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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

13 Replies to “Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards: All Talk and No Action?”

  1. “They should be as transparent as a clean window, not operating like national security is at risk should their actions become known.”

    This cannot be repeated enough.

    If their actions can’t stand up in the sunshine, then that’s a huge red flag.

  2. Wow!..”the more things change, the more things stay the same”! Let’s say it again, folks….it’s not what you EXPECT…..it’s what you INSPECT!

  3. Laura,
    Thank you for the opportunity to honor the many volunteers who drive the FSMTB. Our committees and work groups are comprised of volunteers who do double duty serving their State along with other dedicated professionals who deliver an abundance of expertise, time and talent; they work hard to serve the regulatory community and improve things for the greater good. For example, when the Model Practice Act Task Force meets on July 4th, they will be working and sacrificing time away from families and festivities because they believe the MPA will help the profession on a large scale; they will not be making PowerPoints. This group is doing in 3 years what other similar organizations, with decades in existence, have done in 7 years. When the License Renewal Task Force meets they are implementing actions desired by the Member Boards. When the renewal Proposal was published, the FSMTB listened to the stakeholders, took a step back and reevaluated the approach to license renewal. That was the right thing to do rather than forge ahead regardless of consequences simply to meet some arbitrary, quick timeline.
    Finally, while I know of no gag orders, I can confirm that the FSMTB does handle confidential information and sometimes meets in executive session, almost always pertaining to a national licensing exam-related matter. Since we serve government agencies, some matters are not addressed in the public eye, particularly when State investigations are underway and no conclusions yet drawn. This ensures credibility and it takes time to do things right.
    Perhaps if we did not go to painstaking lengths to ensure integrity and fairness for all stakeholders in the process and products, things would be delivered faster.
    I hope this provides a window into the real workings of the regulatory world for your readers.

  4. Do these guys not have a load of money?
    Do the board members get paid (above post makes it sound like they don’t) apart from the “get away to a pow-wow in a nice location” trips?

  5. Debra,

    I appreciate your response, and you or any other spokesperson for the FSMTB are always welcome to respond. Having been a past state board member for five years, and a past delegate to the FSMTB myself, I am personally well aware of the sacrifices involved in taking time away from home, work, and family for what is basically a thankless job.

    That being said, the subject of this blog is the Nevada Board’s withdrawal from the organization and the reasons they gave for doing so behind it, which are detailed above.

    Proceeding with caution is always a good thing, rather than throwing half-baked plans out there as some organizations have been guilty of doing, so perhaps public perception would be better served if the Federation put all meeting minutes and regular updates on the website. Neither myself nor any other licensed massage therapist from a regulated state that is a Federation member should have to make a special request to see the minutes from a meeting. They should be posted with regularity for us all to see, in the interest of transparency. State boards are expected to be transparent, and we should have the expectation that the Federation representing those boards is, as well.

    In the “Newsroom” section of the Federation’s website, there is one post from 2012, and prior to that, the last posting was in 2009. That’s just unacceptable. The Federation has plenty of funds available to hire a webmaster to disseminate information about progress as this organization should be doing.

  6. We had so much hope in the beginning that fresh energy would come into the system. Thank you, Laura, for posting this eye-opening blog. If we remain silent, that implies acceptance, which certainly does not seem to be in order in this case. May we envision (and move to actualize) a better world.

  7. I served on the Montana Board of Massage Therapy for two years and can tell you that I highly respect the “Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards” commitment to excellence! From my experience of watching this organization grow over these past few years and as volunteer at the FSMTB meeting in Chicago 2011, I am confident that Debra Persinger’s statement that the FSMTB is not forging ahead regardless of consequences simply to meet some arbitrary, quick timeline is driven by a lot of wisdom gained by much work, sacrifice and experience. I believe the FSMTB has the staff, vision, tools and the confidence and commitment of state board members to accomplish all they have set out to do and in fact will exceed the expectations of all.

  8. It’s unfortunate that facts and transparency seem to be lacking in our professional agencies.
    I was just at a healthcare symposium and a few quotes that resonated “data is what glues us together” and “Having information silos meet specific agency needs, not the needs of the whole person (I would infuse profession) being served”
    When will we realize if we base our conversations in fact we can have true discussions to create understanding and advance our profession?

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