The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

With apologies to Clint Eastwood, I’m using the title of his classic Western to talk about three major announcements from the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards, and what they mean to the rest of the profession. This all came down at the recent FSMTB Annual Meeting, held in Tucson on October 3-4.

The Good: FSMTB and NCBTMB reach an agreement on licensing exams.
Woo hoo! Praise the Lord and pass me the MBLEx! After six years of costly and damaging “exam wars” between the two organizations, NCB was unable to keep its market share of the entry-level testing business. As FSMTB’s exam revenue grew each year, NCB’s declined. NCB finally saw the handwriting on the wall and agreed to stop offering its national certification exams for state licensure as of November 1, 2014 – in exchange for an unspecified amount of money.

This is a huge benefit for the profession, as we can finally move towards having a single licensing exam that is under the direct oversight of state massage boards. (Only Hawaii and New York are still hanging on to their own state exams.) It means less confusion for students and massage schools, and a boon to portability of licensure in the future. This has been a long and painful struggle between FSMTB and NCB, and I for one am thrilled to see it come to a peaceful end.

The Bad: FSMTB adopts CE standards and license renewal recommendations.
Two years ago, FSMTB proposed a radical shift to the continuing education landscape, as outlined in their Maintenance of Core Competency proposal. The MOCC was slammed by organizations, schools, CE providers and individual therapists alike – and yet, the worst of it has made its way into FSMTB’s new continuing education and license renewal standards.

This is a classic case of “If it ain’t broke, then don’t try to fix it.” Overall, our existing CE system works reasonably well, so the last thing we need is yet another organization coming in with an agenda to transform and/or grab control of it. Last year, we suffered through an attempt by NCB to do just that. After a massive grassroots effort, NCB toned down most of the unacceptable changes they were trying to force on providers and sponsors of continuing education. They’ve been behaving themselves since then, and their CE approval processes have been operating more smoothly, although personally some of the classes they have approved are still an issue with me. I’d like to see some sort of designation for those of us who don’t practice or teach pseudoscience and don’t want to be lumped in the same category as those who do.

Now we have the FSMTB trying to flex its muscles. It’s like we just got King Kong calmed down, and now we have to do the same with Godzilla!

At the recent FSMTB Annual Meeting, state board reps passed a resolution from their CE Task Force to “implement a program that provides reliable, unbiased and appropriate vetting of continuing education providers and the classes offered to the consuming public.” That sounds high and mighty, but there is no reference to NCB and their existing national Approved CE Provider program in the resolution, and there was no mention of NCB when this resolution and the license renewal standards were presented to the Delegate Assembly for consideration. Did they think that no one would notice this sin of omission?
The LAST thing we need is another CE approval program! FSMTB could have easily solved their delegation of authority issue by entering into a partnership agreement with NCB to use their existing program. This should have gotten rolled into the exam deal between the two organizations, so that CE approvals could be consolidated.

It’s hard to believe, but the resolution was passed without any details on how FSMTB actually plans to vet CE providers and classes. Why should we trust that FSMTB can do this in an effective manner? They’ve been offering the MBLEx for six years now, and they still don’t have an online practice exam and exam study guide for massage students. The very worst of it is that FSMTB’s plan for CE and license renewal centers on “public safety”, while minimizing the role of CE for “professional development”. The problem is that there is no evidence that we have a widespread “public safety” crisis in our profession, so there’s no factual basis for what FSMTB is trying to do. (There are a lot of specific flaws in the CE standards and license renewal recommendations FSMTB has adopted. I’ll detail those in a future blog.)

What I can see from all this is a major threat to the existing CE provider and sponsor system in our field. FSMTB’s proposal is so completely out-of-synch with how CE is organized and delivered, and FSMTB stands to consolidate even more money and power if this model is adopted by state massage boards. We’re just coming out of a period where NCB tried to dominate the field. Now FSMTB is acting like they’ve picked up the NCB playbook and are trying to run with it.

The Ugly: FSMTB publishes the Model Massage Therapy Practice Act (MPA).
As I wrote about in my previous blog, the MPA was released after three years of behind-the-scenes work and two rounds of public comment. Most of its content is the kind of standard stuff found in all templates for occupational licensure. However, FSMTB really blew it in a number of key areas, and the final version contains both technical errors and some awful policy decisions. As FSMTB’s leaders had final say, the responsibility for correcting these fatal flaws rests on them.

Judging from how few comments were made on the three blogs I posted about the MPA, it looks like it doesn’t register as all that important. Wake up people! A model practice act is one of the bedrock components of a profession. It contains the Scope of Practice definition and other essential elements that influence both education and practice. If you haven’t taken time to read our new MPA, I urge you to get familiar with it and keep up the pressure on FSMTB to fix it. Remember that it doesn’t become law unless it’s adopted by a state legislature.

Let’s celebrate the Good, and get to work on the Bad and the Ugly!

12 thoughts on “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

  1. Rick Rosen

    Laura, you’ve hit the nail on the head (once again). What’s clear from the Federation’s latest effort to take over the CE world is that our organizations are still learning how to properly hold and administer the power and trust they are given by those in our profession. For every step forward, it seems there is a lot of shuffling backwards, and good works sit unimplemented because the foundational problems are not being addressed.

    While it may appear (from projects like MTBOK and ELAP) that our stakeholder organizations are working well together, it’s clear that self-interests continue to drive the key decisions that are made that influence the course of our profession and everyone who is part of it.

    To quote former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, “Knowledge is power. Information is liberating.” We must look beyond the press releases and the spin to understand what is truly happening in our midst, and to be able to take effective action.

  2. Joan Cole

    How do we stop them? It doesn’t sound like we have a vote. I thought the whole point of taking the entry exam away from NCBTMB and giving it fully to FSMTB was so each organization could focus and do a good job on their piece – FSMTB on entering the profession, and NCBTMB on continuing ed and advanced credentials. Why can’t FSMTB just finish what they haven’t yet, and do a good job with the huge piece they already have?

  3. Gael Wood

    My guess is that most MT’s really don’t know what to do about it. Call the FSMTB? Email? Honestly I would say most therapists don’t know what FSMTB even is. Most are worried about which exam to take and state board requirements. I hope you can do some short and sweet posts highlighting one issue and how people can help. I would help get the word out.

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  6. Billie Shea

    Laura, your blog forum is a light in a dark tunnel for many of our profession today. While I have been the somewhat reluctant recipient of both your praise and criticism, I am still an avid follower of your column.

    The most recent developments in our industry has me deeply troubled about the future of our profession. I feel that only a few voices are being heard and even then not acknowledged. It would seem that each one of us needs to be heard as to the direction of the industry.

    The regulator is geared toward public protection, we all get that. But are we making our laws so restrictive that people are leaving the industry or being unduly penalized by these laws. Does the Federation Board of Directors, comprised of bureaucrats and massage professionals, not see how their decisions are impacting all of us. Or are they so committed to leaving their license at the door, that they do not consider the rest of us in the industry.

    I encourage you and others to keep speaking out so many more people who are seeking answers can find them via your blogs, articles and actions. Perhaps a peaceful protest would get the point across that our profession has had enough. Encourage all your friends to attend board meetings, write to their licensing boards and communicate with their professional associations. Many voices spoken softly make a lot of noise.
    Merry Christmas to you and yours during this Holiday season.

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