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!

Final Draft of Model Practice Act Released

The Model Practice Act was released in its final draft this week, after more than three years of work on it and two periods of public comment. The introduction does state that it will be an evolving document as changing times and circumstances dictate, but as of now, it still has many of the school owners on my social media pages up in arms.

The language requiring accreditation from previous drafts (Section 103(B) ) was modified to say “Approved Massage Therapy Education Program means a school or educational program that meets the criteria established in rule by the Board, at a minimum includes 625 Clock Hours, and is both authorized in the jurisdiction in which it is located and that reflects a curriculum acceptable to an accrediting body recognized by the U.S. Department of Education…” While the requirement has been downgraded to a suggestion, the comment section makes it clear that the eventual goal is required accreditation for one and all.

Personally, I have some mixed feelings on this. Accreditation is a process of quality control–to a point. (Disclosure: I am a peer reviewer for COMTA). Obtaining accreditation is not cheap, it’s rigorous and it’s time-consuming. It sends the message that you have voluntarily gone over and above what the state requires. Other health care professions require it. And therein lies the clincher.

There are no other health professions that I am aware of accrediting programs that teach psuedoscience, and many massage school programs, including those accredited by COMTA and other accrediting bodies–and in the case of community colleges, even the regional accrediting bodies–do. So what does that really mean? Is it really a hallmark of excellence when we accredit things that have no basis in fact, just because it’s tradition, and been around for a long time, even though it’s been shot down by science?

I am not a school owner, but if I was, I wouldn’t be hitting the panic button just yet. The FSMTB has no power of legislation and they can’t lobby. In order for accreditation to become the law of the land, that’s what will have to happen: it will have to become the law of the land, literally, through legislative changes. There may be some FSMTB member states who are gung-ho to see it happen, but remember, state boards can’t lobby, either. That is the domain of the professional associations. In my state, our AMTA chapter has paid a lobbyist for many years. Since the chapter fees are now optional, I have heard that he volunteered to continue working at a lesser fee, but I bet some of the state chapters have lost their lobbyist altogether, if they had one to start with. The wheels of government don’t turn that quickly unless they’re greased.

The MPA is a template for the states. It isn’t the law and it may never be. For the few unregulated states, should they finally get out of the Dark Ages and decide to regulate, this will be very time-saving for them. It isn’t perfect; nothing is. Obviously a lot of work went into it. Only time will tell what effect it is really going to have.

NCBTMB and FSMTB: Long-awaited Collaboration in the Works

The NCBTMB and the FSMTB made a joint announcement this morning that I have long been hoping for. Leena Guptha, Chair of the NCBTMB, confirmed to me that the NCB will sign a letter of intent to withdraw completely from licensing examinations, which will mean the MBLEx will be the only licensing exam in the US, excepting New York and Hawaii, which both have their own state exams. This change is taking place November 1.

The FSMTB will support Board Certification, according to Guptha. “We are getting back to the roots of certification,” she stated, “honoring our original purpose.” Further details will be forthcoming soon, but for now, Guptha expressed to me that she hopes that the other massage organizations and the profession at large will support this action. I hope they do, too.

 

To the Edge and Back

I’ve been quiet for the past few weeks because I’ve been ill. On August 17, I wasn’t feeling too well, not really full-blown sick, but on the puny side, and I told my husband Champ I wanted him to cover our office the next day and let me stay home. I felt a little worse on Tuesday, and stayed home again. I had terrible diarrhea all night and was constantly thirsty. On Wednesday morning, I woke up in a state of extreme illness and confusion. Champ asked me if I knew the signs of a stroke. Of course I do, but I looked at him blankly and said “no.” He asked if I knew who he was. That was another “no.” He asked if I knew who I was. When I answered “no” to that, he took me to the ER.

After a few blood tests, x-rays and the like, a doctor came in and informed me I was being admitted with a severe urinary tract infection, which I had not had any of the usual symptoms of, and that it had gone systemic. I also had pneumonia in both lungs–something I just went though in March of 2013. They admitted me to the hospital and started pumping me full of antibiotics. The diarrhea lasted four more days to the point where I was reduced to wearing a diaper in the hospital. That’s a rather humbling experience. A friend of ours who is a pharmacist told Champ that another day or two without the antibiotics and IV fluids, and I would have died.

