A Matter of Opinion

Last week, the AFMTE released a position paper authored by Executive Director Rick Rosen, “Alliance Offers New Vision for National Certification.”

The AFMTE also recently announced that it is partnering with the FSMTB in their initiative to begin approving continuing education.

Both of these have attracted quite a bit of discussion on the various social media sites. And like any discussion, people agree, disagree, and agree to disagree.  I’m glad to say there hasn’t been any mudslinging of the nature that goes on at times in some of these venues. I think these discussions are useful and informative.  They sometimes bring to light a lot of misconceptions that people have about which entity does what, and how they do it.

I encourage everyone to read Rosen’s paper in its entirety, but to make a long story short, it is a plea to the NCBTMB to reorganize, and get out of the continuing education business and the entry-level exam business. The FSMTB has been stating the opinion since their founding 5 years ago that NCBTMB exams are inappropriate for licensing purposes, and encouraging the states to drop those exams and use the MBLEx exclusively. That hasn’t happened.  If the map on the FSMTB is current, 33 member boards are using the MBLEx. If the map on the NCBTMB website is current, 38 states are still accepting their exams, meaning the majority of states are accepting both, and offering their licensees a choice. The AFMTE is also supportive of the Federation’s stance, as is AMTA and ABMP. Still, the facts show that either the 38 states are doing the wrong thing, or else they are exercising their undeniable right to conduct their business the way they want to.

I haven’t been in this profession nearly as long as Rosen or some of the other players here. I became a massage therapist in 1999, and it seems like I joined at a time when everything was just really starting to swirl. I was in the first wave of licensees in North Carolina.  Mr. Rosen actually has license #00001…first person licensed in our state. He has seen and been instrumental in a lot of things happening. I would never try to minimize the contributions he has made to this field. I won’t criticize his career, his integrity, or his belief that he is suggesting something for the good of the profession on the whole.

My criticism is this, and it isn’t directed entirely at him; it’s directed at the concept of any organization trying to mandate to another organization how to run their affairs. We get enough of that from the feds, don’t we?

I believe that the FSMTB and their mission of public protection is a great thing. The member boards come together for the purpose of discussing common problems and looking for workable solutions. Anytime people sit at the table together to try to solve a problem, that’s wonderful to me. I also believe that the AFMTE was started with the noble intent of acting as the voice, advocate, and resource for massage schools and educators. What I don’t believe is that either one of them can unilaterally force the NCBTMB to change their way of conducting business, nor do I think they should have that right.

The FSMTB is developing a model practice act, in addition to developing a CE approval program. They can and do suggest to the member boards that their exam is the appropriate exam, their CE approval (will be) is the appropriate approval, their model practice act (will be) the premier example of an appropriate act, and so forth.  It’s part of the quest to streamline things  in a uniform fashion and promote portability.

However, suggestion is the key word. The member states aren’t bound by any legalities to do what the FSMTB offers in the way of suggestions. If they want to keep the NCBTMB exams, they can. If they want to keep their own practice act, they can. If they want to keep NCBTMB approved providers or continue to approve their own, they can. They all have the right to conduct their business as they see fit within the law.

There is certainly room for improvement, on the practice act front, in particular, when you see all the variance that’s out there between the states. Keith Eric Grant has summarized that. You can access it here.

The bottom line, to me, is that all of these entities, including the NCBTMB, also have the right to conduct their business as they see fit. Unless and until there is a federal law governing massage, the individual entities can continue to do whatever they do however they want to do it. The FSMTB and the AFMTE could spend days pointing out past shortcomings of the NCBTMB, but it wasn’t “the NCBTMB” as an entity that had the shortcomings. It was the human beings running the organization.

As the FSMTB is only 5 years old, and the AFMTE less than half that, neither of these organizations have been in business long enough to have been plagued with the personnel problems, inefficiency problems, financial problems and so forth that happened in the past at the NCBTMB. Board members come and go. Executive directors come and go. Priorities of boards and organization come and go. Even organizations come and go. Last week I learned from Dr. Kory Ward-Cook, CEO of the NCCAOM, that there was previously a Federation of State Acupuncture Boards that fell apart.

AMTA and ABMP have their own missions and their leadership has their own opinions. As do we all. And any organization, just like any individual, has the right to run their business as they please, as long as they are not breaking the law. The NCBTMB is not breaking any laws by continuing to conduct their business as they see fit. The other organizations are not breaking any laws by conducting their business as they see fit. They all have that right. You don’t have to like it. I don’t have to like it. One organization doesn’t have to like what the other organization is doing. But until the federal government steps in and says, “you must do this,” they can all do as they dang well please. If any of them don’t do well enough at whatever it is they choose to do, they won’t survive.

Everybody has their own opinion on what’s good (or not good) for this profession, what’s good for licensing, what’s good for certification, what’s good for teacher standards, what’s good for education, what’s good for continuing education. There are just as many opinions on all of that as there are opinions on what kind of massage oil you ought to use.  Everyone is entitled to that. And everyone is entitled to conduct their business the way they choose to, as long as it’s within the law.

The AFMTE posted on LinkedIn that they had posted Rosen’s position paper directly to the NCBTMB. I suggest that if the folks at the NCBTMB are interested in hearing more about it or discussing it that they will get in touch. And if they don’t, then I suggest that the AFMTE, and in fact all organizations, concentrate on being good at what they set out to do for their organization, and leave the NCBTMB to do as their board and their leadership sees fit. Their Board is elected by their certificants, and their ED serves at the pleasure of their board.  They may well thrive and survive by doing things their own way, or they may fail altogether.

Either way, I think the burden to make it or break it is on them, just like the burden that is on all the organizations, and on any of us as practitioners and business people. And any insinuation of the NCBTMB being “uncooperative” is an opinion, not a fact. I can tell you how to run your business, you can decline to take my advice, and I will not refer to you as uncooperative. I will assume that you are exercising your right to conduct your business in the manner that you see fit, whether it suits me or not.

That’s just my opinion.

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