As a speech language pathologist myself, I’m aware of the challenges that come with finding the right pediatric therapy staffing company. When you’re first starting out, there may be a few things you haven’t thought to look for or that you may not even be aware of. Throughout your career, you’ll take mental notes of what you need in an employer and in a pediatric therapy position. After spending 25 years working in and observing this field, I’ve discovered what all speech pathologists, occupational therapists, and physical therapists – from those just starting out to those well into their careers – should look for – and also what they should avoid.
The Right Fit: The Positives
Working for a pediatric therapy company can offer you a level of protection and a variety of positions to choose from; the company will also be able to evaluate your abilities and place you appropriately. The best therapy staffing companies will be able to offer you the following perks:
A competitive total compensation package: Research several pediatric therapy staffing companies to find out what they are like. Ask about their culture to determine if you will be a good fit. Ask about their total compensation package, pay, and benefits. Compare all facets of the pay and benefits to other settings and other positions to determine if it meets your objectives. Consider asking the following questions: What is the pediatric therapy staffing company’s policy on benefits? When do they start? How much is covered? The list could go on and on – just make sure you have an outline prepared for your next interview that covers applicable questions for your particular situation.
Job flexibility: If you’re apt to move to or work in different counties or states, you’ll need a pediatric therapy position that gives you a high level of flexibility, giving you the ability to customize the job as you see fit. You have the option to choose your geographical location, making it easier to switch from school to school in different regions around the country. The second part of job flexibility involves being able to customize the amount of time you want to work, as some speech therapists, occupational therapists, and physical therapists are looking for full-time work and others may only be able to work on a part-time basis. The third part of job flexibility is choosing which sector of the population you want to work with. For example, some want a school therapy job with a traditional caseload, some prefer caseloads with children who have more moderate to severe needs, some prefer elementary age children, and others prefer middle or high school age children. The options are numerous.
The ability to change and evolve: Life is always changing and so should your job! Talk with the interviewer at the next pediatric therapy staffing company you go to – he or she should be able to talk candidly about the pediatric therapy company’s ability to adapt and grow with all the changes in a person’s life. A graduate fresh out of college is entirely different from a parent ten years down the road; however, the individuals in both scenarios should desire challenges, learning new techniques, and ultimately, fulfillment.
Reality Check: Potential Red Flags
In a drastic attempt to lure you over and then hire you, some pediatric therapy staffing companies use tactics that are either unethical or severely limiting on your career advancement. Here are some signs you’ll want to watch for in your next interview. You should avoid therapy staffing companies who follow any of the practices below:
The therapy staffing company asks you to sign a document giving them the sole right to represent you. In the end, this action will effectively prohibit you from pursuing other employment opportunities.
The company encourages you to be categorized as an independent contractor or subcontractor instead of an employee. The company may have a hidden agenda here and may be using this as an excuse to pay less tax to the government. This ploy, covered under the guise of a high hourly pay rate, passes the majority of the tax burden from the therapy staffing company onto you. As a result, you must use that additional pay to cover Social Security and Medicare taxes that the therapy staffing company would have covered had you been classified as an employee. In addition, as an independent contractor, it is questionable whether you are covered under the therapy staffing company’s professional liability, workers compensation, and unemployment insurances.
The company attempts to partially compensate you with a tax-free housing allowance when you live and work in the same general area. While such an allowance is normal and legal in travel therapy jobs, tax-free housing allowances for people that live and work in the same general area are typically not allowed by the IRS. This tax-free housing allowance is another ploy by unethical therapy staffing companies to lower their own tax bill, but it is presented as something positive to you. If IRS guidelines are not properly followed and an audit is performed, both you and the company will be held liable for back taxes and potential penalties on the tax-free housing amount.
The company advertises that it has Early Intervention work available for school-based therapy jobs during summer months or when school is not in session. Oftentimes, the work is not available in your area and may have already been promised to dozens of other therapists. Many therapy staffing companies may have legitimate opportunities for Early Intervention work during the summer, but it’s important to ask specific questions and not accept generic responses like, “Yes, we do Early Intervention.”
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions
Chances are, if you’re interviewing with the right pediatric therapy staffing company, one that will provide you with the perfect fit, the employees will gladly welcome your questions. Don’t be afraid to speak up – it’s the only way you’ll be able to tell if that particular pediatric therapy company can offer what you need in a position. At the end of the day, however, your happiness with a position at a pediatric therapy staffing company all depends on your career goals – if you feel the fit is right, accept the offer and begin experiencing the joy of working with children each and every day!
About the Author
June Wilder Whitehead, founder and President of Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services
(CPTS), graduated with both bachelors and masters degrees from the University of Georgia. CPTS, which focuses on providing pediatric therapy services to school systems, employs dozens of qualified, professional speech language pathologists, occupational therapists, and physical therapists. Not wanting to take away from her growing family, June created a company built on balancing a love of being a therapist and that of a mom. Her vision has grown, and Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services can now be found across the Southeast and beyond. June, a speech language pathologist for 25 years, continues to be a practicing therapist. To learn more about CPTS, please visit www.cobbpediatric.com