I was released after a week in the hospital, which included two days in the ICU. My mom came to take care of me. She is 75 and I could never in a million years have had a better mother than what she has been to me. I turned 55 while I was sick. She was wiping my butt just like I was baby, so was Champ, and for all intents and purposes, I was one. She made me some homemade soup the day after I came home. I ate a half a bowl (it was delicious vegetable soup). About an hour later, my stomach got very bloated and hard. I was vomiting, and the next morning, I told Champ I thought I had better go to the ER.

Low and behold, another x-ray revealed that I was full of gall stones. They admitted me again and  took out my gall bladder early the next morning. After another week in the hospital, I came home again last Thursday.

My hormones and electrolytes were screwy in the hospital, and I had to go to the doctor for a checkup yesterday. I also spent last night at the Sleep Center–not a restful place at all. I haven’t gotten those results yet, but I had been placed on a BiPap in the hospital because I was retaining too much carbon dioxide. They woke me up in the middle of the night and put me on a CPAP. I expect I’ll hear all about it later today.

On my birthday, all I could say was “55 and still alive.”

I have been overwhelmed at the outpouring of love and compassion from everybody. FB friends I have never even met sent me cards and gifts. Several people sent me money in amounts from $5 to $500, which just made me cry in gratitude and disbelief at the kindness. People sent flowers and fruit baskets. Local people have delivered food to my house. Restaurant owners have refused to take any money when Champ went to get takeout.

Since I’m known for pissing people off with some of my commentaries, I might as well not pass up this opportunity to say thank God for Obamacare. Last year, when I was stricken with pneumonia the first time, we had given up our health insurance. It had gone to over $600 a month. Champ was not working much, our business was struggling in our local economy, which is still very depressed, and we simply couldn’t pay for it anymore. It was either give that up or give up eating. We also had a $5000 deductible. My hospital bill was over $10,000, which I am still working to pay off. On January 1, I got us signed up for Obamacare. We are now insured with a $500 deductible, not $5000, and we are paying $235 a month. My prescriptions have cost me $5 each. The nebulizer I had to get to take breathing treatments at home four times a day was free. Before anyone jumps on taxpayers subsidizing that, let me say that I got my first job at the age of 13, and I have worked every day of my life since, so I have paid my share in taxes and I continue to do so. It feels good to me not to have to worry that I am going to lose my home or my business over healthcare expenses. So there. I appreciate it whether anyone else does or not.

Champ’s social security kicks in this month, so we can breathe a little easier on that front, as well. I am taking a few weeks off from work to gain my strength back. I am sapped. I have seen some of my FB friends spreading the suggestion that people buy my books in order to help my finances, and I really appreciate that more than I can say, along with everything else people have done for me during this time. So in a fit of shameless self-promotion, I will list them here in case you are led to purchase one.

The first one is one I finished last year while I was in the hospital with the first round of pneumonia. It’s about death and dying and the wonderful Nina McIntosh, author of The Educated Heart. I watched Nina get her affairs in order while she was suffering from ALS. When I was in the hospital, I had the thought that I might not be leaving there alive, and that I needed to get my own affairs in order. We all do, while we’re able to, instead of leaving it for our grief-stricken family to do. The last part of the book walks you through that. It’s called The Days Still Left.

My most recent book is Excuse me, exactly how does that work? Hocus Pocus in Holistic Health Care. I didn’t question anything I was taught in massage school, and I should have. Part memoir, partly an examination of some of the things that are heavily marketed to massage therapists, who then turn around and market to the unknowing public. Yes, it will step on a few toes, but my hope is that it makes people THINK.

Massage is my second career. In my first life, I cooked for the public for more than 20 years. My little cook book is full of great Southern recipes and funny stories that happened to me in the restaurant business. Nothin’ Fancy, Good Food and a Few Funny Stories.

In 2012, The Massage Nerd, aka Ryan Hoyme, and I collaborated on the Manual for Massage Therapy Educators. This is NOT meant to be a textbook. We were both unceremoniously foisted onto our first class of massage students, and this is just the practical advice of the things we wish we had known when we started out and what we’ve learned along the way.

The Plain and Simple Guide to Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork Examinations 2nd ed.   Get ready to pass the MBLEx or NCBTMB exams. The inside cover has a scratch-off password to a website filled with practice questions and learning games.  Great teacher ancillaries, too. I am very proud to say this book is sold in hundreds of massage schools.

