I was definitely the girl who did not like change. I value tradition, consistency and stability.
Traveling physical therapy was anything but stable. There are three main reasons someone would choose to travel for their job:
- I don’t know where I want to live and settle down
- I don’t know which facet of physical therapy I want to do
- I need to pay off my student loans as fast as possible
While my main reasons should probably be the first and the second, I would be lying. I wanted to pay off my student loans the quickest way I knew how…traveling.
For those of you that don’t know, and I assume most have not been traveling physical therapists, let me explain the HOW and WHY.
To some, moving every thirteen weeks sounds tedious, draining, and risky. It is all of those things! It is also rewarding, exciting, and downright fun.
Since I’ve admitted that my main reason is the money, let me explain how you make your money.
It is considered “traveling” therapy if you are working 50 miles from your permanent residence. For me, my permanent residence was and is to this day, upstate New York. As long as I remain 50 miles away from this address, I would be considered a traveler and earn the many benefits because of this.
What does this include?
1. An hourly wage for actually being a physical therapist( this was a very low number and the only part of my paycheck that would be taxed)
2. An hourly amount for meals (not taxed)
3. An hourly amount for living expenses (not taxed)
4. Insurance was free (or very inexpensive, depending on which company you were with)
5. Weekly paychecks.
So let’s put that in another perspective: About half of my paycheck was taxed and half was not. This amounts to a much higher NET weekly pay compared to a physical therapist working a “permanent” job. In the basic form, I was making about double compared to my classmates that chose not to travel.
How does it work?
Recruiting/Staffing companies have a list of places that are requesting a 13 week traveler to fill their needs. There are many reasons a facility may need a traveler: maternity lean, understaffing, high census. Getting a contractor is a quick and easy way to fill a void immediately.
For me: I chose a geographical location I wanted to be in, with no compromise on my end, I made my recruiters jobs very hard. I wanted what I wanted, and I wasn’t going to budge. Because of this, it was often difficult to find a job in the location I wanted, and I certainly had no room to be choosey with whatever contracts were found. Amazingly, I always managed to get placed in the exact location I wanted, even if it was at the last minute. This was something that was very hard for a girl that LOVES TO PLAN.
13 weeks? It’s not very long. It is three months. This three month period might be just the amount of time a facility needs until they higher someone new, until their other therapist gets back, or just enough time to see if they want you to join their team permanently. The 13 weeks is a very fluid number, you may sign a 13 week contract, but you may be cut at 8 weeks, you may break your own contract at 10 weeks, or you may extend contract and stay a year. All of those scenarios happened to me and are what makes traveling unstable, risky, and yet exciting.