Here’s the Rub

A couple of different things are bugging me today, so here’s the rub: The NCBTMB referring to their licensing exams as certification exams. There was a period of time when the licensing exams were referred to as the NESL–National Exam for State Licensing.

National Certification, as it previously existed, was retired on Dec. 31, 2012. People who are currently Nationally Certified under the old paradigm have until 2016 to comply with the requirements for the new Board Certification, or lose their “old” certification. I’m not sure of the date that the NCBTMB decided to drop the term “NESL” which indicated a licensing exam as opposed to a certification exam, but now that they have dropped that and are just referring to it as the NCETM/NCTMB, to me it is confusing the issue of what certification is–and is not. I spoke my mind about this yesterday to Steve Kirin and Leena Guptha, and they promised to take this under consideration. As Leena pointed out, they have a lot of things that have gone wrong over the years, and they can’t all be rectified overnight. I do hope they change back to the NESL…in reality they are the same exams, but using the NCETM/NCETMB acronyms has lead people to believe they are Nationally Certified, when in fact they are not–they have simply passed a licensing exam given by that Board, but it is not a certification.

In another development, AMTA sent out a press release this week announcing their new policy of making chapter fees optional. Previously, each chapter has charged whatever they deemed fit for their members to pay. In my state of NC, that was $15…an amount that I found quite reasonable because our chapter rocks! We have a very active organization.

I heard through the grapevine a month or so ago that this had happened, so I went to the source. In a conference call I had with Bill Brown, Winona Bontrager, and Chris Voltarel, they confirmed that the Board of Directors had made this decision in an executive session at the annual convention held in Dallas/Fort Worth, which I personally felt was improper, but they stated to me that it was not improper because direct competitors were present in the open board meeting. I assume they meant representatives of ABMP. I accepted that explanation. The fact is, ABMP is trouncing AMTA when it comes to the membership numbers. AMTA has been around for 75 years. ABMP has only been around for 27 years, and according to their website, they have over 80,000 members. AMTA claims to have about 56,000, the last I heard, but I have heard rumors of lower numbers.

However, I did inform them that I had also heard that Chapter presidents were upset about it, and that a petition was rumored to be going around protesting the decision. The response was “we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.” From my reports, the petition does exist but has not yet been sent to AMTA. Other than people grumbling about it on FB, there hasn’t been much said–maybe because most people just didn’t know. I made another phone call this week and complained because they hadn’t put out a press release, and that I thought the membership ought to be informed. Communications Director Ron Precht told me that members were being informed at renewal time, so they hadn’t put out anything about it, but apparently they changed their minds.

I posted the press release on my FB page a couple of days ago, and immediately got a few comments from people wondering if the chapters were going to suffer because of this move. I confess I am wondering myself. I hope not, but I have my doubts about the wisdom of this move. I reported on AMTA’s financial health a few weeks ago, and while they’re certainly not in any financial trouble as a national organization, I can’t speak to the financial health of the individual chapters.

One thing I can speak to is the fact that chapter money is used to pay lobbyists, among other things, and we need government representation now more than ever. The ACA stands to have an impact on the massage therapy profession. There are other things swirling from several fronts that could require legislative changes in many states, such as the Model Practice Act the FSMTB is working on, a continuing education paradigm shift that may or may not happen, and other things that government relations representation is clearly needed for. Although most chapters have a government relations representative, those folks are volunteers, and in all likelihood the vast majority does not have the same political savvy as someone who lobbies for a living. Here in NC, we were paying our lobbyist $20,000 a year the last time I looked. Experienced government relations people need to be on the scene anytime a sunset period is coming up, or anytime statutory changes are being considered. I don’t think the national office has the manpower to be everything to every state when it comes to that.

AMTA states in the press release that they will offer several new services to chapters, so they won’t be part of chapter expenses. And, if a chapter finds that it needs additional financial assistance to maintain necessary and high-caliber services to members, the National Board will look at providing funding. I hope they look hard at paying our lobbyists and not allowing crappy legislation to take over–particularly sunsetting a practice act.

One of the questions that arose on my FB page was what would happen to the huge donation AMTA makes to the Massage Therapy Foundation every year….usually that’s in the amount of $450,000. If they’re not taking it in, I don’t see how they can give it out. I certainly do not want to see the support for the Foundation fall by the wayside.

There are a number of people out there who aren’t going to pay any kind of fee that’s optional. On the whole, though, I think a lot of devoted AMTA members will continue to support their state chapters.