One Year to a Successful Massage Therapy Practice is full of low-cost and no-cost ways to get your practice off the ground or revitalize an older one.

I’m proud of this book because I didn’t try to sell it to LWW; they asked me to write it, and I was happy to oblige. The inside cover has a password for a website with dozens of useful forms. It covers everything from your business plan to retirement and in between.             A Massage Therapist’s guide to Business also has great instructor ancillaries.

That’s it, although I do have a few more in the works. Thank you for your support.

Model Practice Act Causing an Uproar

Disclosure: I am a peer reviewer for COMTA.

I have complained a lot about massage therapists sitting on their hands, not having any interest or involvement in governance, and not caring or being informed about what is going on until it’s too late to do anything about it. I can’t make that complaint about massage school owners in the past couple of weeks. I’ve never seen such a hue and cry over any other issue.

The Model Practice Act is on its second period of public comments, and I’m pretty sure the FSMTB is hearing from a lot of upset people. I had a few issues with the first draft, and I hear it got about 1300 comments. I’m willing to bet this one will get twice that, caused by a one-word change in the following definition, found in Section 103(B):

Approved Massage Therapy Education Program means a school or educational program that meets the criteria established in rule by the Board, at a minimum includes 625 clock hours and is both authorized in the jurisdiction in which it is located and is accredited by an accrediting body recognized by the US Department of Education. Education received outside of the United States must be substantially equivalent to the criteria of this Act and must be recognized by the jurisdiction in which it is located.

In the first MPA draft, this requirement for schools was stated as state authorization AND/OR accreditation. The removal of just one word here makes a world of difference, which has set the massage education community into a tizzy.

My Facebook is buzzing with comments from school owners, teachers, and other interested parties. Overwhelmingly, the feeling is that this is going to put a lot of schools out of business. There are also people that feel that we have about twice as many massage schools in the US as what are really needed, and that this has led to churning out too many graduates, which has led to a glut in the job market, and contributed to the proliferation of franchised massage (or maybe it’s because of franchised massage).

Rick Rosen is the co-owner of Body Therapy Institute in Siler City, NC, one of only two schools in our state that are accredited by COMTA, shared some of his comments on it with me:

There are two primary reasons this accreditation requirement is inappropriate and potentially damaging: First is the fact that about half of all massage schools in the U.S. are not accredited. In general, these are smaller proprietary institutions that only offer massage programs. It is doubtful that most of these schools could qualify for accreditation even if they wanted it, because of the lack of financial resources. Smaller schools that are undercapitalized are unlikely to be able to meet the financial ratio requirements of COMTA and the other accreditors, not to mention the initial and ongoing costs of accreditation.

These massage-only institutions embody the lineage of massage therapy and the healing arts, as contrasted with for-profit career colleges and publicly-funded community colleges where massage is one program among dozens (if not hundreds). Mandatory accreditation WILL cause many of these smaller schools to close, which would be a tremendous loss for our field.

Second, COMTA is the only specialized accreditor in the massage therapy field, and the only agency with competency-based curriculum standards. Institutional accreditation by the other six vocational accreditors and the seven regional higher education accreditors fails to provide a meaningful measure of quality assurance for the massage program itself.

Therefore, it makes no sense for FSMTB to include an institutional accreditation requirement in its Model Practice Act when such accreditation (in the case of non-COMTA-accredited schools) ignores the elements that are critical to producing a well-trained massage therapist. It is the integrity of the program’s curriculum, the competency of the instructors and the consistent application of admissions criteria that are the critical elements that make a sound massage therapy program — far more so than the financial and operational standards that comprise the bulk of institutional accreditation.

So, if roughly half the massage schools in the U.S. cannot qualify for accreditation, and the other half (minus the 67 schools and branch campuses that are under COMTA accreditation) are accredited under institutional standards that do not reliably produce skilled and employable massage therapists who last more than two years in practice — where does that leave us?

We need a regulatory structure for schools that can satisfy the minimum requirements of state massage statues for protection of the public, while preserving the ability of our smaller massage schools to exist. In addition, we need a mechanism to bring all massage programs under single set of programmatic standards to establish consistency of entry-level training that is impossible to achieve within the current system.

Rosen’s solution is for COMTA to add a non-accreditation level program approval to its scope, which would require the blessing of the USDE. In addition, all massage schools with institutional accreditation from other agencies would also need to seek programmatic accreditation from COMTA – a structure that is common in other regulated professions. The language in Section 103(B) of the MPA would then need to be changed to include programmatic accreditation OR approval by COMTA – along with approval or licensure by the educational authority in the jurisdiction in which the school operates.

