One of the wonderful things about being a therapist in the current environment is the plethora of jobs. Every day I receive emails for permanent, travel and per diem jobs.  Many websites including Simply Hired, Indeed, and LinkedIn display therapist job opportunities with often attractive incentives and pay.  These emails and other advertisements vary in the amount of information they give about a job.  Some advertise a sign-on bonus, new “state of the art” facilities, or that you will be working with an experienced team.  Others report “an excellent benefits package,” wonderful outdoor activities nearby, or a low cost of living.  Most often I see “competitive pay package,” when referring to an hourly rate or salary.  I like to think of a “competitive pay package” as an opportunity to negotiate rates.

Recruiting firms get paid when they find a therapist to fill a position for a hospital, outpatient, SNF, or school setting.  Recruiting takes place in all healthcare professions and is highly competitive, especially as the demand for a particular specialty goes up.  I know orthopedic surgeons and psychiatrists are always in hot demand, for example.  Over the last number of years, therapists, nurses and mid-level practitioners such as Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners have also been in high demand as more people are insured and our population ages.  It’s pretty much impossible to keep busy working as a travel therapist without using a recruiter.

Building a good relationship with your recruiter requires a significant time commitment, but it’s a worthwhile investment. A trustworthy recruiter will have the following characteristics:

  • They deliver on what they advertise and promise.  They don’t tell you about jobs unless they are “real jobs.” Unreliable recruiters use advertisements of outrageously high paying jobs that are designed to get your email and phone number so recruiters can tempt you into another position, generally one that is not as desirable. Basically, just use your common sense. If it sounds “too good to be true” it probably is!
  • They take “no” for an answer. Recruiters that don’t listen to you or try to “sell” you a job that you don’t want are a real pain.
  • They give you straight answers. Recruiters may have to be the bearer of bad news. Deals fall apart at the last minute. When things don’t work out the way you expected, a good recruiter will explain what happened and help you pick up the pieces so you can move on.

Let’s face it – recruiters have a very difficult job. They have to match up two parties, and most of the factors that can make or break the deal are out of their control. So, a good recruiter is one who is patient and isn’t trying to force something to work that just isn’t a good fit. A good recruiter is your advocate and truly has your best interests in mind. If you find one, hang on to them! Because working with a trusted recruiter can provide the following benefits:

  1. Exposure to more jobs – good recruiters know the industry and all the major employers in your location of interest.
  2. A more efficient application process – good recruiters provide a direct link to the decision-makers in an organization
  3. An inside scoop– good recruiters give you a heads up about what to expect from an employer.
  4. Confidentiality – good recruiters enable you to apply to jobs without informing your current boss or co-workers
  5. Career advice – good recruiters know whether or not your salary expectations are realistic and will answer your questions.
  6. Career coaching – good recruiters know that some therapists want to do more than just read articles. They may offer practice interviews and feedback on your resume.
  7. Negotiation Help – As a 3rd party, good recruiters can go behind the scenes and try to make a deal work out.

According to Steven Covey in The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People, trust is built with the following six actions:

  1. seeking to understand
  2. small acts of kindness
  3. keeping promises
  4. clarifying expectations
  5. being loyal
  6. and offering a sincere apology when these first five actions are violated.
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Since a recruiter will play such an important part of your travel therapy experience, take the time to evaluate your experiences with each job that you apply to according to these principles. If you feel like one of these aspects is missing, move on. There are many great travel therapy companies and recruiters, so keep looking until you find one.

Whether it is permanent, per diem, or travel job, a “good” job is a matter of perception.  Travel jobs, in particular, can be tricky.  Most of us know that we will only be in a travel job for about 3 months, so we think to ourselves “I can do anything for three months!”

I mostly agree, but I personally have some red flags when considering a travel position. I have turned down numerous travel positions in wonderful locations due to 90% productivity expectations.

On the other hand, I have also turned down many wonderful sounding positions simply due to the remoteness of the locations.  Specifically, I have had wonderful pay packages presented to me in Wyoming, which is a beautiful state but the locations that need therapists are remote and did not offer a lot in terms of entertainment and specific recreational opportunities I am looking for.  I tend to take assignments in cities where there are at least 10,000 people.  I actually learned this lesson when I first started taking small contract assignments in Colorado.  I found myself in a small eastern Colorado town of about 500 people doing some outpatient, inpatient and home health.  It was exciting but I found the city to be too small for me.  There were no social gatherings to speak of, everyone knew I was the “out of towner” and it just felt small.  The residents of the town were extremely nice and helpful but in the end, I did not renew the contract.

Finding the right permanent or travel position can be tricky. You learn as you go.

Talking to recruiters can take practice.  Do not be afraid to ask questions about benefits, patient ratios and how the therapy team works.  I like to ask why the facility needs a traveler or new permanent therapist and how common is staff turnover.  In an upcoming article, I will discuss more questions to ask prior to taking a travel or permanent position.   You will develop your own “red flags” and the ability to “go with your gut” when taking travel assignments.  In the meantime have a fun transition from winter into spring and safe travels.

Here are some things that a good recruiter can do for you:

  • Give you exposure to more jobs.
  • Provide a more efficient application process – provide a direct link to the decision-makers in an organization.
  • Screen employers – give you a heads up about what to expect when working for certain organizations.
  • Confidentiality – ability to apply to jobs without informing your current boss or co-workers.
  • Provide some career advice – for example – whether or not your salary expectations are realistic.
  • Provide career coaching – maybe a practice interview if you want one, or feedback on your resume. Before you interview, they often share an inside scoop on the facility.
  • Negotiation Help – As a 3rd party, they can go behind the scenes and try to make a deal work out.

Justin JohnsonJustin Johnson is currently living and working in Bellingham, WA. Justin graduated from Central Michigan University with his DPT in 2008 and earned his GCS designation in 2011. Justin has worked for large trauma 1 and teaching hospitals along with diverse settings as a travel PT for many years.  During the winters Justin can be found sliding up and down mountains on his skis or at Mt. Baker where he is a volunteer ski patroller. During the months where there is no snow he can be found on two wheels.  You can reach him at [email protected]

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