What does a Travel Physical Therapist do?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 28 November 2019
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A travel physical therapist provides physical therapy services on a traveling basis, moving between hospitals, physical therapy clinics, and other facilities. People who are willing to travel usually make more money and may have access to other benefits, such as better vacation scheduling. The length of time at any given job can range from weeks to months, depending on the contract, and people may be able to put in requests to travel in specific regions if they want to stick to a particular geographic area.

The travel physical therapist works through a placement agency. Such agencies provide personnel in regions where facilities may not be able to recruit providers from within the community, and also offer coverage for people going on vacation or leave. People who work for an agency need to submit evidence of certifications to practice so the agency can make sure they are qualified, and they also usually need letters of reference, as well as school transcripts. The agency will make a placement depending on the parameters established by the therapist and the needs of the facility.


Travel physical therapists can work in hospitals, nursing homes, and outpatient rehabilitation facilities. They may specialize in a particular area of physical therapy, such as working with children or burn victims. In a community where a full-time specialist would not have enough work, a travel physical therapist can provide services that would otherwise be inaccessible. The therapist may rotate through positions at regional facilities to provide coverage, for example.

The agency usually does not provide accommodations or transportation. These are the responsibility of the travel physical therapist. The facility must provide adequate equipment and supplies, including tables, weight training equipment, and diagnostic tools. In some agencies, an informal network between care providers can often help people find apartment shares and temporary housing in the communities they work in, with exiting personnel reassigning leases or rentals to incoming people.

This work can expose people to a variety of working conditions and people. One advantage to being a travel physical therapist is constant variation on the job as the therapist adjusts to new facilities and meets new patients. Physical therapists may find it disappointing to be unable to follow through on all their cases, however; they may need to leave before a patient's course of therapy is done, and thus don't have an opportunity to assess the effectiveness of the therapy. Some people also find the constant movement stressful and may have trouble making friends and professional connections.


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Post 3

It would be so great to get a physical therapist job on a cruise ship or something like that. I know people tend to work long hours on cruise ships but you'd be doing work you enjoyed and getting to see the world at the same time.

Plus I imagine it would mostly be fairly easy work. It's not like you'd be diagnosing anything drastic, you'd just be working with pre-existing conditions and maybe helping out with a couple of sprained ankles as well.

Post 2

@pleonasm - Actually I don't think it would make all that much difference in the variety of patients you would see. I mean, physical therapists tend to see patients about once a week on average anyway, so it wouldn't be all that different from working out of a single place.

Also, I think most people would just be happy to have a job in general rather than be complaining because they aren't going into the same office every day.

I can see why this would be useful as well, since physical therapists can specialize in different conditions and body parts and this way you'd have the foot expert in a particular place on one day and the spine specialist there on another.

Post 1

I think you'd have to be a certain kind of person to really want this sort of job. It might pay slightly better than just working in one place, but going to a different work place every day of the week would really annoy me.

And I can't help but wonder if the travel costs would eventually outweigh any economic benefit of being a traveling physical therapist. I can't imagine these places are all close together, or they would just get the patients to go to you.

So, you'd have to be the kind of person who thrives on variety in order to really want this kind of job.

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