There are a lot of other school owners out there that don’t feel any accreditation should be required at all, particularly owners of small schools who have long-standing, successful programs that have lasted for decades without accreditation. Accreditation is not cheap. It’s time-consuming to initially obtain, and time-consuming and expensive to renew. While I have heard many small school owners talk about the expense as a deterrent to getting accreditation, I’ve heard as many others say “I’m not going to have anyone telling me how I have to run my school.”

Sandy Fritz, who has owned a school (not accredited) for more than 30 years and is a well-known author and advocate for massage education, stated on her blog that accreditation was a good thing–and then it moved away from a process to determine excellence and became a hurdle to jump across to access the cash cow of financial aid.

Actually, institutional accreditation has always been about being a financial gateway rather than a hallmark of excellence. When COMTA came on the scene, it was the first accreditor to offer programmatic standards that were meaningful to massage education. Unfortunately, they’re also the smallest player on the accreditation field and have no real ability to affect the whole.

I can’t speak to the other accrediting agencies, for my experience as a peer reviewer for COMTA is that a school that seeks the accreditation is sending a powerful message: “I do more than the state requires me to do.” Accreditation involves an in-depth self-study, and documentation, documentation, documentation. If it isn’t in writing, it doesn’t exist. But that’s a good thing. It ensures that policies and procedures are in place that are for the good of the student, the good of the school, and the good of the profession.

COMTA has been criticized for including pseudoscience (energy work) amongst the things that are acceptable for curricula in accredited schools. Without have read the standards of the other accrediting agencies, my guess is that they do, as well. The NCBTMB condones it, the AMTA and ABMP both condone it, the FSMTB condones it, so COMTA is hardly the lone ranger. It just goes to show, once again, that massage therapy accreditation is not being held to the same standards as medical professions do with their accreditation, which is why we’re still a vocation and not a profession.

The period of public comment ends on August 15. If you want your voice to be heard, you should seize the opportunity by clicking here.

 

Report from the World Massage Festival

Champ and I spent last week in Las Vegas at the World Massage Festival. This was our fifth year there, and the biggest and best one yet. Almost 700 people at this one…9 years ago when Mike Hinkle started the Festival, 20 people were in attendance.There were people from every state and 7 or 8 foreign countries. A whole contingent came from Trinidad.

The World Massage Festival is a unique event. Mike and Cindy bend over backwards to make the Festival affordable to everyone. Instead of a $189 hotel, we were in the Tuscany, an all-suite hotel, for the magnificent price of $59. And they are nice rooms! The staff at the Tuscany was very nice and helpful, the food was good, and in general it was just a good experience to stay there.

Over $50,000 in door prizes and scholarships were given away. I got to do a lot of the name-drawing and I had some real fun helping make people’s day with cash prizes, diamond jewelry, and other goodies.

On opening night, I was the keynote speaker. It was a humbling experience to look out at the room and see so many dedicated colleagues, many of whom have been doing massage for many more years than I have. During the awards ceremony, Irene Smith was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award. I have to confess that I was not familiar with her work until Sunday night. She started the first project in the US to massage AIDS patients and has been doing Hospice work since the 1970s. Her entire career has been based on selfless giving. She is an example of the finest massage has to offer.

Since the beginning, one of the purposes of the Festival has been to recognize those who have made significant contributions to massage, through the Hall of Fame. Judi Calvert is always the host for this occasion and as usual did a beautiful job. I spent some time talking with several of this year’s inductees, all genuinely nice people who leave their ego at the door in spite of some of their amazing accomplishments. I spent an hour visiting with Mark Beck, who wrote the textbook I learned from in massage school, which was a real treat for me.

Lots of friends were in attendance at karaoke night, and we have got some talented singers in massage therapy. People had a blast singing and dancing.

Quality education, as always, was a highlight of the Festival. Champ took a class in Thai Massage from Mukti Michael Buck and really enjoyed it. I taught two classes, participated on a student panel, helped out with registration and karaoke night, and kept busy visiting with people. Glad to see Allissa Haines, Andrea Lipomi, Ryan Hoyme, Jake Flatt, Gina Smith, Thomas Liberto, Vivian Madison-Mahoney, Enid Whittaker, Michael McGillicuddy, Cherie Sohnen-Moe, Leena Guptha, and so many more. The WMF is always like a family reunion. I also got some great bodywork from Karen Kowal. Darcy Neibaur raised over $2000 in the Sweet Serenity booth to benefit the Greenville SC Shriner’s Children’s Hospital.

