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The Physical Therapy Compact Will Make Life for Travel PTs a Little Easier

by Kevin Burciaga, PT, DPT

If you’re a traveling physical therapist, you know that one of the worst parts of traveling is applying for a new license every time you change states. You have to call your school to get transcripts, order license verifications, take jurisprudence exams, maybe get fingerprints, fill out more forms, and more. Every state has different standards and requirements. Then you have to wait several weeks to several months to get the license verified!

This makes traveling from one state to the next tricky. You have to plan ahead. Not to mention that some states just don’t have a lot of contracts, and those contracts come and go quickly. For example, what if you want to work in Nebraska—you spend $400 to get the license, and then when it’s time to start a new contract, no contracts are available. You’ve spent the money and the time, but your license is worthless if you don’t use it.

Getting a license in each state means you could potentially collect up to 54 licenses (50 states plus Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Washington DC). You could spend thousands of dollars on licenses and renewal fees. Wouldn’t it be great if you could get one license, and then buy another license without going through the entire application process?

That dream is now a reality thanks to the Physical Therapy Compact.

States Actively Issuing and Accepting PT Compact Privileges

The PT Compact initially went live in July 2018 and included three states (Missouri, North Dakota, and Tennessee).

As this article goes to press in August 2019, the PT Compact now includes fifteen:

  1. Arizona
  2. Colorado
  3. Iowa
  4. Kentucky
  5. Louisiana
  6. Mississippi
  7. Missouri
  8. Nebraska
  9. New Hampshire
  10. North Carolina
  11. North Dakota
  12. Oregon
  13. Utah
  14. Tennessee
  15. Texas

States that have Enacted Legislation but are Not Issuing PT Compact Privileges

Eleven other states have enacted legislation but are not yet issuing licenses. These include:

  1. Arkansas
  2. Delaware
  3. Georgia
  4. Maryland
  5. Montana
  6. New Jersey
  7. Oklahoma
  8. South Carolina
  9. Virginia
  10. Washington
  11. West Virginia

States that have Introduced PT Compact Legislation

Lastly, three other states have introduced legislation to include the PT Compact:

  1. Massachusetts
  2. Michigan
  3. Pennsylvania

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Requirements for Obtaining a PT Compact

Not everyone is eligible for a compact. You must be a resident of a state that participates in the PT Compact license. That means that if you live in a state that is not a member of the PT Compact, you cannot apply for a license in one state and then apply for the PT Compact. You will have to apply for other states independently.

You also must obtain at least one license through the traditional route. If you decide to settle down in Oregon, you must obtain an Oregon license first before obtaining licenses in other Compact states.

It’s important to note that the PT Compact doesn’t negate the need to take an online or proctored jurisprudence exam, and almost all states require a jurisprudence exam. You must take this jurisprudence exam before applying for a Compact license.

Finally, you must have no disciplinary action against any active license, in any state, in the last two years, whether it’s a member of the PT Compact or not.

Do you meet all those criteria? Great! Head to the official PT Compact website and get your Compact license today, assuming you already have a valid license in one Compact state.

How to Purchase a PT Compact

The PT Compact makes obtaining a license as easy as adding items to your online shopping cart. You can add several states to your cart (for a fee anywhere between $70 and $200, depending on the state) and buy them with one click. It’s the convergence of physical therapy and e-commerce.
The beauty of the PT Compact is that it makes the application process the same for all states that are members of the Compact. This means you don’t have to call your school’s registrar or ask the other state boards to verify your license, and it eliminates much of the rigamarole of the license application. It’s also much less expensive (the average cost is about $150 vs. $400-$500 for a traditional license).

Of course, the PT Compact is worthless if you don’t want to travel in any of the Compact states. If you want to work in populated states like California, New York, Alaska, Florida, or Minnesota, you still have to go the traditional route. But for residents of Compact states, it greatly expands options and makes mobility much easier.

The Future

The PT Compact should continue to spread to other states over the next few years as states enact and introduce legislation that will allow PTs to move freely across the U.S. The PT Compact’s goal is that all states, territories, and Washington D.C. will be members of the PT Compact, but that will probably never happen.

My guess is more regulated states like New York and California will never join the compact and will always have more onerous standards than less regulated states like North Dakota and New Hampshire. All this means is that you will have to apply for licenses in those states individually just as you do now.

But the PT Compact is already making travel PT easier. The last few years have seen an explosion of information about travel PT, and there are a number of Facebook groups devoted to travel PT. There are literally hundreds of recruiters out there competing for PT travelers. Now travelers have an extra advantage.


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