We are pleased to welcome Jada J. Love, MS, CCC-SLP, as our guest
host for the SLP chat tonight, Monday, April 26, 2004. She
will be addressing the topic of working as a traveling therapist.
Jada Love attended both undergraduate and graduate school at
The University of Mississippi. She has worked as a speech-language
pathologist for three years in a variety of clinical settings with
both pediatric and adult populations. Ms. Love started working as a
traveler this year and has developed many insights into what this
type of position entails. She is currently on assignment in Maryland.
<Robin> Lets get started! We are chatting tonight with Jada J. Love, MS, CCC-SLP, about
working as a traveling SLP.
<Robin> Jada, tell us about your SLP career and why you decided to work as a traveler.
<Jada_Love> I went to school in Mississippi and have worked there for the past three years.
<Robin> What types of settings and/or populations did you work with in those three years?
<Jada_Love> I've worked in a variety of settings from hospitals to home health to Early
Intervention (EI) to outpatient to Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNFs)...you name it,
I've done it!
<Jada_Love> Early Intervention and pediatric dysphagia have become my areas of expertise.
<Jada_Love> I started traveling because I wanted a chance to see how other EI programs are
done throughout the country.
<Robin> What should an SLP look for in traveling companies? What types of questions should
<Jada_Love> It depends on what you're looking for.
<Jada_Love> For example, I wanted to be located in the Northeast to be near my fiance who
is in school in Connecticut (CT).
<Jada_Love> I have focused on companies who have clients in that area.
<Jada_Love> Also, benefits are always important.
<Jada_Love> Some companies will pay for your license, some will reimburse you for them.
<Robin> What kind of benefits do you get if you work one assignment at a time?
<Jada_Love> It depends on the company...there are some smaller ones that don't offer group
health insurance, but reimburse you if you pay for your own.
<Robin> Jada, maybe you should start with what an assignment is, how long it is, etc.
<Jada_Love> Assignments are typically 13-26 weeks long with the option of extending if possible.
<Jada_Love> Some companies work with schools which is a 9 month commitment.
<rylelm> By traveling, are you staying within say a 60 mile radius of one location or do you
go further for each client?
<Jada_Love> You can go across country or work in your home state, depends on the company.
One is considered a traveler if he/she works more than 50 miles from his/her PERMANENT
ADDRESS!! For example, if I work within 40 miles from my parents' home which is what
I use for my permanent address, if I am receiving a housing allowance or am living in
paid housing, I will have to answer to the IRS during tax time. There are companies
that specialize in instate travel, but you must go over 50 miles to reap the benefits
of being a "traveler." If you don't like the idea of moving all over creation, there
are several agencies in each state (most national companies) that provide staffing for
local facilities on a temporary basis. The pay for these jobs is typically higher than
the average SLP pay!
<Robin> What do you do about housing and transportation?
<Jada_Love> Most companies provide furnished housing in a clean, safe environment.
<Jada_Love> I'm in a corporate apartment now.
<Jada_Love> You usually can pick between corporate housing or a sizable housing allowance.
<Jada_Love> I recommend the former, because arranging housing can be very stressful.
<Robin> Do you bring your own car or does the company lease a car for you?
<Jada_Love> A few companies will provide a car for you if you are traveling between facilities
or are doing home health.
<Jada_Love> Otherwise, most companies reimburse you for expenses incurred while getting to an
<Robin> Jada, but once you are on the job, you provide your own transportation?
<Jada_Love> Transportation is relative to the assignment. I don't mind driving to my
assignments. However, if I were going across country, I would. Most companies would
either purchase or reimburse me for airfare and provide a rental car once on assignment.
It just depends. Also, if you're in a place where you don't need a car (i.e., NYC),
they would assist in your getting there.
<Robin> Does your employer pay for your daily mileage?
<Jada_Love> Most companies will reimburse your mileage to and from an assignment up to a
certain amount (i.e., $500); this usually includes any overnight accommodations.
$500 is A LOT of money; I only spent $100 in gas and meals to go from MS to MD which
was just shy of 1000 miles. However, I'm not sure how this would work if you fly to
an assignment. Once you're on assignment if travel is involved, a good company will
pay you mileage between facilities, homes, etc.
<Robin> Jada, what did you do about obtaining licensure in Maryland, the state you are on
<Jada_Love> It was fairly easy to obtain.
<Jada_Love> I had to get verification of licensure from MS and ASHA regarding my CCCs.
<Jada_Love> Some states are harder than others. For example, my next assignment is in CT;
I will begin paperwork on that next week, because it takes longer there.