As a member, I have to say that I don’t think this was handled in the right manner. My own opinion is that instead of an executive decision that was made and then foisted upon us, the membership could have been surveyed, or at a minimum, the state chapter presidents polled. My guess is this we haven’t heard the last of this. I’ll take bets they’ll have to back up and punt.

8 Replies to “Here’s the Rub”

  1. Seems like some poor decisions are happening by some of the top decision makers of the industry. Should we be scared?

  2. Laura in my and many other people’s opinion National Certification officially died when the second past chair Zaledoonis eviscerated the NCBTMB by bringing in an outside re-org consultant, killing NESL, killing advanced specialty certification for this nonsensical board cert and screwing up the approved provider/CE program. And since all the knowledgeable people have gone the resulting customer service is a joke. A litany of these and other recent blunders have killed NCB. The NESL/NCTMB exam confusion are byproducts of the lack of vision and sound business leadership. Can Gurtha fix it? No one really cares now. But for the record, I believe she was there for most of it, as was Kirin. Possibly they were napping while people were trying to tell them it wasn’t working. There’s the rub.

  3. AMTA promotes themselves as a “member driven” organization, over the past year too many decisions have been made without member input.
    How do our trusted elected officials explain going against a member vote (chapter fees are voted on in state chapter rules) without any input from the chapters and still hold true to our mission statement?

  4. Laura,

    NCBTMB is a certification agency, not a licensure authority. In response to the launch of the MBLEx five years ago, NCB took the two versions of their certification exams and slapped a new name on them (NESL) to try and recapture testing business lost to FSMTB. Exact same exams, offered under a different brand. They also cut the price for this so-called “licensing” exam so that it was $20 under the cost of the MBLEx.

    It was wrong then — and it’s even more wrong now — with this intentionally deceptive course of action continuing as NCB now touts their “National Licensing Examinations”. NCB is sunsetting its original National Certification Programs, but they are attempting to keep revenue coming in by putting forth yet another rebranding of their two original certification exams.

    In terms of generally recognized psychometric principles and standards, you can’t just take an exam that was created for one purpose and turn it into a new instrument for a different purpose. Certification is NOT licensure, and the data NCB gathered for its Job Task Analyses for its voluntary certification exams is not valid for the construction of a test for mandatory state licensure.

    It’s up to the people who run our various state massage therapy boards to take action here. NCB’s “licensure” exams are not valid for state use, and they should be removed from statutes and rules with all due haste.

    As you’ve mentioned before in your blog, there is also the issue of Improper Delegation of Authority. Because NCB does not have contractual relationships in place with state boards, these agencies have no supervisory control over what NCB does. This kind of oversight is a legal requirement for any kind of service that a state agency may outsource to a third-party vendor.

    There is no emotional argument that is valid here. State boards are out of integrity by their continued reliance on NCB for testing services, as well as for approval of CE providers (and now) courses.

  5. I agree, Rick, and have repeatedly (along with you) urged them to give it up on the entry-level licensing. However, since they seem bound and determined not to do that, the least they can do is quit confusing MTs that they are getting Nationally Certified by taking an entry-level licensing exam. They either don’t get it about the Improper Delegation of Authority, or they just don’t care. And in reality, I doubt if they can afford to give up the income they are still getting from it. Something big needs to happen here.

  6. Hi Laura and Rick! I agree with the comment on National Certification! Texas uses the national certification exam for our state licensing and most of the potential MT’s STILL believe they are being “Nationally Certified” and take their license to any state and practice. I have been trying to teach and tell all of my students that this isn’t the case. You still have to abide by the other state’s licensing requirements to work there.
    Example: a friend of mine moved to Washington State. Was licensed in Texas in 2006 when we were 300 hours. He has over 700 hours of training as a massage therapist, even more as a personal trainer, but still did not meet their 1000 hours of education plus taking their state exam. He was told he would have to go back to school (college or otherwise) and pick up classes in Kinesiology and Pathology, etc. to meet their requirements and take their state exam. Needless to say after two years of the corporate world there, he regained his senses and moved back to Texas to regain his excellent massage practice.

    We, as instructors, must still continually educate our new students and re-educate those older students who “think” they are “nationally certified or licensed” that they are not. That there is NO national certification/licensure program in place at this time and doesn’t appear to be one in the near future. I wish there was as it would make it easier on educational entities to have a standard curriculum that would suffice all states. However, I do realize that it would be somewhat of a hassle to find a time to “bring everyone up to code” or “grandfather” a lot of individuals like myself who may not have enough hours to warrant a “national certification” that would allow us to move state-to-state. But it is an excellent idea and dream.

    OK off my soap box!

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