Tag Archives: Alexa Zaledonis

NCBTMB: Quit the Small Stuff and Take the Bold Step

Nearly two years ago, the Tennessee Board of Massage Licensure voted to change its rule pertaining to the examinations approved for licensure of massage therapists. They chose to adopt the Massage & Bodywork Licensing Examination offered by FSMTB as the only approved exam – and sunset the use of the National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork offered by NCBTMB.

That decision was entirely within the Board’s authority, and was based on the fact that the MBLEx is owned and administered by FSMTB, which consists of its Member Boards. This structure gives state regulatory boards direct ownership and supervision over this exam, which has never been the case with the use of NCBTMB’s private certification exams for state licensure purposes.

Rule changes can sometimes take a long time to make their way through the administrative process, and Tennessee’s exam rule just came up yesterday for final approval before a committee of the State Senate. This could and should have been a simple legislative rubber stamp of an agency decision, but NCBTMB threw a monkey wrench into the works by sending in a representative to oppose the rule change.

I was told last year by former NCBTMB CEO Paul Lindamood that they were swearing off the battle against the MBLEx, and would no longer challenge state massage board actions around exam approvals. He stated to me at the time that he knew they weren’t making any friends by doing so. The new CEO, Mike Williams, who came on board last September, apparently does not share that point of view.

At the committee hearing, the Senators stayed the decision on the rule change for another 30 days and sent the matter back to the Board for further consideration. According to my sources, the hearing went poorly, with legislators failing to understand the difference in the exams, state board members unable to answer the question about what the pass rate is on the exam, and general confusion leading to the stay instead of a decision.

I spoke to NCBTMB President Alexa Zaledonis today, who stated that “We didn’t go to Tennessee to fight, but to state our position. There are still people who want to take our exams and we support them having a choice. We never desire to create controversy in the states. We have quality licensing exams, a lot of people do like them and ask us to help keep them available in their states. No malicious intent, just a desire to let those people have a choice and so we try to stand up for them in an appropriate fashion.”

Earlier this year, there was an ugly ruckus in Ohio over a similar kind of rule change. It ended in a Massage Therapy Advisory Committee member being removed after he asked the NCBTMB during the hearing: “How much money will it take to make you go away?” It was deemed unprofessional conduct at best, and an offer of a bribe at worst.

While I hate the way the question was put forth, it has more than a little basis in reality. I personally would paraphrase that to: “How much money will it take for you to get out of the entry-level licensing exam business?” 38 states are still accepting the NCBTMB exams, but all you have to do is look at NCB’s financials (available on Guidestar.org) to see that they’ve had their butt kicked by the MBLEx. The MBLEx is a licensing exam used for licensing purposes. It’s the right tool for the job, and the marketplace has affirmed it by an overwhelming margin. The state boards themselves don’t derive income from the MBLEx; FSMTB is a non-profit organization (as is NCBTMB) and the Member Boards pay annual dues to the Federation.

If you’ve been reading my blog for long, you know that this is a relatively new opinion of mine –that the NCBTMB should get out of the entry-level exam market. I argued against that for a number of years. Rick Rosen, (a fellow North Carolinian and industry thought leader), has argued that point with me here on this blog and in other forums a number of times, as have others, and I resisted that change for a long time. However, I finally came around to Rosen’s point of view. A few months ago when NCBTMB announced the creation of a new post-graduate Board Certification credential and the ending of the current entry-level National Certification credential, I truly felt like it was the best move to be made.

The issue is that ever since the appearance of the MBLEx, the value of being Nationally Certified has largely gone by the wayside. I’ve heard many accusations that the MBLEx is an easier test than the National Certification Exam. This is not a valid argument, because these are two different tests created for entirely different purposes. The real point here is that National Certification no longer distinguishes therapists from the pack like it did back in the days when it was the only credentialing exam in the massage therapy field. I have personally been NCTMB for 12 years. I have always maintained my certification, even after the MBLEx appeared, but I know many therapists who have let it go because they’ve reached the belief that it doesn’t mean anything in the marketplace.

