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The Details of Travel Physical Therapy

I’ve been doing travel PT for a few years now, so here is a quick summary of the details in hopes it helps you understand how it all works!

1. Pass the NPTE (National Physical Therapy Exam)

Passing the board exam is, by far, the hardest part. Once you’ve passed, you can start applying for state licenses.

2. Apply for state licensure

This varies state by state. Check with each state board website. The PT Compact Commission is currently trying to make this easier for travelers. See more details about PT Compact here.

3. Find a recruiter

There are a TON of recruiting agencies out there. I’ve personally worked with Delta and Triage. Both companies were recommended to me by fellow PT’s. After you find a recruiter you want to work with, you can request specific or broad locations, healthcare setting, and even your start date. Recruiters find available PT positions within your request parameters and will ask your permission prior to submission for a job. He/she will submit your resume and all other paperwork and set up the initial phone interview with the employer. Once you complete the phone interview and you still want that particular position (and they still want you), your recruiter can also assist negotiating your contract, salary, pay package, and can assist with finding your housing. Your recruiter is your go-to person for any questions or concerns. The awesome thing about having a recruiter is that the service is FREE to you! Once your recruiter is done with all the negotiations, and you agree to everything, your new employer will pay the recruiter.

My current recruiter’s information is:

  • David Proffitt
  • Triage Staffing
  • Office: 800-259-9897 (227)
  • e-Fax: 402-998-5260
  • Mobile: 402- 657-9057 (Central Time Zone, please be courteous)

He’s awesome. I do get a referral bonus if you call and sign up for an assignment with him.

4. Phone Interview

If you haven’t interviewed in a while, this part can be a little stressful, but it’s honestly not a big deal. Your recruiter will give you a heads up on the approximate day and time to expect the phone call.

The employer usually asks:

  • What are your strengths and weaknesses
  • What is your experience
  • Why should they hire you
  • Are you a good team player

The employer also usually gives you an idea of what the job entails as well, such as:

  • Case load
  • Dress attire
  • Information about the community/location

You do not discuss:

  • Salary
  • Benefits
  • Housing

You only discuss this with your recruiter.

The phone interview usually only lasts about 10 minutes. Once you finish the phone interview, it’s a good idea to call your recruiter and let them know how it went so they can follow up with the employer.

Find housing

Once you complete your phone interview and get the approval that the employer wants you, you can start looking for housing. DON’T SIGN ANYTHING YET! You want to make sure you can secure housing before you lock yourself into a binding contract.

Finding housing can be done in a few different ways:

  • Find your own housing and take the stipend (see below for more information on stipends). YOU are responsible for finding and paying for what you find. You will be compensated through a negotiated rate for housing.
    • Travel in a camper (my preference): Research RV/mobile home parks in the area. Find out availability, monthly rate, and make sure it’s in a decent area. I personally like the app “RVparky”
    • Find temporary housing: Research craigslist, airbnb, other websites for housing. Find out availability, monthly rate, and make sure it’s in a decent area
  • Have your recruiter do the work for you to find housing (they keep your housing stipend, but you will not have to pay for housing while you are on assignment)

With my experience, it has been in my best interest to find my own housing and take the housing stipend because I have been able to find housing for less than my monthly stipend, which means I can pay for a place to stay and POCKET the rest of the money.

Review the contract and sign

Once you have secured housing, call your recruiter and let them know. In the meantime, they will be negotiating your salary, stipends, and benefits. Your recruiter will then send you a contract to sign. READ EVERYTHING BEFORE YOU SIGN. If you have any questions or anything you disagree with, call your recruiter. Most likely they can make the changes, or they will contact the employer. ONLY SIGN THE CONTRACT YOU COMPLETELY AGREE WITH.

Salary and stipends

You will have an hourly base salary, as well as your “tax-free travel package”. The hourly base salary is what you make per hour. Your recruiter will negotiate the hourly rate, as well as the “tax-free travel package. The reason that travel PT’s can make so much money is the “tax-free travel package” portion of your paycheck. The package includes 2 things: a housing stipend and a per diem (meal) stipend. Both stipends are completely tax-free, as long as you meet certain criteria (see below for more information on criteria). If you work a 40 hour work week, the travel package will make up about 50% of your paycheck. Both stipends will be a negotiated rate and will remain the same amount for each paycheck, as long as you work more than 36 hours. If you miss one 8-hour work day, your stipend money does decrease for that pay period.

Example:

  • $30/hour
  • Housing stipend: $600/wk
  • Per Diem (meal) stipend: $350/wk
  • 40 hour work week: Total $2150/wk.

Now, this is before taxes are taken out, but taxes only come out of your hourly rate. You get to keep ALL your stipend money (again, as long as you meet the certain criteria).

Certain criteria for tax-free stipends:

  • You have to sign a Permanent Tax Residence Declaration
  • Meet at least one of the following two criteria
    • You lived at your permanent tax residence immediately prior to your current assignment, or
    • You have a family member utilizing the residence, or you utilized this residence frequently for the purpose of your own lodging
  • Additionally there must be a realistic expectation that you will return to and live at your home; and
    • Your tax home must be separate and distinct from your temporary address; and
    • You pay to maintain your permanent tax residence while you are on assignment (mortgage, rent, room and board)
  • Finally, the tax residence must be
    • habitable living quarters at least 50 miles away from your temporary residence, and
    • Payments to maintain your permanent tax residence must be real and substantial
  • Also, the IRS considers employment away from your home in a single location that lasts one year or longer to be indefinite, not temporary. Therefore, in these circumstances, housing, per diem, and travel benefits would be subject to withholding

If you do not meet these criteria, you can still receive the housing and per diem stipends, however taxes will be taken out of your travel package.

Work pre-requisites

Most employers want documents to prove that you are safe to work in their environment. Most pre-requisites include:

  • Urine drug screen
  • TB test
  • Physical
  • TDAP Vaccination within the last 10 years
  • Hep B Titer/Vaccination
  • Flu shot
  • Mask fit test
  • MMR Booster

They will also need a copy of:

  • State license card
  • Driver’s license/ID
  • CPR card

Start your assignment!

It is a lot to prepare before you start working, however your recruiter will be there every step of the way. Most of the time, they will set you up with the pre-requisite appointments and cover all charges. You will also get reimbursed for the state license application fee and all other charges. Some travel agencies also offer continuing education refunds and assistance with student loan repayment.

Travel therapy is the best job I’ve ever had. I can travel anywhere within the United States and live in places I’d only get to see on a short vacation. I highly recommend travel therapy. Hope this was helpful! Let me know if you have any questions that were not answered!

I’m able to travel with my boyfriend, who is not a traveling PT. If you or your significant other are unsure what type of work is out there on the road, click here to see what he does!

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