<Robin> So for each assignment you have to make sure you are licensed in that state well ahead
<Jada_Love> Yes, you must be licensed to work in a particular state.
<AdrienneFSU> What happens when you change states? different license? what other adjustments
do you have to make?
<Jada_Love> When I leave this assignment, I will have active licenses in MS, MD, and CT.
<Jada_Love> The only one I will always "keep up" is MS because that's where I will live when
I grow up!
<Robin> In other words, you need to plan ahead for each assignment so you have time to apply
<Tandy> What are the salaries compared to non-travel positions?
<Jada_Love> Salaries are very good, plus you don't have the housing to worry about. That was
always my biggest expense.
<Jada_Love> Also beware of companies that want you to make long-term commitments.
<Janice> What do you mean by "long-term" commitment?
<Jada_Love> A few companies require that you sign a 12 month contract. This is not a good
idea, because if they can't find an assignment in your geographical preference, they
have the power to send you anywhere! You're stuck for a year. Sometimes travelers
will change companies to suit their needs between assignments. This isn't always the
best thing to do, but without signing a contract, you at least have this flexibility.
<Robin> Can you take off time in between assignments?
<Jada_Love> oh yes!
<Jada_Love> I will go home for 2 weeks before going to CT.
<rylelm> How do companies find out about you or do you "solicit" them?
<Jada_Love> You have to make the first move, usually by applying online or emailing them your
<rylelm> How do you know what companies to go after?
<Jada_Love> I recommend cruising the web and comparing.
<Robin> What questions should one ask to make a good comparison between companies?
<Jada_Love> It depends on what your needs are.
<Jada_Love> Benefits, job location, bonuses, pay rate, commitment, and reimubursement are the
main things to look at.
<Jada_Love> Also, find out about the variety of placement settings that a company has...if you
know you don't like SNFs make sure your company has other clients besides SNFs.
<Jada_Love> Some companies offer sign-on bonuses while others offer completion bonuses.
<Janice> Tell us more about these bonuses...I've heard of a sign-on bonus but never a
completion bonus. Do you receive that after your first assignment?
<AdrienneFSU> Does your pay vary by assignment? Or do you get an average?
<Jada_Love>The great thing about become a traveler after you have experience under your belt
is that you have bargaining power. With my experience, there is a specific rate that
I will not go under! Most companies have no problem accommodating this. A rough
average of what a SLP with CCCs makes is between $28 and $32 an hour which is great
because you have no living expenses (i.e., rent, utilities, cable, etc.). Most
companies also offer sign-on and completion bonuses which is always nice. You also
have the option of not having your housing provided for you and receiving a monthly
housing allowance. Unless you have a person to live with, I say go with the furnished
place; they are usually a lot nicer than the average SLP could afford! LOL!
<AdrienneFSU> Is there anything you wish you would have asked about?
<Jada_Love> It is very important to talk to other travelers with an agency.
<Jada_Love> When you narrow your choice down, any reputable company should have no problem
giving you references.
<Jada_Love> I'm in a very unique situation now and am in the process of changing companies.
<Jada_Love> The general rule of thumb for ANY job, if it seems to good to be true, it is.
<Jada_Love> However, travel work is very rewarding financially.
<Jada_Love> It helps you professionally also because it is important to see how things are
done in other places.
<Jada_Love> Personally, I have lived in places I have always loved, but couldn't afford
because of cost of living.
<Robin> How often are you paid while on assignment?
<Jada_Love> Most companies offer weekly direct deposit which is nice.
<Robin> Jada, what is the length of the assignment you are currently on, and what is the
length of your next assignment?
<Jada_Love> My current assignment is 4 months. This one is unique becaurse it's with a county
government; so they wanted me here until the end of this fiscal year.
<Jada_Love> Assignments usually last 13 weeks unless you are doing school tx.
<Jada_Love> School tx assignments typically alst a full 9 months.
<Jada_Love> Some companies who provide school tx will not pay for furnished housing.
<Jada_Love> Furnished housing is expensive for companies.
<Robin> Jada, if the companies don't provide housing, what is the advantage to traveling while
working for a school?
<Jada_Love> The advantage is more money than regular FT employment with a school system and a
generous housing allowance.
<Jada_Love> Plus, it's good if you want to be in a specific area for a longer period of time.
<AdrienneFSU> What happens if they find a permanent SLP while you're there? do you get
<Jada_Love> Most companies will fix the contracts so the client can't do that.
<Jada_Love> But check because there are some smaller companies that don't. However, they are
responsible for finding you another assignment to be a traveler.
<Robin> How long is your next assignment?
<Jada_Love> It will be 13 weeks.
<Robin> Will you also be involved with Early Intervention with the next assignment?