Under the new plan, Board Certification includes the requirements of 750 hours of education, passing a new higher-level exam, 250 hours of hands-on experience, keeping CPR certification current, and a criminal background check. Those who are already Nationally Certified will not have to take the new exam. In our conversation today, Zaledonis stated “Our Board Certification exam is created to test individuals who have achieved 750 hours of education and are at a level of expertise that exceeds an entry level graduate. Over 8000 individuals responded to our JTA, these answers (after psychometric interpretation) along with a panel of subject matter experts were used to differentiate between a entry level licensed practitioner and a certified practitioner. Our Certification test is different from a licensing exam in that it uses more cognitive thinking over just recall using innovative items over traditional. This test, coupled with the other requirements, are the start of a program that truly differentiates licensing from certification.”

I personally know many of the people on the staff and on the Board of the NCBTMB. I have no doubts about their dedication to the profession, and when it comes down to it, the organization isn’t an island. A CEO serves at the pleasure of the Board, and Board members have to reach a consensus. Apparently the members who are currently serving the NCBTMB have agreed to follow this path of continuing to challenge state boards, and that distresses me. I think it is a misguided effort, no matter how good their intentions. Even the name of the organization speaks to that: National Certification Board. It isn’t the National Licensing Board. There isn’t a National License. There is no portability, and the swirling sewer of argument and confusion around the exams is not helping the situation. I think the time is ripe for the NCBTMB to get out of the entry-level market altogether and focus 100% of their resources on the development and rollout of their new post-graduate credential. This IS something that our profession needs, and I urge the NCB leadership to let go of the past and turn towards the future.

I imagine that money is a primary factor in the organization hanging on to entry-level testing, and in the decision to continue challenging state boards that are ready to drop them. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that states don’t want a private certification organization coming in and telling them how to run their business. State board members are normally unpaid volunteers who give up home, family and work time to serve a board….and to have an outside party come in and tell them they did the wrong thing doesn’t sit very well, (as I personally know). I don’t want to see the NCBTMB crippled to the vanishing point. Going around challenging state agencies is expensive, and it doesn’t win them any friends.

So here we are with a Catch-22. It’s time for NCBTMB to exit the entry-level testing business, but they don’t have the money to sustain them while the new Board Certification program is getting built. They need a bridge to help them get where we would like them to go.

There is a straightforward solution to this situation. Since the lion’s share of revenue from entry-level testing has shifted over to FSMTB, they now have a significant cash reserve. It is in the best interests of their Member Boards to bring a quick and painless end to the “exam wars” and to establish the MBLEx as the single standardized exam for state licensure. The profession as a whole will benefit, and portability for therapists will be improved.

What needs to happen is that NCBTMB declares that it will no longer offer any of its exams for state licensure purposes as of a certain date. In exchange, FSMTB will give NCBTMB a certain amount of money over a period of time to compensate it for this move. The mechanism for this process is called a Transfer Agreement, and there is a clear precedent we can look at.

For many years, the American Physical Therapy Association owned and operated the national exam used by state PT boards for licensure. APTA (like our own AMTA) is a private non-profit membership association, with no accountability to state PT boards. Because of the same inherent problems we’ve finally come to recognize, the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy entered into negotiations with APTA, and engineered a Transfer Agreement to take over that exam in the late ’80s. It’s worked like a charm ever since. Physical Therapy has 50-state licensure, and a lot more consistency in their state-to-state regulations than we have in the massage field.

Having one standardized national licensing exam is one of the hallmarks of a profession. We are at a critical juncture, where the opportunity to take a major step towards professional status is within our grasp. This will take the willingness and cooperation of the leaders of both NCBTMB and FSMTB to come together to work out the details of this agreement.

Let’s stop wasting time on the small stuff. Take the bold step, for the betterment of all.

