13 Lessons We Learned About Being a New Grad Travel PT

Earlier this month, we had the opportunity to interview new grad travel PT, Claire Laverne PT, DPT. She has been loving life as a traveler with Advanced Travel Therapy, and graciously sat down with Brett Kestenbaum PT, DPT to offer her perspective on what’s involved with being a new grad travel PT.

Despite having spoken with countless travel PTs, and written many articles on the topic, the webinar was very enlightening for both me and Brett. We both felt like we learned a lot, and had slight FOMO about the travel PT lifestyle when all was said and done!

Here are 13 takeaways that we learned from the webinar with Claire. Feel free to post more questions in the comments section, and we’ll do our best to find the answers for you! And don’t forget to watch the whole travel PT webinar when you have some time 🙂

Interested in traveling as a new grad? 

Our team of PTs here at NewGradPhysicalTherapy.com is re-defining what it means to be a successful “new graduate traveling physical therapist.”

Join our exclusive group of 12 new grad PTs each month who are new to traveling. If you’re interested, send Brett Kestenbaum, DPT a quick message using the chat bubble in in the lower right-hand corner of this screen.

1. Even if you’re scared to travel, it’s OK.

Laverne assured us that becoming a travel PT as a new grad does not mean you’re signing your life away. Even after you sign a contract for 13 weeks, you can leave if you get there and realize it’s not for you. According to her, there are very few examples of folks who shouldn’t travel, but they include people who don’t like continual moving or location changes, and those who lack confidence.

But, Laverne says, even if you’re feeling like you’re in those categories, you might still want to try travel PT! You might find that the continual change helps you grow as a person and a clinician. No decision is final, she says, so just try it!

2. The best time to become a travel PT is when you are a new grad.

Laverne strongly feels that, despite some myths about travel PT, the best time to travel is while you’re still a new grad PT or PTA! It’s a great way to know which setting resonates with you best, and to explore the field and understand what YOU need for the rest of your career as a PT/PTA.

Some new grad PTs avoid travel PT because they are concerned that they won’t be welcomed into a facility. Laverne asserts that travelers are usually welcomed with open arms!! But, she advises, travel PTs need to take the initiative to show that they are interested in the team. She recommends starting each contract by asking the staff their names and make effort to show you’re interested in them.

3. Contract length can definitely vary, and it’s not set in stone. Always be ready to move.

Most contracts are 13 weeks, but some can be shorter (6 weeks) and others are sometimes extended to be much longer (6 months). But one thing almost always rings true: there’s usually an immediate need that results in a practice requesting a traveler. This means that you usually will look for a new role about 2 weeks before you intend to start. Obviously, this is much different from full-time work!!!

4. Speaking of travel PT contracts, read them.

Each travel PT contract is different.

  • Be sure to ask about “guaranteed hours” in your contract. You could wind up expecting to work 40 hours/week, but if you’re only guaranteed 30 hours/week, you might find yourself with lots of time being flexed off (unpaid).
  • Don’t forget that you can almost always negotiate contracts. As with permanent jobs, your initial offer is rarely what an employer anticipates you to accept. Sometimes, you can gain a greater stipend for housing, licensing, or moving costs. Do your homework about rent rates in your new location.
  • Always ask about overtime. It varies widely per facility, so asking questions upfront is essential. Ask about how many hours of overtime (if any) are allowed/required. Weekends/holidays are a great time to get overtime pay!

5. Travel therapy makes a new grad PT’s resume look incredible.

It’s a win-win situation for someone eager to learn and get their feet wet in multiple settings. If you took a permanent job and moved around a ton in your first few years, you might come across as a flight risk or a “job jumper,” but travel PT affords you tons of experience in a small amount of time. You can be the Jack/Jill of all Trades quite quickly as a new grad travel PT!

Perhaps best of all, a resume that has travel PT experience on it says that a therapist is adaptable and able to think on his or her feet.

6. Housing stipends, incidental rates, and daily stipends are where the money is for travel PTs.

Housing stipend is typically broken into a weekly amount. If you are able to find housing for less than your stipend, you can pocket the difference (and put it toward paying off your loans!) The same goes for incidental pay. So it’s often preferable to negotiate a lower hourly rate and a higher stipend/incidental/housing rate.

7. Never forget the Travel PT mantra

Laverne recommends that you keep just a few key points in mind, and everything else will flow naturally. She advises that you keep your patients safe, perform good care, advocate for patients, and ask plenty of questions! If something feels fishy or makes you uncomfortable, speak up!

8. Vacations work differently when you’re a travel PT

You don’t accrue PTO as a travel PT, but you can take as long as you want between assignments, so save up money accordingly if you want to use this time to travel! You won’t get burned out on patient care as a traveler…but you can get tired of constantly packing and moving…so traveling might not have the same allure that it would if you had a permanent job.

9. It’s a good idea to maintain licenses in any states where you’d like to return.

Many licenses terms last up to two years! Getting new licenses in new states is not as difficult as it would seem, and maintaining them is often simple. Laverne recommends maintaining state licensure if there’s even a tiny chance you’ll return to practice in that state at some point.

10. You can take as little or as much time off as you want between contracts.

But, says Laverne, it’s rough when you only allow yourself a weekend 🙂

11. When you travel as a new grad, you generally need to prioritize something.

You’ll want to pick whether location, pay, or physical therapy setting is most important to you. Look at whatever you select as your “non-negotiable” and be willing to budge in the other areas. Like any job, it’s difficult to find a travel PT assignment that checks all the boxes.

She also notes that it’s quite possible to travel as a couple, or even as a family with children. This might change your priorities a bit, but she has known folks who have successfully lived this lifestyle.

12. In many cases, it’s really all about the recruiter – and the company

Laverne notes that there are a few qualities of a great travel PT recruiter. Two of the most important ones are:

  1. Somebody you trust
  2. Somebody who is accessible

Lastly, one of the reasons why she chose to travel with Advanced Travel Therapy is the fact that they offer a free, extensive CEU program, in addition to a formalized mentorship program. This meant that she didn’t have to choose between mentorship and the travel PT experience as a new grad!

Interested in traveling as a new grad? 

Our team of PTs here at NewGradPhysicalTherapy.com is re-defining what it means to be a successful “new graduate traveling physical therapist.”

Join our exclusive group of 12 new grad PTs each month who are new to traveling. If you’re interested, send Brett Kestenbaum, DPT a quick message using the chat bubble in in the lower right-hand corner of this screen.

About Meredith Victor Castin

Meredith Victor Castin
Meredith is the co-founder of NewGradPhysicalTherapy.com and the founder of The Non-Clinical PT. She is originally from Tyler, TX and attended UPenn for undergrad, before graduating with her DPT from USA (San Diego) in 2010. She has worked in outpatient ortho, inpatient rehab, acute care, and home health. She loves spending time with her husband and 3 cats, and enjoys creating art and weird music.

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