By Kelsey Wettig
Are you eager to begin a career as a travel therapist? Already researching potential destinations and packing your bags? Before you get too far ahead of yourself, there are a few things you should know in order to be prepared for your travel assignments.
1.) Licensing and experience.
Two years or more of practice is highly recommended to have, but not necessarily required. You must have a valid degree in your specialty from an accredited healthcare professional program and have passed the national licensure exam.
2.) Brace yourself for constant change
While you will have plenty of time to relax and explore your assignment destination in your downtime, you must be aware of the amount of work you will be putting in from start to finish. Travel staffing services usually pair physical, occupational, and speech therapists with temporary jobs lasting 13 weeks or longer. Every time you move you must repeatedly learn your way around a new environment, as well as a new healthcare facility’s “way of doing things”. This can be both fun and challenging, so be ready to adapt these changes every three months.
3.) Compensation and benefits
Traveling to new locations isn’t the only perk of a mobile career. Earning a lucrative income and other great job incentives are things you can look forward to no matter what agency you choose to sign with. The median salary for PTs, OTs, and SLPs is approximately $70,000 annually. Location can play a large role in determining comp, so be sure to take that into consideration when you’re searching for travel therapy opportunities. Look for loyalty bonuses and an outstanding 401k plan as well.
4.) Arrangements for your family
Consider your domestic situation when planning a travel therapy career. How many people will be traveling with you, and how will those you leave behind cope? Occasionally, short term assignments in facilities close to home can be arranged-close enough that you can either be around at night or travel home on the weekends. Is your partner also an allied professional? Speak to a recruiter to find out if they can place you both in the same location, or at least close to one another so that you can still spend your free time together.
5.) Living/ housing arrangements
As far as housing goes, it is typically provided by the short-term employer. However, if you need more room, you may receive a housing stipend. This can have tax implications, so consulting a tax advisor before heading out is highly recommended. If you’re thinking about living in a recreational vehicle, don’t forget to research the location of RV parks close to your provisional place of work.
6.) How/ what to pack
Fashion does play a part in how to prepare for this exciting journey. Are you going North or South? Which season? It is essential to know what kind of clothing to pack depending on where you are venturing. You don’t want to be stuck in Maine in November with only short-sleeves and shorts! Do research on what the weather is going to be like throughout your stay. Knowing exactly what to pack will allow you to eliminate what you don’t need, and therefore make your suitcase lighter. Only pack the essentials. Moving every 13 weeks can be overwhelming, so make it as easy as possible on yourself.
8.) Banking and mail
Travel therapy agencies typically provide a direct deposit service so that you don’t have to deal with switching banks. Many banks also offer online services. You could even open a new account for each latest assignment location. It’s all about you and your preferences. Same goes with mail; you have a few options. Either forward your mail with the postal service every time you move to a new travel therapy assignment, rent a private post office box and arrange for fixed forwarding, or keep a permanent address at a friend’s or family member’s house and have your mail sent to you on a regular basis.
7.) Find the right recruiter
You will be spending about 13 weeks in contract with your recruiter when taking on an assignment, so it is essential to ask all of the questions and concerns you may have while making your final decisions. Prepare a list of questions to ask any agency when you begin thinking they are who you wish to work with. This list should include some of the topics mentioned above, such as compensation and housing deals, but also be sure to ask, for example, how you will remain in contact with them during your temporary job if you have any problems. There are so many agencies out there, so choose one that is more than happy to answer your questions.