Being a travel speech-language pathologist (SLP) has broadened my personal, clinical, and professional horizons. I have worked in six states and over 50 different healthcare facilities across the country. As a travel
Taking the leap into becoming a travel SLP has changed my life.
Yet, this is something I didn’t even know existed until I was a couple of months into my clinical practice. I never learned about being a traveler in grad school and didn’t even know this world existed. As a novice clinician 10 years ago, I pieced together information on the travel healthcare world and took a blind leap into the unknown. Now, I hope to be able to provide you with education and resources for becoming a travel therapist.
Determine If Being a Travel SLP is for You
A travel SLP is not just a job, it’s a lifestyle and it’s not for everybody. The SLPs who seem to enjoy travel the most are the ones who are up for an adventure and are flexible in new situations. Every assignment is a new adventure and you are constantly walking into the unknown. Traveling can be a wonderful way to not only see the country, but also to expand your clinical skills and learn from new clinicians across the country.
As a traveler, you will work short-term temporary assignments that may last anywhere from 13 weeks to a year. Due to the temporary nature of the contracts, you are an at-will employee who can be cancelled or replaced anytime. There is not guaranteed work, so you may find yourself without a job.
If you are considering being a travel SLP, I would take this time to pause and think about the lifestyle, pros, and cons of travel life. Take a moment to write down goals, both professional and personal, that you have for yourself. Envision where you see yourself in five years. Then, decide if being a traveler fits into those goals and visions for yourself.
If you can see yourself as a traveling SLP and want to learn more, keep reading!
Obtain State Licensure
In a dream world, having an ASHA certification would allow you to work in every state across the country. However, that is not how it works. For each state you work in, you need state licensure for that specific state. The states require that you complete their state application. However, you may also need to complete verification letters from every other state in which you have carried a licensed. The state to state license verification process can take weeks and is completed via snail mail.
Applying for state licensure can be a long process. While some states may turn over an application in as little as a couple of weeks, others can take months. Meanwhile, when a travel job is posted, it may be filled in as little as a day. Thus, you need to have your licenses active if you are planning to apply to travel jobs.
If you are serious about travel and serious about getting a travel position, I would start your journey by getting licensed in multiple states. To determine which states are hot for SLP jobs, I recommend this resource by Nomadicare which provides an average number of open jobs for each state over the month.
I personally recommend that SLPs consider licensure in California. California is a vast state with continual needs for SLP coverage in multiple settings including schools, SNFs, outpatient clinics, and acute care facilities. California is a great license to have and opens the door to many contracts.
Research the Industry
If you landed on this blog, you may already be researching the travel SLP industry. Congrats to you! I have a whole page of my favorite resources listed here: RESOURCES. I highly recommend reading and checking out those pages.
Face to face networking with other clinicians is also golden. If you have a traveler on staff, invite them out to coffee and pick their brain about the industry. Don’t know any travelers? Then join the travel therapists group on Facebook and connect virtually. If you want to attend an event that connects travelers and provides education, then check out the Travelers Conference. Held annually in Las Vegas, this event has speakers from the leaders in the industry, and boasts over 1000 attendees.
Connect with Recruiters and Agencies
This step can get tricky. There are hundreds of agencies that staff travel therapy jobs. It can be difficult to determine what makes a good agency or who you should work with.
I recommend that you pick an agency based on the following:
- Benefits (e.g. day 1 health insurance versus insurance after 30 days, etc.)
- Connection with recruiter. The recruiter you work with is your professional tie to the company. Make sure you have a good working relationship with your recruiter.
- Jobs in a particular location. Some agencies have exclusive contracts with certain facilities, although most jobs tend to be shared by most agencies.
Who do I recommend?
To be honest, at this point in time, I’ve worked extensively with so many agencies and have seen a lot of good and bad out there. I cannot broadly recommend a recruiter or agency because of the bullet points I mentioned above. What works for me may not work for you, and every agency is different.
I HIGHLY recommend receiving a recruiter match from Nomadicare. Nomadicare asks you questions about what you are looking for in an agency and pairs you with two vetted recruiters from different agencies. The service is free for travelers and can help you get your travel career off to the right start. The recruiters with Nomadicare have been highly vetted, to provide you with the best resources and service.
If you are serious about working with an agency, you will want to complete their credentialing process. This process tends to be a bit time consuming, so you only want to do it if you know you are serious about working with an agency. Your agency will provide you with their credentialing information once you establish a relationship with them and you indicate that you want to be a job candidate through them.
The credentialing process involves getting all of the required materials together for job submission. This can include sending in copies of state licenses, ASHA cards, BLS certification, vaccination history, a criminal background check, two or three professional references, and a detailed resume of your work history. By completing the credentialing process, you will be ready to submit to jobs by your agency.
Job Browsing and Submission
When you are credentialed and ready to go, your agency can submit you to jobs. Jobs in the travel world can be very hot. Some jobs may open and close in one day, because they have so many candidates submitted. Because the jobs fill so fast, it is important to have good communication with your recruiter during this time. Your recruiter will be your go-to person to tell about open job listings. Do not expect to find out about jobs on agency websites or job boards, like Indeed. By the time jobs go up on those sites, they may already be closing. Act quickly by communicating regularly with your recruiter.
When presenting a job, your recruiter should tell you all of the identifying information about that job, such as pay rate, anticipated schedule, location of facility, name of facility, and any other important details. If you are interested in a job, based on a recruiter’s description, then you can agree to submit your application for the position. The recruiter will be the one to submit your file, based on the information you provided during the credentialing process. However, more information may be needed for your job application at this time, so make sure you are in contact with your recruiter.
If the facility is interested in your application, you may receive a phone interview with the manager or director of the job. Make the most of your phone interview! If you have a call scheduled, don’t forget to pick up the phone! This is your only chance to make a good impression to be considered for the position. It’s also your only time to directly ask questions about the job.
Accept or Decline an Offer
After the phone interview, the facility will let your agency know if they want to extend the position to you or not. If you do not get the job, no worries; it is back to the job search process. If you do get the job, congrats! Then you can move forward in the path to becoming a travel SLP. When you accept an offer, you need to review and make any negotiations to the contract you are signing. Review your contract carefully to ensure that the information is correct, including start date/end date, any guaranteed hours per week, pay rate, cancellation policy, and requested time off during the contract.
Onboard with the Agency and Facility
The credentialing procedure may seem like a lot of work. However, that is just the beginning. If you accept a position, then you have to complete onboarding requirements for both your agency and the facility you are working for. This can include drug screens, TB tests, vaccinations, a physical, respirator fit test, online competency modules, and more background checks. Onboarding can take a LOT of time! If you accept a position, be prepared to act quickly to complete your onboarding tasks.
Start Your Job as a Travel SLP!
While it has taken a lot of work to get to this point, now your real work is just beginning. You get to move to your new location and begin work at your new job.
Here are some blogs that you may want to read at this step:
Extend or Travel
Time flies while you are on contract. Before you know it, it may be time to start looking for your next assignment (usually about three to six weeks from your end date). Your facility may ask you to extend your time with them, and you could extend your contract. Or, you could move on to a new job.
Life as a travel SLP can open up a lot of new opportunities. Working in and traveling to different states is an adventure of a lifetime. It can be hard to summarize how to be a travel SLP in a single blog post, so I hope you also check out the other great resources I linked to in this post. Please join my email list (sign up below) to stay up to date on my new posts and to receive a free PDF copy of my Beginner’s Guide To Travel Healthcare. Best of luck on your journey!