I also enjoyed having Sally Hacking and Mary O’Reilly of the FSMTB come into my student class and answer questions about the MBLEx for students.

Pualani Gillespie took Champ and I out for a fabulous dinner at Mario Batali’s restaurant, Carnevino, and we had a great visit with her.

Next year, the tenth anniversary, is going to be held in Michigan City, Indiana, and I expect it to be even better. I appreciate Mike and Cindy and everything they do. I hope to see you there!

Expanding Our Scope, Protecting Our Future

There have been numerous attempts to come up with a good working definition of  massage therapy. While I certainly appreciate the effort that has gone into them, in my opinion, most have fallen short in one way or another. Part of the problem is that massage therapists are independent-minded and are harder to organize than a bunch of cats. If you look at the 44 state massage laws that currently exist, you’ll find 44 different versions of what is called a scope of practice definition. Add to that the newest definitions found in the MTBOK and the ELAP, and we’ve got a murky mess that makes it nearly impossible to achieve portability of licensure. In fairness to the creators of both of those documents, which were collaborative efforts with support from all of the professional massage organizations, they were put out for public comment, which really didn’t amount to a ripple in the general scheme of things. My attitude is, if you didn’t take time to comment, then don’t gripe about the results.

We arrived here because there was no common template that was used during the rush to get state massage license laws passed over the past 15 years. Licensure standards are much more consistent in other healthcare professions because each one has been working from something called a Model Practice Act (MPA). I’m wondering… where can we get one of those?

Well, after nearly a decade after it came onto the landscape, the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards has finally come up with their own MPA. They’re wrapping up the open comment period on the first public draft of this document, which has been posted to the their website. Much of it is run-of-the-mill legislative kind of language, but some sections really need further work. I’ve sent them my comments, and I hope you have too.

What I’m most concerned about in the FSMTB Model Practice Act is the scope of practice definition. As presented, it could restrict what massage therapists are allowed to do in their practices in the future. That’s a giant problem. If we define ourselves in a narrow way, other healthcare providers and business interests will ensure that we stay in our own little box.

Fortunately, I just heard from my North Carolina colleague Rick Rosen on this subject. He has developed what I think is a much more appropriate definition that strengthens and clarifies the diverse range of massage therapy practice in a way that expands possibilities, rather than shrinks them. By the way, Rosen was one of the co-founders of FSMTB, and was also the founding chairman of our state licensing board in NC, where he contributed to the writing of its laws and rules. Here’s what he said in his comments to the MPA Task Force:

“I am concerned that the definition set forth in Section 103 of the MPA is potentially limiting, as it characterizes the work performed by licensees as only that which relates to the manual application of techniques to the soft tissues of the body. Massage therapists are much more than pressure-delivery technicians. For example, they interact with clients in varied ways and provide assessment, treatment planning, and make recommendations for changes in a client’s ergonomic usage and movement patterns that can reduce chronic muscle tension. In addition, massage therapists can work with body awareness to assist clients in reducing stress and developing a healthier sense of self.”

“During the start-up phase of FSMTB in 2005, we looked carefully at the structure of board federations in other health care professions. I remembered from that research that most health care professions had robust and extensive scope definitions, as compared with the relatively one-dimensional definitions found in state massage practice acts.
With that in mind, I accessed the current model practice acts from the fields of nursing, physical therapy and occupational therapy. Using these templates as a guide, I developed a new definition that is broadly inclusive of the range of treatment models in our field, and establishes an expanded scope that more accurately represents the major areas of application in clinical practice.”

With that said, I’m sharing the full text of Rosen’s proposal for a new scope of practice definition:

PRACTICE OF MASSAGE THERAPY. A healthcare service of the healing arts provided to clients by a person who is licensed pursuant to this Act.

