Throwback Thursday: 6 Pros and Cons of Traveling Physical Therapy
Thinking about becoming a traveling physical therapist? Here’s what you need to know before you make the jump.
By Lily Beltran
Updated intro by Ben Wobker, PT, MSPT, CSCS, SFMAc
For years I have had colleagues and friends travel around the country as traveling physical therapists. There is a romanticism that comes along with this. I think as a new graduate it is invigorating to have nothing holding you down and no long-term commitments. Then life gets in the way. We find spouses, get dogs, join a gym, and begin to set down roots in a community or city. Then the challenge becomes the freedom that we loved as a traveling PT seems to come crashing down as we make a commitment to a traditional physical therapy clinic. Luna seems to solve many of these areas of stress and anxiety for PTs that want autonomy and freedom. Here is a great article our team put together in 2018 touching on many of these areas.
Getting paid to travel and do what you love sounds like a no brainer, right? Well, like most things that sound too good to be true, there can be a catch. Before you jump into your career as a traveling physical therapist, it’s important to get all the facts and make a list of pros and cons. But no worries! We did the heavy lifting for you below.
But first, what exactly is traveling physical therapy?
The job duties of a traveling physical therapist are much the same as any outpatient focused PT, but rather than rendering care to patients in one general location, travel physical therapists move from city to city. These assignments are contract based and typically last around 13 weeks. Traveling physical therapists typically find positions in acute care, outpatient clinics, and home health settings.
Here are six pros and cons of traveling physical therapy that you need to know.
Pro: Wide Range of Experiences
Traveling PTs have the added benefit of meeting a more diverse group of people--patients and therapists alike. They are consistently exposed to new ways of doing things and are able to care for a wide range of patients. This can help them learn to work with all types of people and advance their career as a physical therapist. They also get to experience different cities and new ways of life on a regular basis.
Con: Nomadic Lifestyle
It’s no secret, however, that traveling PT is a huge undertaking, and can be a challenging way of life for some. The constant uprooting, never knowing what’s coming next, and nomadic lifestyle is not for everyone. Traveling PT is typically an attractive and viable option for those who are early in their careers and eager to pay off student loan debt. For some, the idea of meeting new people, seeing new things, and traveling to new places is exciting. But, the truth is, once you have a family, or other responsibilities that tie you to one particular location, the constant travel and need to move every three to six months can become more difficult.
Pro: Care for Underserved Markets
Traveling physical therapy allows for underserved or understaffed markets to pull in more PT resources. Traveling PTs can feel a great sense of accomplishment and pride serving patients who might not have found the quality of care that they can offer otherwise. This, however, can also lead to a potential drawback that we will cover next.
Con: Undesired and Inflexible Assignment Locations
Because physical therapists are typically needed in underserved areas, most traveling PTs find themselves in rural and remote locations. In the off chance that an exciting, urban location opens up, the chances of landing the job before someone else is slim. Some might enjoy living in these types of locations, while others might feel a bit secluded.
Pro: Financial Incentives
Due to the nature of traveling PT jobs, financial incentives are typically offered to encourage PTs to accept certain assignments. Those incentives typically come in the form of higher hourly rates, bonuses, housing subsidies, or living fees. In general, you can expect to make a bit more money in a traveling position versus a traditional physical therapy job.
Con: Logistical Nightmare
Aside from the more obvious drawbacks of constantly uprooting your life, there are also more nuanced barriers to overcome. For example, a PT that recently came on board with Luna told us about her last traveling PT assignment out in Reno, Nevada. She had an apartment in San Francisco and knew if she let go of her lease, she would only come home to find sky high rent. She didn’t have the option of subletting her place so she ended up having to let go of her apartment, along with her reasonable rent.
So what’s the right answer?
As you can see, there are many advantages and disadvantages associated with becoming a traveling physical therapist—but what if you could enjoy all the pros without having to deal with any of the cons? It may sound too good to be true, but that’s exactly what we offer therapists at Luna.
With Luna, you can enjoy all of the flexibilities that traveling physical therapy has to offer without needing to uproot your life every few months. You dictate your own schedule and get to work with a wide range of patients, all within driving distance of your home base. By offering autonomy and independence, we empower therapists to take control of their lives and max out their earning potential.
Looking for a more viable alternative to traditional traveling PT? Ready to practice and provide treatment on your terms? Learn more about how Luna can help you own your career as a physical therapist.