 

 

 

NCBTMB: New Plans for the Future

The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork has announced several bold new initiatives for moving the organization ahead. It’s no secret that the NCBTMB has had their ups and downs. The immediate past CEO, Paul Lindamood, had a lot to do with bringing them back from the brink of financial disaster that was caused partially by the MBLEx cutting drastically into their exam income, and partially by a previous administration that seemed hell-bent on bankrupting the organization. In a press release dated March 14, the organization outlined their new directions:

— Beginning in the first quarter of 2013, NCBTMB will end its existing National Certification credential, and will replace it with a new Board Certification credential. This will require passing the new Board Certification exam, which has Eligibility Requirements of 750 hours of education, 250 hours of hands on work experience and passing of a background check. Additional qualifications may be added, based on feedback from the profession. This will elevate the value of “certification” to a true post-graduate credential as opposed to the entry-level status it has held since its inception.

— In the summer of 2012, NCBTMB will launch a new online portal where all interaction with NCBTMB can be accomplished. including applications for all exams, recertification, approved providers, school reviews and payment for all NCBTMB services and products will be accomplished through this new portal. This will streamline their operations and cut down on the amount of time involved for all concerned.

— Beginning in the summer of 2012, NCBTMB’s continuing education approval program will also require courses to be vetted, along with CE providers. Providers will be required to submit their qualifications to teach each course. Previously, once a provider was approved, they could add on courses at will, which has caused some problems with people teaching subjects they are not truly qualified for. There has been some abuse as well concerning inappropriate course content, such as people creating a course just to sell a product they’ve invented. I attended last year’s meeting held by the NCBTMB for the purpose of gathering input and suggestions on how to improve the CE program, and vetting individual courses was at the top of the wish list. It’s good to see them listening and taking suggestions.

— Effective immediately, the current online practice exam is discontinued. In the summer of 2012, NCBTMB will launch a new online education resource offering thousands of questions to help candidates test their knowledge of many specific areas of practice. The old practice exam only had 65 questions, so this is a vast improvement for testing candidates.

— Licensing Exam. The NCETM and NCETMB, currently accepted for licensure in thirty-nine states, will be retained. The exam may now be taken at any time prior to graduation; however, formal notification will be released only upon proof of graduation from a minimum 500-hour massage therapy program. State licensing requirements are dictated by the individual states.  Since most of the existing massage licensing boards in the US have now joined the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards, and the official line from that organization is to urge all states to exclusively adopt the MBLEx for licensing, this particular move keeps the waters a little muddy.

Since the creation of the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards and the exploding popularity of the MBLEx, the NCBTMB has found themselves in a difficult position, and not just financially. For about 15 years or so, the exams from the NCBTMB were the sole path to licensure almost everywhere, except in a few states that had their own exam. In states that had no licensure, National Certification has been used as a credential to set educated and legitimate massage therapists apart from the “massage parlor” workers.

With only a few states left that aren’t regulated, most of which are working towards adopting regulations, the MBLEx will probably be used as the licensing exam if and when it does happen. The MBLEx is an entry-level licensing exam. By the NCBTMB’s own admission, the NESL exam they have used for licensing is the same exam they have used for certification–the only difference being the name of it– that has up to this point been a somewhat confusing state of affairs. The NCBTMB is currently seeking item writers and planning to beef up the new exam, so we’ll see which way that goes. In light of the new requirements for National Certification, I think it would make sense now for them to get out of the entry-level licensing game altogether and let the new credential truly mean an increase in value to those who seek a higher credential.

In a paper he authored in May 2011, The Optimal Role of National Certification in the Field of Massage Therapy, Rick Rosen, the co-founder and former Executive Director of the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education, stated the following:

….national certification at the entry level has been rendered unnecessary and redundant as a first credentialing step. To advance the field of massage therapy towards full professional status, NCBTMB must relinquish the task of entry-level credentialing to state licensing boards via the MBLEx. In place of its existing program, NCBTMB has an excellent opportunity to upgrade and repurpose what has been called “national certification” to a graduate-level credential. Decoupling certification from licensure would bring NCBTMB back to its original mission as the provider of a truly voluntary program that allows experienced practitioners to distinguish themselves through testing and demonstration of continued competence. That’s what certification was designed for.

