Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards: All Talk and No Action?

I hear through the grapevine that the Nevada State Board of Massage Therapists has voted to terminate their agency’s membership in the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards. Why the big thumbs down? The main reason was a failure to deliver on the many promises FSMTB has made to its Member Boards.

It’s been several years since I was a delegate to the FSMTB annual meeting, so I went to the website to see what’s happening. The page entitled “Member Services” is “under construction.” That could be because the member services, many of which have been talked about since the Federation was first formed in 2005, don’t actually exist. Projects that have been launched but not completed include the national database of state board disciplinary actions , the practice exam and study guide for the MBLEx, the Model Practice Act, and a comprehensive solution to continuing education regulation. These are all basic services that a board federation should provide to its constituents.

Eight years after the creation of this organization, it’s hard to see exactly what has been accomplished, other than a well-used licensing exam and an annual meeting of Member Boards in generally pleasant locations like San Juan, New Orleans and Redondo Beach.

I’ve had my own concerns about the FSMTB for several years. While I support the idea of all the state boards coming together in the interest of seeking solutions to common problems, I am of the opinion that if you’re spending the money to have meetings, something concrete ought to arise from that. So far, we haven’t seen it. There are quite a few committees and task forces for all these as-yet-undelivered initiatives, but we don’t know what they’re doing, since they don’t publish their minutes for public scrutiny.

As licensees in regulated states that are Member Boards of the FSMTB, I am of the opinion that all their operations need to be transparent and that includes to us, the stakeholders. I’ve heard from former FSMTB board members that they are placed under gag orders not to discuss what’s going on there. That doesn’t work for me at all. They should be as transparent as a clean window, not operating like national security is at risk should their actions become known.

Furthermore, as I have detailed in several previous blogs, the balance of power has shifted to the “Central Command” that consists of the FSMTB Board of Directors and the Executive Director. Over the past several years, this elite group has put through changes to the FSMTB Bylaws that has concentrated organizational control while minimizing the input of the Member Boards. The Directors also managed to get their terms of office lengthened, and to be able to serve two terms AFTER they are no longer serving on their own state board. Once a person has rotated off their state board, they are not beholden to the public interest, they’re serving themselves.

This is just like what we saw at NCBTMB a few years ago, when their Board of Directors voted to double the length of their terms of office, and sewed up the nominations process so that it’s impossible to tell how candidates get on the ballot. This kind of behavior in our non-profit organizations is just unhealthy.

The FSMTB has in the past offered scholarships to state boards if finances meant they couldn’t afford to join, so one assumes that if the Nevada Board was in financial distress, the FSMTB would give them a pass. That isn’t the case, here. The Nevada Board has just plain decided they aren’t getting what they’re paying for. I have to say I applaud them for making this decision.

Talk is cheap, and PowerPoint presentations are not a substitute for action. Maybe this boot from the Nevada Board will serve as a wakeup call that the Federation needs to reevaluate their leadership and where they are going as an organization.

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