The NCBTMB: Time to Back up and Punt

This past weekend, ABMP convened the 14th annual School Issues Forum in Alexandria, VA. I was teaching at the NC Chapter of AMTA‘s Spring Conference and couldn’t attend, and apparently, I missed a little firestorm by not being there.

Neal Delaporta, Chairman of the Board of the NCBTMB, gave a presentation on the progress of the Advanced Certification Exam, that for the past 48 hours has caused my inbox to be flooded with criticisms of the path that was taking. The resignation of Task Force member Rosemarie Rotenberger was also passed along to me by an anonymous source.  The BOD of the NCBTMB, according to Rotenberger, chose to eliminate the CE requirement from the eligibility criteria of sitting for the new ACE; she offered that as the reason for her resignation, stating that the action had been taken “against the strong and repeated recommendation of the Task Force.”

One industry leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity, stated “I am disgusted to learn that he (Delaporta) was touting NCB’s mission to define and advance the highest standards in the profession while knowing full well that the CE requirement–one of the only meaningful criteria to qualify a practitioner for any kind of post-graduate credential–had already been removed by his BOD.” A number of others who were present at the meeting also gave me an earful about the ACE; the general attitude was that by doing away with any CE requirements that the NCB was removing any shred of credibility from the exam.

As I believe in going straight to the source, I contacted the NCB to give them a chance to respond. Without divulging any names I shared some of the criticisms that were piling up, and here is part of the response I received from Paul Lindamood, CEO of the NCBTMB (shortened for space considerations):

“….Based on feedback from Task Force members, it has become clear that the rationale supported by the Board is not entirely in alignment with the recommendations of the Task Force. Consequently, the Executive Committee of the Board has determined that further communication and deliberation regarding one element of the criteria, specifically the continued education requirement, are needed to achieve consensus and move forward to the next phase of the project. A meeting will be convened between the Board and Task Force Sub-Committee members in order to better define the quantifiable threshold for the CE requirement, one that everyone in aggregate can embrace….When one considers that the framing of the ACE is intended to measure critical thinking skills and ability allowing massage therapists to function in more complex situations requiring the ability to respond and adapt massage treatment plans based on expected outcomes, it is unconscionable that CE would not play an appropriate role….”

In other words, they’re going to back up and punt. I’m glad to hear it. The pesky thing about any task force is that they’re not worth a hill of beans if you don’t take their advice. They were put in that position because of their experience and expertise. The fact that the Board of Directors failed to follow their advice speaks volumes.

I’d like to know exactly where to lay the blame, but short of polling the Board members,  who probably wouldn’t tell me anyway, I can’t figure that one out. As someone who is on a state board myself, I can tell you that it’s pretty rare for us all to be in agreement. We disagree all the time, and we argue until a majority reaches a consensus. If a majority of the NCB’s BOD reached a consensus that continuing education is not important, as they obviously did, I’d like to know what they were thinking.

My own thought is that a person who graduated from a 1000-hour program, or longer, might be ready to step up and take the advanced exam without having had any CE, but that is not the standard in this country. Very few of our states require that much education in order to get a massage license, and our neighbors in some of the Canadian provinces can even laugh at that. We need to raise the standards, but that’s another blog. And regardless of entry-level education, critical thinking is developed by the commitment to continue one’s education, as well as by gaining practical experience.

When the leadership of an organization fails to act in a responsible manner, the other Board members need to let it be known loud and clear that they dissent. I certainly do. I’d no more go along with the Chair just because he’s the Chair than I would cut off my nose to spite my face. You can ask him. I’ll be the last one hollering. I’m not going to be anybody’s blind sheep.

I am very relieved to hear that the BOD of the NCB has decided to cave to the Task Force recommendations, and to the popular demand of the leaders of this profession, that CE requirements be reconsidered as a part of the criteria for sitting for the new exam. I urge the Board of Directors, and Neal Delaporta in particular, to pay attention to the recommendations made by the people you asked to do this job! To do otherwise is irresponsible on your part at best, and despotic at worst. We don’t need any more egomaniacs running the National Certification Board, we’ve already had one, thank you, and we didn’t like her, either.

I’ve tried to be more positive in my reporting about the NCB in the past few months, because I have in fact seen an improvement in service there, and I know that at least some of the people there are people who genuinely do care and want to make a positive difference.

I suggest to Mr. Delaporta and the rest of the present Board of Directors that you were on a sinking ship, that has bobbed to the surface and shown some good signs of righting itself, and it isn’t on anybody’s head but yours if you cause it to go down again. This is a reality check, and you need to realize it. For the sake of the NCB, listen to the Task Force members, whose help you asked for, and do as they suggest. Put the budget on the back burner, and leave your ego at the door.  You just remember that it takes a majority vote and vote for the CE requirement. If you want the Advanced Certification Exam to be a hallmark of excellence that it ought to be, and not an industry joke, then do the right thing.

Laura Allen

4 thoughts on “The NCBTMB: Time to Back up and Punt

  1. Keith Eric Grant

    On the other hand, it is also a good idea to determine if the task force had well-defined outcomes as goals of CE and if there are measurement strategies being used to determine if such goals are met in practice — in other words, moving to an evidence-based approach to CE requirements. This is particularly important, given articles such as one recently posted by Bodhi Haaraldson indicating a lack of correlation between medical CE and quality of patient care. I had also looked at similar considerations of lack of CE efficacy in a recent column.

    This is not to say that there shouldn’t be requirements, but that they should have clear goals such as maintaining currency in changing protocols or rarely used skills rather than being undertaken because “everyone else requires them”.

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