Well, it’s great that NCBTMB has finally listened to what Rosen and other leaders in the field have been suggesting for a number of years.

I spoke with CEO Mike Williams and Board Chair Alexa Zaledonis last week to get a few questions answered, namely what has happened to the much-touted plan for an advanced certification. Williams and Zaledonis stated to me that the NCBTMB has cast aside their former plan for the N-CAP (Nationally Certified Advanced Practitioner) exam, based on negative feedback from the profession. I had personally been in favor of the N-CAP; however, I think the new credential is ultimately a much better solution. Another of Rosen’s statements, “Our field would benefit significantly from having a “generalist” credential that is available to massage therapists who have achieved a designated level of professional experience and continuing education beyond their foundational training,” seems to bear that out.

I don’t believe true licensing portability is ever going to happen in my lifetime. I am not sitting around holding my breath waiting for our organizations to all get together and sing Kum Ba Yah, although that would be nice. Turf wars are not a pretty sight, and the one between the NCBTMB and the FSMTB is no exception.  Both organizations have something to contribute, and they just need to get clear on what that is and to conduct themselves in a transparent and professional manner and in the spirit of what is good for the profession on the whole, not just what is financially lucrative for one organization. The recent MOCC proposal from the FSMTB that I have been reporting on recently would be financially lucrative for them, and that’s the only good thing I can say about it. To ignore the organization that has administered most of the continuing education for massage therapists in the country for the past 20 years is a political move that is, in my opinion, aimed at taking more money from the NCBTMB in the hopes of eventually crippling them altogether.

I remember the dark days when I had to report on the shenanigans of some of the previous leaders of the NCBTMB, and the Federation seems to be forcing me to do the same to them with some of their recent actions. I was gratified last week to see AMTA shoot down the MOCC proposal on more than 20 points, while ABMP President Les Sweeney spoke out in favor of it. It will be interesting to see if they have a response to this new plan from the NCBTMB.

The Leaders of the Massage Profession

Last week, the leaders of all the major organizations representing the massage therapy profession came together in St. Louis for a Massage Therapy Leadership Summit.

The Leaders of the Massage Profession

The Leaders of the Massage ProfessionMassage Therapy Leadership Summit meeting. The executive directors, CEOs, and board chairs of the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education (AFMTE), the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA), Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (ABMP), the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA), the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB), the Massage Therapy Foundation (MTF), and the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork were all in attendance.

I have personally prayed for this to happen for a long time, and was thrilled that it took place. Rick Rosen, Executive Director of the AFMTE, shared this photo on my Facebook page. I of course spread it through my networks, and it prompted a question from Julie Onofrio: “Are these people massage therapists, and have they ever been in practice?” I’ll try to answer that to the best of my ability. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting all these folks, and I know some of them better than others. In the event I get any of the facts wrong here, I’m sure someone can straighten me out!

I will say up front that as for the most part these are organizations that have many members, huge budgets, and myriad issues and details to take care of, I don’t believe that being a massage therapist is a prerequisite for being a CEO or an ED. That is a position that generally requires a college education, and enough expertise to run a multi-million dollar concern. The AFMTE is only two years old–they don’t quite fall into that category yet, but they will someday. Leadership of such an organization doesn’t necessarily require one to be a massage therapist, although it would certainly require an interest in massage. Here’s my scoop on the leaders:

Rick Rosen, the founder and Executive Director of the AFMTE is indeed a licensed massage therapist. In fact, he is the proud owner of the first massage therapy license issued in the state of North Carolina. He is the co-founder, along with his wife Carey Smith, of the Body Therapy Institute in Siler City, NC, which they started in 1983. It is one of only two COMTA-approved schools in the state. He was the founding chairman and a past member of the North Carolina Board of Massage & Bodywork Therapy, and was the first Executive Director of the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards. He currently serves as Executive Director of the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education, a national organization for massage schools, teachers and continuing education providers. Rick is a 2010 inductee into the Massage Therapy Hall of Fame, and was named as one of the Top 10 People in Integrative Medicine/Integrative Health Care in 2010. He also has a degree in advertising from the University of Florida, a master’s in humanistic psychology from West Georgia College, is certified by the Hakomi Institute body-centered psychology, is certified in structural integration, and is a graduate of the Florida School of Massage.

Pete Whitridge, the President of the AFMTE, has been a massage therapist since 1987 and has been an instructor at the Florida School of Massage since 1989. He has served AMTA on the Council of Schools, served 5 years on the Florida Board of Massage including being the Chair, served COMTA as a reviewer, has also served on the faculty of the Spacecoast Health Institute for 14 years, and Indian River Community College for 7 years. He is also on the Education Committee of the Massage Therapy Foundation. Pete also has a BA in History and Political Science.

Shelly Johnson, Executive Director of AMTA, served as the Deputy Director for 8 years before being named ED in 2010 after the departure of Elizabeth Lucas. Shelly is not a massage therapist, but she has worked with associations for 22 years, including the American Society for Quality. She also was previously Executive Director for the American Society of Neuroscience Nurses, the American Board of Neuroscience Nursing, the Neuroscience Nursing Foundation and the American Society for Healthcare Materials Management of the American Hospital Association. Johnson has a BA in Political Science and Communication from Augsburg College.

Glenath Moyle, President of AMTA, gets the longevity award in this crowd! Glenath has been doing massage for more than 50 years. In her first career, she was a geriatric nurse, and massaging patients was a regular part of her routine. She attended massage school in Portland OR and started practicing in earnest in 1987. Prior to becoming the President of the national organization, Moyle was a tireless volunteer in her state chapter. Needless to say, she’s very excited that the national convention is coming to her hometown this year.

Bob Benson, the Chair of ABMP, is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Business School. Prior to coming to ABMP, Benson worked in public policy in Washington, DC, and spent 19 years as President of two public companies. The membership of ABMP has grown by more than 10 times over since Benson came on the scene. He was the catalyst for the creation of the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards, notably funding that organization to get it off the ground, and he worked for nine years to get statewide regulation in California, where he now serves on the board of the California Massage Therapy Council.

Les is More! Les Sweeney, President of ABMP, joined the organization in 1994 after learning about association management at the Club Managers Association of America. He served as VP from 1999-2006. Sweeney has an MBA from the University of Colorado. In 2006, Les decided to step up to the plate and get an education in massage! He graduated from the Holistic Learning Center in Evergreen and became Nationally Certified in Therapeutic Massage. Les has expressed to me personally that he just wanted to know more about massage and get the “real feel” for what ABMP members do. Good for him for taking the plunge and investing in that.

Kate Zulaski is the Executive Director of COMTA. She has a BA in Geology, and attended the Institute for Psycho-Structural Balancing in CA, and went on to become the Dean of Education at the school before joining COMTA in 2009.

Kate has in-depth experience both as a massage therapy practitioner as well as an educator, having most recently served as Dean of Education from 2006 to 2009 for the International Professional School of Bodywork (IPSB) in San Diego, California. Prior to being named Dean of Education, Zulaski also served as an IPSB Massage Instructor and Clinic Supervisor.  Zulaski has also studied a variety of bodywork modalities through the California Naturopathic College; Society of Ortho-Bionomy International; the Natural Healing Institute; and the International Professional School of Bodywork. She has been active in volunteer work for the AMTA Teacher of the Year Awards Committee and the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education Standards Committee, and is a long-time member of the ABMP.