(1) The practice includes:

(a) Assessment of the functional and structural characteristics of the myofascial network and related systems of the body through tactile, visual and verbal methods;

(b) Treatment of the myofascial network and related systems of the body using manual methods, or by mechanical or electrical devices or tools that emulate or enhance the action of human hands;

(c) Active or passive movement of the body within the normal anatomical range of movement;

(d) Application of lubricants and other topical agents to the skin;

(e) Use of hydrotherapy and other adjunctive methods to produce therapeutic effects;

(f) Client education to facilitate body awareness and self-care;

(g) Treatment planning, communicating or collaborating with massage therapists and other licensed healthcare providers, and engaging in research, teaching and administration.

(2) Primary areas of application for massage therapy include:

(a) Wellness/Stress Reduction: treatment that supports the general health and well-being of the client, facilitates the relaxation response, addresses patterns of chronic tension related to stress, reduces pain and discomfort, promotes a more positive sense of self;

(b) Corrective/Rehabilitative: treatment that addresses specific symptoms or conditions, provides rehabilitation from the effects of injury, trauma or surgery

(c) Performance Optimization: treatment that improves the performance of specific activities or occupations, facilitates postural alignment and more efficient ergonomic patterns of use;

(d) Palliative: treatment for clients in recovery from illness or in the end stage of life that focuses on providing psychosocial support and relief from discomfort;

(e) Integrative: treatment that promotes awareness of the connections within the physical, cognitive and emotional aspects of the client, as well as treatment in conjunction with other licensed medical or mental health providers in a coordinated plan of care.

(3) The practice does not include:

(a) The diagnosis of illness or disease;

(b) Medical procedures, high-velocity low-amplitude chiropractic adjustive procedures, or prescription of medicines.

(d) The use of modalities for which a license to practice medicine, chiropractic, nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy, acupuncture or podiatry is required by law; or

(d) Sexual activity of any kind.

I think Rosen has nailed it here. Without going beyond what we should do, this is more inclusive and a much more accurate description of what we do actually do. This more inclusive definition could save us headaches down the road if we are challenged by other professions for infringing on their scope of practice.

Today, June 15, is the last day for public comment on the MPA. Please pass this around… this should be the start of some interesting and important discussion. There’s nothing less than the future of the massage therapy profession at stake, so we have to get this piece right! Don’t sit on your hands. Take the time to comment, and if you don’t, then you are giving up any right to complain about it after the fact.

I Need a Little Help from My Friends

Actually, I am asking for help for one of MY friends. She may be one of your friends, too, either in person or you may know her from social media, or her radio show, or the book she’s recently written. Her name is Shawnda Strongfaith Kettles.

I met Shawnda several years ago, when she won a mentoring contest I was holding. I had received many entries for the contest. If memory serves, I chose the ten that spoke the loudest to me, blacked out all the identifying information, and gave them to my staff members to vote on the final selection. She won unanimously. She had been homeless for a while. She had three daughters to take care of. She had gone to massage school, became a licensed therapist, and picked herself up from a bad situation. Her positive attitude in the face of all this just struck me as amazing. Champ and I went down to GA to meet her in person. 415918_347384488608777_1108678625_oShawnda has been working full-time as a massage therapist for the past couple of years, and keeping herself very busy. She is a great writer…she writes poetry, and short stories. She has been hosting poetry slams, making radio appearances, encouraging other poets and writers to share their stuff, taking care of her very accomplished daughters, all three of whom are at the top of their classes in school, being active in her church, and then one recent day, her life changed in an instant. I will cut and paste from her FB page, posted April 29:

April 10, I went blind for 5 days…completely. On April 14, the day my book was released, I became extremely lethargic and my body felt heavy. I walked myself to my bed at 3:30 p.m. and haven’t taken a step since then. On April 15, I woke up paralyzed from my right arm down, my left arm being the only extremity that was moving. Two days later, I got the use of my right arm back, but haven’t gotten my use of my legs. Thursday, April 24, I was admitted in the hospital and was diagnosed with NMO (Neuromyelitis Optica)…an uncommon disease in the MS family. It primarily affects the spinal cord up to the optic nerve. I have infection in my spine that may leave me permanently paralyzed from the waist down. As of right now, I have NO feeling in my legs and can’t feel touch. Day by day, I can feel changes in my body in terms of touch and sensation. I am slowly losing control of my bladder and bowel functions. In case you don’t know what that means, I can’t tell at times if I have to go to the bathroom or even take myself to the bathroom. I am 36 years old and I have to have someone to take me to the bathroom and at times clean me up. There are days that my jaw muscles aren’t strong enough to chew my own food, or my body doesn’t have enough energy to feed myself, so I have to be fed. Do you know how humbling that is? Do you know what kind of perspective that puts your life in?

