What is “travel therapy” and how does it differ from “contract therapy”?
A “contractor” is generally a therapist who lives locally to the facility, but is compensated hourly and paid through a staffing agency. A “traveler,” like a contractor, is also paid hourly and paid by an agency, but has arrived from out of town for the duration of the assignment and usually qualifies for a tax-free per-diem to pay for the expenses associated with living out of town while maintaining a residence back home while on assignment. Contractors, because they are local, do not have these additional expenses and are not eligible for per-diem or housing
What are the advantages and disadvantages of travel/contract positions compared to direct hire placement?
Travel or contract placement can be preferable for a therapist for the following reasons:
- Pay is generally much higher when contracting.
- If you are traveling in a state or city away from your permanent place of residence you may be eligible for tax-free per-diem to cover the costs of your housing and meals while working away from your primary residence.
- Traveling/contracting is also ideal if you are looking to explore new areas of the country for a while.
Advantages of direct hire placement would include the following:
- Opportunities for professional advancement – a direct hire employee will generally be offered promotions long before a contractor.
- Benefits may be better in a direct hire environment, especially in a school setting. Some facilities have excellent benefits; and although the pay is much lower for direct hire employees vs. contracting, therapists with large families may find that the better benefits package outweighs the lower annual salary.
Should I work in a “Travel/Contract” placement as a new grad?
That depends on your unique circumstances and personality.
Here are some of the advantages:
- Switching assignments every 13 weeks, for another year or two, gives you a great variety of experiences to learn from. This experience becomes a continuation of your clinical rotations, only this time without a supervising clinician. Once you find your favorite setting and location, you can settle down and take a permanent placement with confidence.
- Therapists who choose to pursue more full time education, for example in a doctorate program, may have a short time periods that they need to find employment
between semesters or programs.
- Therapists who want to quickly pay back student loans may find working in contract/travel placements to be the quickest way to do so.
Some challenges of working as a new grad contract/travel therapist include the following:
- Facilities naturally treat contract/travel therapists differently from their permanent employees. New grads may not find the same care and concern in their relationships with other staff members that they would find as permanent employee.
- Community with other therapists is disrupted every time you move to a new facility.
- Repeatedly learning new documentation and facility protocols can be tiring and stressful.
- Many contract/travel assignments require one year of experience. Basically, new grads that decide to travel are fortunate when they find a facility that will accept them without this experience.
What types of contract/travel assignments are available and how long are they?
PT Solutions works with hospitals, schools, outpatient clinics, skilled nursing facilities, home health agencies, and more. A “contract/travel” assignment usually averages around 13 weeks. Hospitals and clinics are often looking for family/maternity leaves or to temporarily fill a vacancy. Most school districts are looking for a full school-year commitment, but sometimes will consider a shorter duration. Contract or PRN positions may be “ongoing” in duration.
Will PT Solutions be able to find me an assignment anywhere I want to go?
Sometimes yes, and sometimes no. Many large metropolitan cities will not consider travelers from out of state because of their large PRN pools locally. If you are open to be one or two hours outside the major city of your choice, your chances of landing the assignment close to where you want to be will improve drastically. In rural and suburban areas, the need for travelers generally is dependent on whether there are ample local candidates to start with, and also whether there is a school graduating candidates in the area you are looking to work. PT Solutions will always try to find you an assignment regardless of expected market conditions and will follow up with you to make sure you know the status of your search.
What is tax-free “per diem” and who is eligible?
Tax-Free Per-diem is an allowance defined by the IRS as money that can be paid to you (tax-free) to cover living expenses incurred during the assignment. Therapists living away from their permanent residence (defined as where you are currently paying rent or mortgage) are eligible for per-diem. The spirit of this allowance is to exempt from taxation any duplicate expenses affiliated with work that would not be necessary were you living at home.
Do you provide housing or is there an allowance?
PT Solutions operates on the per diem system rather than providing the actual housing. This means you will receive an hourly portion of your pay – tax-free, that is to be used for your housing. We believe this is a superior system to that of providing housing because you can choose how much to spend and where to live rather than having us decide for you.
What type of support is provided if I have a clinical or administrative problem?
PT Solutions offers clinical support from its therapist owners from the day you begin your assignment through its completion. Devin and John have over 14 years of experience as contract therapists, and are available for phone conversations or to mediate with your facility, should such a need arise.
What compensation and benefits are available for travel therapists?
PT Solutions offers contractors/travelers a highly competitive benefits package, which includes a national medical, dental, vision, life insurance plan, 401K program, relocation assistance, new licensure reimbursement, malpractice insurance coverage, worker’s comp coverage, and continuing education reimbursement. Paychecks are bi-weekly and direct deposit is offered.