Randy Swenson, a COMTA Commissioner who was also present, is a chiropractor. Dr. Swenson is currently a tenured professor and Dean of the College of Allied Health Sciences at National University of Health Sciences (NUHS). He developed the Massage Therapy Program in 1999 and continues to manage the day-to-day operations of the program. He is also responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Sciences degree completion and professional pre-requisite programs. He was previously the Academic Dean and the Dean of Curriculum Development for the chiropractic program at NUHS. He holds a Doctor of Chiropractic degree from NUHS and a Master of Health Professions Education from the Department of Medical Education of the University of Illinois at Chicago. He has led NUHS Steering Committees for Higher Learning Commission Self-Study Reports (SSR) and Commission on Chiropractic Education SSR’s. He has led and written COMTA SSR’s for the NUHS massage program. Dr. Swenson has been a site-team member, site-team leader and off-site peer reviewer with COMTA since 2006.

Ruth Werner, fearless leader of the Massage Therapy Foundation, is the author of the Guide to Pathology for Massage Therapists and the Disease Handbook for Massage Therapists, both published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. Werner is a graduate of the Brian Utting School of Massage in Seattle in 1985, and completed the Advanced Training Program and Teacher Training Program with the Muscular Therapy Institute in Cambridge, MA in 1991. I’ve attended a couple of classes (a definite privilege!) taught by Ruth, where she honestly shared with the class that she feels her real talent is sharing research about massage rather than actually doing massage. We’d all be a lot worse off if that wasn’t so. Her pathology book has been my go-to source from the moment I entered massage school. She has taught curriculum at 4 massage schools and continuing education classes all over the world.

Debra Persinger, Executive Director of the FSMTB, has a PhD in human services from Kansas State University. Dr. Persinger, a native of New Zealand, joined the National Certifying Commission on Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) in 1996. Before accepting the position of interim CEO, she served as the commission’s executive director of operations, and was originally hired to be its director of examination development. Persinger is also co-author of Sand to Sky: Conversations with Teachers of Asian Medicine (iUniverse, 2008).

Paul Lindamood, current CEO of the NCBTMB, has more than 20 years of executive-level experience. Lindamood has devoted his career to positioning, directing and promoting associations, professional firms, healthcare organizations, businesses and non-profits. In fact, it was in this capacity that he first began working with NCBTMB, directing the organization’s communications, public relations, media and re-branding strategies. He has worked with a wide-range of healthcare and non-profit organizations and led successful branding, fundraising, recruitment and consumer awareness initiatives for American Red Cross, United Way, International Association of Business Communicators, Jobs for Graduates, Leukemia Society of America, March of Dimes, Multiple Sclerosis, Muscular Dystrophy, City of Hope, Hospice, Junior Achievement, Small Business Administration, and many others.

Alexa Zaledonis, Chair of the NCBTMB, is the owner/operator of Even Keel Wellness Spa, a therapeutic massage and skin care center in Annapolis, Maryland. A graduate of the Baltimore School of Massage, she passed the NCE in 2002 and has spent the past seven years building her practice in the community.  Zaledonis is a certified Lotus Palm Thai Yoga Massage practitioner and a Certified Personal Trainer through the National Strength Professionals Association. Zaledonis currently is completing her Yoga Teacher Training (RYT200). She also teaches Thai Massage seminars at Even Keel Institute for Continuing Education and is an NCBTMB-approved provider.

A former Certified Public Accountant, Zaledonis specialized in healthcare and nonprofit organizations for more than 15 years. She received her bachelor’s degree from Albertus Magnus College in New Haven, Connecticut. I spoke to Zaledonis earlier today, and she told me that in addition to working 40 hours a week on behalf of the NCBTMB, she also personally does an average of 17 massages a week. A fellow workaholic!

Well, folks, there you have it. So yes, many of these folks do have actual massage experience. And those that don’t have been around this business long enough to appreciate those of us who do. They have all, in my opinion, served the massage profession with the best of intentions and keeping their eyes on the fact that it is the massage therapists in the trenches that they are working for. May they all enjoy peace and prosperity.