Shawnda spent a couple of weeks in the hospital, and then was released home with a wheelchair and home visits from the physical therapist. She has been able to slightly move her right toes. She still has no feeling at all on the left side. Due to a very strong course of steroids, the infection in her spine did subside. However, the doctors have warned her that this form of MS is rare and that her paralysis may last for the rest of her life.

966183_851470814866806_6718987686827674630_oIn spite of that, her spirit and positive attitude is just humbling to me. She laughs every day. She encourages other people every day. She shares her testimony every day. She is a testimony every day. I can’t imagine I would have half the sense of humor and grace that she has if this happened to me.

Georgia Regents University/Medical College of GA is a teaching hospital and they covered the cost of Shawnda’s initial treatment because this is such a rare case, they wanted to study it. She will be receiving disability payments from Social Security. However, with three teenage daughters in school, I don’t know how far that will go.

A fund has been set up for Shawnda. If you feel led to help someone, you can click on this link to donate. Or buy a copy of her book. Every little bit helps. There may come a day when your life may change in the blink of an eye, and you’ll need someone’s help. Just pay it forward. Share this post if you will. Thank you very much.

FSMTB Releases Model Practice Act

The Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards released the Model Practice Act a few days ago, just after the third anniversary of the announcement they had formed a Task Force of 8 state board members to work on it. I just had the time to read it in its entirety today, and as a former state board member and former delegate to the Federation myself, I appreciate the huge amount of time and effort that went into it.

I didn’t find much that surprised me. Last week when this was first released, I saw some rumblings from educators and school owners about the requirement for massage therapy programs to be 625 hours. As the publication says, it is consistent with the 625-hour recommendation of the recently-released ELAP (Entry-Level Analysis Project) that was a collaborative effort supported by all of the national massage organizations. Since there are currently more than two dozen states that still have 500 hours as their entry-level requirement, that’s going to require some major changes. Many smaller schools would probably go out of business rather than comply with the change.

The document does not state the name of the NCBTMB or any other entity’s exam in the context of eliminating them, but the definition of “examination” is given as a standardized test or examination of entry-level massage and bodywork knowledge, skills, and abilities that is developed and administered by the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards. That means the MBLEx, period. About 40 states are currently accepting both the MBLEx and the NCB’s licensing exams. There are also a couple of states that have their own exam–and require much more than 625 hours. I don’t see that those states will want to back up and adopt this.

The MPA does seem to support portability in a good way. There are provisions for therapists participating in planned out-of-state events, temporary assignments such as with traveling sports teams, etc.,and emergency response disaster teams without requiring jumping through hoops. It would also seek to make the title of each state’s act the _____Massage Therapy Practice Act, leaving the term “bodywork” and any other terminology out of it. Licensees would be designated “LMT” (Licensed Massage Therapist) uniformly across the states.

One thing that I was not crazy about was the protocol for choosing board members. The MPA states that 7 members are to be appointed by the governor. I would prefer to see that power spread around a little. I wouldn’t want to see governors of any political party appointing only the people for their own party, for example. In my state, the appointees are made by the governor, the speaker of the house, and the senate pro tem. I think that or something similar is a little better balance of power, personally; even if they do randomly turn out to all have the same party affiliation.

I also wondered about the discrepancy in defining “clock hour” as 50 minutes of instruction and “contact hour” as 60 minutes of instruction. The NCBTMB has traditionally allowed 50 minutes of instruction as a contact hour for the purpose of continuing education.

The states are also still left with more autonomy than I expected. There’s plenty left in their hands, so to speak, with the usual statements about how the board may adopt, amend, and repeal rules. There is also a licensure by endorsement stipulation and a grandfathering accommodation.

There are only five states left without licensing. It would certainly be to their advantage to have this right out of the gate and avoid having to reinvent the wheel. As for the other 45 states that are already regulated, I don’t see that there will be a mad rush to adopt this, unless what they currently have isn’t working for some reason. We have to remember that the FSMTB is not a regulatory body in and of itself, but a coalition of regulated states. They can’t force the MPA on any state, nor are they trying to. It is a blueprint, a collection of suggestions for how to make the states more uniform in the regulation of massage. Too bad it didn’t exist a few decades ago before most of the states got on the bandwagon.

