A traveling therapist provides speech, occupational and physical therapy services on a temporary basis to clients scattered across different localities and, occasionally, countries. Unlike mainstream therapists who accept permanent placements with an employer, a traveling therapist has no employer and no fixed location of employment. Instead, he or she is an independent contractor that arranges short-term provision of services at places that are short-staffed and need extra therapists for as little as two months to as much as 10 months. Lengths of contracts vary, however, and longer-term placements are possible.
Therapists in a traveling position perform the same daily therapeutic duties as mainstream peers, but may not be able to build lasting relationships with patients or remain with patients until their problems are resolved. The nature of a traveling therapist job requires that the therapist move from facility to facility, providing roving services while staying in hotels, cooperatives, or leased homes. Some therapists pay for their living quarters, while others negotiate free housing as part of the job compensation. Relocation expenses are usually included in each job offer.
In addition to working in medical centers or clinics, a traveling therapist frequently works in the field of education. Public grade schools often offer temporary contracts for the duration of one school year to travel therapists willing to provide speech language pathology services to students or physical therapy to school athletes. Therapists often choose a location based on community climate, opportunities for leisure entertainment and proximity to local colleges where continuing education courses in therapy can be taken. In fact, many companies will offer payment for continuing education as an incentive.
For assistance in finding the right job, a traveling therapist often seeks the services of staffing agencies and job placement experts. These liaisons help negotiate contracts, schedules and job benefits while giving therapists the discretion of deciding which jobs to accept or decline. Every new job generally requires the negotiation of a new professional services contract, but there are some job benefits that are standard for traveling therapists. In addition to moving stipends, such common benefits include company-paid health insurance and company contributions to the therapist’s retirement savings account.
Despite the instability of the job, a travel therapist often chooses such a career for the ability to tour new locales, meet diverse people and learn about the world. Detriments include not having a permanent homestead and time away from family and friends. Success as a traveling therapist usually requires more than just professional credentials. Staffing agencies warn that only applicants who are highly adaptable and fast learners can survive in the field.