10 Questions for Alexa Zaledonis, New Chair of the NCBTMB

Alexa Zaledonis, LMT, CPT, NCTMB, is the new Chair of the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork. She is the owner/operator of Even Keel Wellness Spa, a therapeutic massage and skin care center in Annapolis, Maryland. Even Keel employs seven full-time and several part-time employees who specialize in Thai, sports and rehabilitative massage.

A graduate of the Baltimore School of Massage, she passed the NCE in 2002 and has spent the past seven years building her practice in the community. Zaledonis is a certified Lotus Palm Thai Yoga Massage practitioner and a Certified Personal Trainer through the National Strength Professionals Association. Zaledonis currently is completing her Yoga Teacher Training (RYT200). She also teaches Thai Massage at Even Keel Institute for Continuing Education and is an NCBTMB-approved provider.

A former Certified Public Accountant, Zaledonis specialized in healthcare and nonprofit organizations for more than 15 years. She received her bachelor’s degree from Albertus Magnus College in New Haven, Connecticut.

I am NCTMB myself since 2000, and I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly at the NCBTMB. They had a few rocky years and have been the target of my pen on numerous occasions…and in the past year or so, have received my accolades as well, as I feel they’ve made a big effort to right themselves. I don’t expect perfection from any person or organization, but I do expect effort, and I’m glad to report it when I see it happening. I’m glad to see Zaledonis take over the helm of the 9-member Board of Directors, and recently took the opportunity to find out more about her and her future plans for the organization. I recently seized the opportunity to ask her a few questions. My interview follows, and her answers are printed verbatim:

1. How long have you been involved with the NCB, and what previous roles have you been in there, if any?

By definition, I am not your “normal” volunteer. I joined NCB as a Board member in 2007, became Chair Elect in 2009. I had no prior volunteer experience with NCB before joining the board, outside of being a proud certificant. Volunteering prior to 2007 was not a possibility. I moved to Annapolis in 2003 and began my practice while still working part time as a CPA—there was no time for sleep, much less time to be a valuable volunteer. I believe if you can’t commit then don’t raise your hand.

2. What first led you to volunteer?

I raised my hand. I had figured out how to be a competent therapist, teach the community the value of quality massage and help other therapists to succeed in a viable career. Then, one morning, I asked myself, “What is the future for my employees, for myself, for the industry?”  I was one person helping a village. I knew that I needed to belong to a bigger village, and because national certification was always the backbone of my career as a CPA, becoming a volunteer at NCB was a natural next step for me.

3. What do you feel are the biggest challenges facing the NCBTMB today?

While massage therapy may be an ancient art, the industry in this country is young and will continue to evolve. There are incredible opportunities for our profession, but that can be a double-edged sword. What I mean is, it’s easy to lose focus without input and guidance from stakeholders. That’s why we always base what we test for and what we do programmatically on what the profession tells us is important. So the challenge is really to listen—and to always make sure that the individual therapist is heard, has a say and stays involved.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” At NCB we are trying every day to listen, and then help lead our industry to grow in new ways. Sometimes, that requires forging new paths—like the advanced practice credential for example.

4. What are your priorities for your term as the Chair?

We have so many great things going on, but my top priorities surround the execution of the National Certification for Advanced Practice, or the NCAP, and future specialty credentials. Also, addressing the issues of continuing education and nurturing and enhancing our school compliance program. I look forward to seeing all of our programs work hand in hand, each one helping the next one to add value to and take the industry to new heights.

5. In your From the Top letter on the website and the one that was recently mailed out to the associations and regulatory boards, you talk about revamping the Continuing Ed/Approved Provider program and vetting individual courses. One of the most serious problems at the NCB in years gone by was overwhelming inefficiency, which was the main reason for switching to the present system of audits instead of requiring each class to be vetted. How do you plan to keep that from happening again? Are you going to hire new staff?