I don’t have any harsh criticisms of the document. Personally, I like the concept of raising the minimum requirement to 625 hours, but then again, I’m not a school owner that would be affected by such a thing. My final analysis: kudos to the people that worked on it. Things like this that are done by volunteers always come under a rash of criticism from people who disagree with the product.

 

 

AMTA: The Chapter Fee Fiasco

I just came from a wonderful weekend teaching at the MA Chapter of AMTA. What a great group of people. I was there four years ago for their 50th anniversary, and personally know many of the members there. It was fun to see them and meet some new ones.

A few weeks ago I was at the IL Chapter. In between, I attended the annual meeting of my own chapter in NC. At all three of these conferences, I attended the business meeting and heard the treasurer’s report.

This weekend in MA, National President-Elect Jeff Smoot, who was there to speak at the meeting, was put on the hot-seat by a member who questioned National’s move to make Chapter fees voluntary. The member actually asked outgoing Chapter President Mary White, and she deferred the question to Smoot. Smoot replied that good things were happening that would be announced in September, and that it had been a unanimous decision of the Board of Directors. He also stated that the chapter fees had originally been intended to help with legislation, and that now that 45 states are licensing, there was not the need for it that there once was. I am personally begging them to reconsider. Any practice act can come under the gun at any time. Our chapters need lobbyists and attorneys to protect our interests. We need our own local people that are familiar with the laws and known to the legislators in our own states.

AMTA is SUPPOSED TO BE a member-driven organization. I’ve been a member for more than 10 years. I love my state chapter. I have been impressed with every chapter I’ve ever been to. Every one of them is filled with enthusiastic people with a passion for massage and volunteerism.

What really ticks me off is that the members were not consulted on this decision, which was apparently made last year during the BOD meeting at the National Convention in DFW, behind closed doors. I had questioned the ethics of this decision earlier as being conducted in a manner that was less than transparent, and was told that AMTA’s attorneys sanctioned the secrecy because competitors were present in the open meeting. The Chapters were not immediately informed, either. Budgets that had already been prepared for the coming year had to be redone. And yes, it is having an impact, in spite of National’s claim that they are making this up to the chapters in other ways.

The MA Chapter is a prime example. They have for years donated $10,000 annually to the Massage Therapy Foundation. That had to be revised down to $1050 this year. There are other chapters that have been very generous to the Foundation. I fear they will not be able to afford that support now, and that the Chapter’s ability to provide great local education opportunities is going to suffer, too.

To add fuel to the fire, I received a copy of the following solicitation today that Massage Magazine Insurance Plus, an arm of the company owned by Joe Doyle, sent to all the state chapters:

Now that AMTA has discontinued the requirement to support state chapters with every membership, how will each state support their LMT’s and the industry at large? 

At Insurance Plus, we have an opportunity for you to continue to drive revenue for your state chapter while also providing incremental insurance coverage’s for stolen equipment and identify theft protection above what AMTA has offered to their members.  All at a savings of $75 off of AMTA’s membership fee.

At MASSAGE Magazine Insurance Plus, we are always looking for more ways to support the Massage industry either through school communications, print and digital publications as well as being a leader in liability coverage by providing significant coverage’s, at record low pricing.  We would like to take a portion of our cost ($20 for professional policies and $8 for student policies) and pass that along to your association for each policy that is directed by you and your site.

Insurance Plus has the highest rating in the industry, A++ underwritten by MedPro, a Berkshire Hathaway/Warren Buffett company.

I will give Joe Doyle credit for his brazen behavior in seizing the moment. He’s too smart to think AMTA wouldn’t immediately respond to that, which they did, with the following letter to all the chapters:

Dear Chapter Leaders:

By now, you probably have seen a solicitation from Massage Magazine Insurance Plus about partnering with the chapter. This solicitation is illegal and unauthorized. AMTA has consulted with legal counsel, and chapters should not respond in any way to the solicitation.  Beyond policy issues, there are other legal matters raised by the solicitation.  If you have any questions, please reply to this email.

Sincerely,
AMTA Chapter Relations

My guess is that might also get the magazine dis-invited to the National Convention, but you never know. Freedom of the press and all that.

I urge all AMTA members to continue to support your chapters. I further urge you to contact the Board of Directors and tell them you a) do not appreciate being left out of this decision and b) you do not support this move. You can do that here.