<Jada_Love> Yes, I am very excited!
<Tandy> It sounds like you have a really neat job.
<Robin> Jada, tell us about the personal adjustment to traveling...moving to a new place for a
short period of time...
<Jada_Love> One should be able to adapt to new situations and personalities very quickly and
to new surroundings in general.
<Jada_Love> Adaptability is VERY important.
<Jada_Love> If you think about it 3 months is the time it usually takes to get adjusted to a
<AdrienneFSU> A week before you leave?
<Jada_Love> When you travel, that's ALL the time you have!
<Jada_Love> You must be able to go in and hit the ground running!
<Robin> What are your employers and co-workers like at your current assignment?
<Jada_Love> My current job is GREAT!
<Jada_Love> They have never had a traveler before.
<Jada_Love> Most of them have only worked in this program so they are amazed at how I see
things beign from MS.
<Jada_Love> We are both learning new ways "to skin a cat"!!!
<Jada_Love> It is very educational.
<Robin> Are they receptive to new ideas and suggestions?
<Jada_Love> Most of them are. There will be difficult people everywhere.
<Jada_Love> However, once they have figured out I know what I'm talking about, it has gotten
<Robin> How is your social life on assignment?
<Jada_Love> That has been the hardest part for me.
<Jada_Love> I am a social butterfly and I'm in a bedroom community where everyone is married
and not into going out.
<Jada_Love> My fiancee has made a lot of trips to see me!!
<Jada_Love> But I'm in a great area... 45 minutes from DC and 45 minutes from Baltimore.
<Robin> People may be hesitant to befriend someone who is there temporarily. How do you get
along with your co-workers?
<Jada_Love> There are people who I will definitely keep in touch with.
<Jada_Love> There are some things I completely disagree with, but I'm only here for 4 months.
<Jada_Love> I have to pick my battles.
<AdrienneFSU> In your various jobs, have you found anything that helps you blend in more
<Jada_Love> Being open is the main thing.
<Jada_Love> I have a strong personality also so I've learned to bite my tongue and keep my
mouth shut... a huge personal development!
<Robin> That is a big accomplishment.....hard to do!
<Robin> How many years of experience do you think an SLP should have before venturing out as
<Jada_Love> I would not recommend traveling until you've completed your Clincal Fellowship
<Robin> Do companies require a certain amount of experience?
<Jada_Love> There are some companies with very good CFY programs, but it's usually a school
assignment and the money is not a true "travel" salary...CFYs are cheap labor.
<Robin> hmmmm..interesting...didn't know you could travel as a CFY.
<Jada_Love> Most companies want you to have your CCCs.
<Jada_Love> I would recommend at least 2 years under your belt.
<Jada_Love> I could not imagine having done this even after one year.
<Jada_Love> Three years of experience worked very well for me; I'm more confident as a
<Robin> Is there supervision from the travel company? Do they check in to see how you're
<Jada_Love> You're typically released into the "wild".
<Jada_Love> Unless there is a major issue there is little or no contact from the travel company.
<Jada_Love> However, most travelers develop relationships with their recruiters.
<Jada_Love> The most contact from the travel company occurs towards the end of the
assigment when you're planning your next move.
<Jada_Love> If I hated the assignment, I could give professional notice and leave.
<AdrienneFSU> How does your employer know you're doing a good job?
<Jada_Love> The company and the client communicate with each other periodically.
<Jada_Love> I do, however, have some supervision from the program manager at this assignment,
and she is WONDERFUL.
<Jada_Love> I go to my supervisor about once every 2 weeks and ask for her feedback.
<Jada_Love> When I first started I went to her weekly.
<Jada_Love> It helps to be outgoing.
<Jada_Love> Some clients will give you a "mentor" who trains you, however, remember you're
only there for a short period of time, so you must catch on quickly.
<Robin> Being independent is quite important for this type of position.
<Jada_Love> It is the most important factor as well as getting along with all types... you must
be a true people person!
<Robin> Jada, you have given us a lot of insight into this type of work! Does anyone have any
more questions for Jada?
<rylelm> NO, but thank you so much for your time and the invaluable information.
<Tandy> Jada, I wish you the best. Sounds like you are having a great time.
<Jada_Love> If you're not into micro-management, travel may be for you!
<Jada_Love> Thank you guys!!
<AdrienneFSU> Thanks Jada!
<Janice> Good luck on your next assignment!
<Jada_Love> Thank you! I will miss my babies from this assignment; that's the hard part.
<Robin> Jada, thanks for sharing your experiences with us.
<Robin> Thank you all for coming!
<Jada_Love> Bye ya'll!