Yes, NCB is developing a new National Approved Provider and Continuing Education program, but at this point, nothing is written in stone. We have invited thought leaders, subject matter experts, state board representatives, peer organizations, approved providers and certificants to engage in high-level discussions and participate in the Massage Approved Provider Panel. The response has been impressive.

I think people in the profession are ready to take the next logical step for Continuing Education. And that is to define, differentiate and identify the educational level of the wide variety of modalities and subjects offered. We are looking to design a user-friendly review and approval process, but the panel will help inform the best way to go about accomplishing that.

The magnitude of continuing education has grown far beyond the conventional methods of administering and maintaining a program. We have to think outside of the box. Forge a new path. We have a rough framework of ideas and have are asking subject matter experts to share their best thinking. This truly involves the entire profession.

Imagine this: what if it were possible that in its final form, the national program could consist of an array of industry-wide workgroups comprised of key stakeholders as part of the “engine” that vets CE for the entire profession. All-inclusive involvement. Now that would be groundbreaking! And at the end of the day, it’s everyone together working to move the profession forward while protecting the safety of the public. Blazing new trails.

6. The NCBTMB has taken a substantial financial hit in the past year or two, but as I reported in my annual financial series, there’s been a great job done in cutting expenses. Do you think the NCB can remain financially viable?

Laura, there is no doubt we have had to make some important strategic decisions. But we are proud of our accomplishments, and in fact, independent auditors have said that NCB has exhibited a textbook turnaround during the last two years.

The NCB Board, along with senior leadership, have worked hard to ensure that our current programs, personnel and operational concerns are sound, support one another and offer real benefits for our certificants and the profession. This is how we are building value. With Paul Lindamood as CEO and my love of financial statements, you can bet we will keep close watch on the fundamentals…and the finances!

7. There are now a couple of other organizations looking at getting into the approval of continuing education. Do you think the NCB can stay competitive in the marketplace if that happens?

Thus far, everyone seems to be showing great interest in being part of our Massage Approved Provider Panel. I don’t see this as competition. I see this as the industry putting forth their best effort on something, and that is a beautiful thing.

8. How is the NCAP progressing? I need to know since I plan to be the first one to take it!
And Laura we want test number one to have your name on it! NCB has spent more than a decade polling the profession and has witnessed the growing demand for an advanced credential. Not only that, but the medical industry is showing exceptional interest in it as well. We have spoken to numerous doctors who all support an advanced credential. This is incredibly exciting for the profession—and we are only scratching the surface.

Regarding our progress on the NCAP, a Job Task Analysis survey was sent out the latter part of 2010 and we have just received the preliminary report. NCB would like to thank all of our partners in the field from professional organizations to schools and students as well as industry media for spreading the word about the survey. We had a tremendous response.

Our next steps involve the development of test specifications, which will be sent out for public comment in March. After that, item writing will begin in earnest. It is a very comprehensive and rigorous process.

9. Your term is for a period of two years. Do you think you can accomplish all the things you want to accomplish?

Two years is not a long time. However, as I quoted Emerson earlier, I will be happy with my accomplishments if I can help to blaze a path to advance this profession, and most importantly leave trail markers clear enough for the next person to follow.

10. What’s your fondest hope for the organization going into the future?

I hope that the organization can help to bring this scenario to life:

Therapist calls prospective employer:

Ring Ring

Employer:             “Hello, Human Resources at Community General Hospital”

Therapist:             “Hello I am a Massage Therapist and was wondering if you are hiring?”

Employer:             “Well your timing couldn’t be better. We are always looking for qualified                                 people. Tell me about yourself.”

Therapist:             “I am a Licensed and Certified Massage Therapist. I hold a National                                 Certification in Advanced Practice, am working toward a specialty in                             Medical Massage and have a list of qualified continuing education I can                         share with you.”

Employer:             “Your credentials sound great. We only hire Licensed and Nationally Certified Therapists. Why don’t you send over a resume and we can set up a time to talk.”

You gotta think big Laura. Thanks for giving me the chance to be a part of your blog.