not work for you.
If a traveler refers a recruiter to you, make sure to ask that traveler what are the recruiters strengths and weaknesses. Every recruiter has weaknesses, even the best.
If you do not know of any travelers to seek recommendations from you can always target a company and go from there. If you find a company that works for you call their operator and ask to speak to an Allied Division Team Leader or supervisor. You can introduce yourself, state your needs and ask to be connected with a recruiter. If you do not feel a connection with that recruiter you can always call the manager and ask for another match.
Laura Latimer, a veteran occupational therapy traveler realized the importance of finding a good recruiter and how challenging it can be as a newbie or even experienced traveler. She began Nomadicare, a company to connect travelers with recruiters. Laura personally vets recruiters and has a list of “Nomadically Approved Recruiters”. At Nomadicare Laura will act as your “Recruiter Matchmaker” and match you with several of her recruiters based on your personal needs.
3. Do your research into the industry
The wealth of information regarding the travel therapy industry is constantly growing and becoming easier to access. The travel therapy industry is becoming more and more transparent and many people have written and blogged about being a traveling healthcare professional. There are many great Facebook groups dedicated to the healthcare industry, many good websites and even an annual conference for traveling healthcare professionals.
My go-to websites for education in the Traveling Healthcare profession world:
Travel Tax: Tax information for the mobile healthcare professional, this is a *MUST READ* for all travelers.
The Gypsy Nurse: Resources for traveling healthcare professionals
Highway Hypodermics: Resources for traveling healthcare professionals or
Go to Facebook Groups:
Travel Therapy: Recruiters allowed in this group
Allied Health Travelers – The Gypsy Nurse: Recruiters allowed in this group
The Gypsy Nurse: Recruiters allowed in this group
Travelers and Recruiters Unite!: Recruiters allowed in group
Attend The Traveler’s Conference
The Traveler’s Conference is an incredible resource for new and experienced travelers. It occurs every September in Las Vegas and has an exhibition hall where you can meet and greet with companies, 3 days worth of courses on the traveling healthcare industry and ample opportunities to meet other travelers.
Taken directly from their website:
“The Traveler’s Conference is an annual event that provides Traveling Healthcare Professionals an opportunity to network with other travelers and top industry insiders. You will earn CEU’s for classes specific to the industry, and meet agency representatives in a relaxed, low-pressure setting. This event has grown into the largest gathering of healthcare travelers in the United States. The Traveler’s Conference is organized by volunteers who are themselves current or former travelers, and hosted in conjunction with PanTravelers – the Traveler’s Association.” –TravCon
More on my experience at the most recent TravCon: TravCon2016: The Recap
4. Determine your WHY and is it realistic
I have written a blog in the past about Why Become a Traveling Therapist? and I keep on saying this because I think it is extremely important. I consistently see travelers who are disappointed and stop traveling because they set unrealistic expectations or goals for themselves. This is temp work, it is not neccesarily glamorous and there can be a lot of bumps on the road. In your research that you do in #3 determine if it is really something that you want to do.
5. Understand how pay packages work and that nothing is free
As a travel therapist you work as a subcontractor through an agency and will receive financial compensation weekly or bi weekly from your agency. Essentially the facility that you work for pays your agency and then the agency pays you. The agency keeps a percentage of the rate to staff and run the agency, and the rest of the money is given to you in the form of a weekly paycheck and/or bonuses, housing, relocation fees, etc.
Many agencies recruit clinicians by advertising “Free” stuff; i.e. housing, relocation reimbursement, CEU’s, paid time off, vacations, completion bonus. It is important to know that this is all money that comes out of the bill rate that the agency is receiving for the clinician and that nothing is truly ever “Free”.
For example, if an agency makes $50 an hour from a facility to employ you then the agency is looking at taking in $2000 in a 40 hour week and $26,000 over the course of a 13 week assignment. This number is purely for example but imagine that $26,000 is the sum of the money that everybody has to work with for this 13 week assignment. A portion of that money is going to go to run the agency and then the rest goes to you. If you take company housing, travel reimbursement, licensure reimbursements, etc then that money is going to be deducted from the total and less going is going to go to you on a weekly basis.
For instance, if you ask for $1000 to be reimbursed in the beginning of your contract for moving expenses, expect that you will likely be making $75/week less than if you did not ask for any moving expenses to be covered.
On top of understanding how reimbursements work, as a travel therapist you may meet the requirements to receive tax free living and housing stipends. If you do, your pay package is going to look completely different then the pay as a permanent employee. Part of your pay package will be a tax free stipend for living and housing expenses and then part of it will be a fully taxed hourly rate. The fully taxed hourly rate is likely going to look like less than what you would make as a permanent employee.
Travel Tax is a good resource to learn how and if you can qualify for tax free stipends.
6. Keep an open mind, good attitude and have fun!
Traveling for a profession is not easy although it can be extremely rewarding and fulfilling. You could have contracts cancelled, family emergencies, housing upsets and crazy coworkers just to name a few. I cannot say enough that how you choose to respond and react to those things is what determines your future. You have the opportunity to create your path. Keep an open mind to new places and experiences.
Attitude is everything. HAVE FUN! Enjoy your surrounding and immerse yourself in your new locations. Go out and explore, take lots of pictures and make the most of every day. Try new things; foods, activities, sports and find your passions.