By Stephen Stockhausen, PT, DPT, OCS, Contributing Writer, Founder of PT Adventures
Having the freedom to take different jobs in various parts of the country is by far the best, and the most obvious, perk of being a travel physical therapist. But it comes at a cost of the occasionally arduous task of obtaining a new state license.
There are the jurisprudence exam, state license fee, FSBPT test score verification fee, and license verification letters—with subsequent fees that need to be sent to any state you have ever held a license. Whew! That’s exhausting just to type out let alone piece together and mail off. Oh, and then you have to wait anywhere from two to six months to find out if you’re new license has been granted or not.
But fear not—the Physical Therapy Compact license is designed to fix all of that!
In case you haven’t heard about the Physical Therapy Compact license here is a quick summary. Enacted in 2017, the Physical Therapy Compact Commission was created to provide a vehicle for improved interstate license accessibility while maintaining the safety of the public consumer as set forth by each state’s practice act, according to their website.
The PT Compact Commission has since built up an impressive list of 21 states willing to recognize the validity of physical therapist and physical therapist assistant licenses from other participating states. The first privileges were then officially granted in July of 2018.
While all 21 states have passed legislation to be members, not all states are currently issuing compact license privileges at this time and are still resolving internal issues—or just dragging their feet. At the time of this writing, nine states are active participants in the compact license process, with more joining every month!
Pros and Cons of the Physical Therapy Compact License for travelers
Therapy privileges can be granted in minutes rather than months
Once you take the jurisprudence exam for your new state—often completed online—and pay the necessary fees, you are eligible to begin working in the new state
The fees involved with the new PT Compact are very minimal compared to sending out license verification fees for each state you have ever had a license. $45 goes to the PT Compact Commission, and then each state has their own fee. Most range from $45-60, with the exception of Mississippi at $150. (Come on, Mississippi!)
One set of Continuing Education Units (CEUs) to manage
Since you do not have a full state license in every state that you obtain privileges for, you do not have to maintain their Continuing Education Units. The only set of CEUs that you absolutely must follow is that of your home state. Gone are the headache-inducing hours of cross-checking CEU dates with license expiration dates!
This is one of the coolest aspects of the Compact system. 60 days before your home license expires they will email you a reminder. Once you renew your license at home, the Compact will automatically notify you that you are eligible to renew your Compact privileges as well, typically within a week.
Responsive Admin Team
When I was doing research for this article, I had a few questions that I could not find on their website. Opting to call instead of email, I was quickly connected with the lead administrator who thoroughly answered my questions and was exceedingly friendly. This was a pleasant surprise compared to the typical experience I have come to expect when dealing with licensing staff at the various states I have worked.
While not entirely applicable to the traveler, based on the language written into the Compact it appears that Compact privileges can also be used to treat remotely via telehealth. In a burgeoning field, this is super exciting news! Especially for the therapist looking to mix in some patient care in a state where they previously worked as a traveler or will soon work as a traveler. Instead of being limited to one license per job, multiple licenses can be utilized all at once depending on the patient’s location, independent of where the PT is located.
Few states fully participating
Obviously, if your home state is not a participant you are fully excluded from the entire process… bummer. For those of you who are fortunate enough to have a home state proactive enough to join up, your options for states to travel to may be slim pickings.
Currently, only nine states are fully active. On the positive side they are some pretty cool states. Oregon, Utah, New Hampshire and North Dakota all have some great outdoor experiences. Texas Tennessee, Missouri and Mississippi all have some killer food and Southern hospitality. As for Iowa…well, Field of Dreams is there. That’s something!
There are 11 other states on the doorstep to full participation so check the site often to see if your home state or dream location is up and running.
When you renew your home license you have to renew ALL of your Compact Privileges
This will negatively impact folks living in a home state that requires yearly license renewal. These therapists will now have to pay all of the Compact fees again as well as fees to the state where they are working. Now, compared to paying all of the other fees typically involved in maintaining multiple licenses, this could still end up saving you money, but you will have to do the math on your specific situation to be sure.
Overall the PT Compact License is—or is going to be—a huge improvement in the logistics of being a travel therapist, especially if more states get involved. If every state were to join the Compact, it would mean one license to worry about, one set of CEUs, and only paying fees to the states where you are actively working.
Stephen Stockhausen is a doctor of physical therapy, a traveler, and a founder of PT Adventures—a blog created with his wife Ellen to help travel PTs take control of their career and live their dreams. You can find Stephen and Ellen exploring the country with their daughter, Kinley, and two dogs Cayenne and Layla.
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