A Disgrace in Iowa

Iowa House File 2342 has been on my radar for several weeks (initially introduced as HF 2126). Yesterday, I received a further communication on it, which stated that “the bill as written will not be brought up for consideration unless Matt Windschitl (the sponsor of the bill) requests it. The understanding is he will hold the bill until next year so there will be time for positive feedback from the profession and new language can be, at that time,  introduced with the support of the massage community.”

That’s good, because at this time, it doesn’t have the support of anyone except the misguided person who set it in motion, nor should it.

I was initially stunned at the poorly-written and  ill-conceived bill that eliminates the education requirement for massage therapy, which is currently 600 hours. The first draft of the bill I saw just struck through the education requirement altogether, although line 25 still says “meets or exceeds Iowa’s educational requirements.” This upset me to the point that I called on several Iowa residents and people in the know, who basically assured me that it was a “placeholder” bill….a simple explanation of a placeholder bill is that “the deadline for introducing any bills is imminent, and we’ve got to get something in there now that we can revise later”….one of those quirks of politics.

As of February 21, I hate to report that the revision doesn’t look any better. The language getting rid of the 600-hour requirement is still there, and nothing to take it’s place.

I have had three reliable sources state to me that this bill was introduced at the request of a school owner who is upset about federal regulations on financial aid, and that the true intent of the bill is to change clock  hours to credit hours. However, that isn’t spelled out. This legislation is a piece of crap in its present form that sends massage right back to the dark ages in Iowa.  It’s being discussed on several Facebook threads, and the consensus is that the Iowa Board of Massage had nothing to do with it, that AMTA has nothing to do with it–other than expressing their displeasure and urging their members to contact their legislators to kill it–and that the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards–as an entity–has nothing to do with it. Interestingly enough, the bill also places two school owners on the Iowa Board.

Kathy Jensen, the current President of the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards, who is an Iowa resident and a school owner, and former Chair of the Iowa Board, in direct response to my asking on my FB page if any Iowa residents had a clue on this, stated “Wearing my own hat and not FSMTB hat….. HF 2126 is as Keith Grant mentioned, was a place holder. Iowa has in place in their rules “600 clock hours or the equivalent in credit hour”, that has not changed. The education requirements have not been eliminated or changed for the state. The new language for the bill will support consistency in statute and rules. If the statute requires only clock hours and the rules state both there is inconsistency. I don’t see this as a big change for Iowa since it has been in the rules for a long time without issue. I do see the additional acceptance of credit hours in statute as a step forward for the massage industry.”

That’s well and good–except for one thing: The ongoing sermon from the Federation is portability. Nearly every other state is still operating on the clock hour requirement for massage education, so I don’t see how this is going to serve portability in any way. It’s a common practice in community colleges to use the credit hour system, but in most states, they actually have to convert that to clock hours on their transcripts to prove clock hours to the satisfaction of the state board. If you look at the state requirement charts for licensing that are regularly printed in our trade journals, every one is listed in clock hours, not in credit hours. The one revision that has taken place on the bill doesn’t do anything to clear up the language or the issue. It is just striking the 600 hours and leaving the “education requirements” part, without spelling out what that is.

My five years of service on the North Carolina Board of Massage & Bodywork Therapy ended last year. I’ve never owned a school, but there were a few times when I had to recuse myself from a disciplinary hearing, vote, or discussion, because of a conflict of interest or something that could be perceived as a conflict of interest. People who are serving on public boards need to recall at all times that not only are you obligated to avoid a conflict of interest, you are obligated to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. Yes, you have a life–and rights–as a private citizen, and as a school owner. When that is in conflict–or appears to be in conflict–with the obligations you have agreed to carry out for the Board you are serving, you have a choice. You either recuse yourself, you resign and get out altogether, or you put yourself and the entity you serve at risk. I would urge whatever school owners who serve the Iowa Board, and anyone who serves any board, to remember that fact.

Report from the NCBTMB Approved Provider/CE Meeting

I just got back from Chicago, where I participated in the Massage Approved Provider Panel convened by the NCBTMB. I have to say it was one of the best meetings I have ever attended. Everybody left their egos and their agendas at the door…not one single moment of tension or dissension occurred, in spite of the fact that competing entities were represented.

I spent the weekend sitting next to Bill Brown, Deputy Director of the AMTA. I’ve heard through the grapevine that Bill has wanted to strangle me a few times over my blog, and I’m glad he got the opportunity to know me a little better. I might have managed to convince him that I have a few redeeming qualities and I’m not just the crazy blogger he thought I was.

Cynthia Ribeiro, President-Elect of AMTA, was also present, and what a class act she is. I had supported Cynthia during the AMTA election, and there’s no doubt in my mind that was the right move. She is one fine lady who has made many contributions to our profession, and had a lot to contribute to the task at hand this week.

Bob Benson, Chairman of ABMP and Anne Williams, Director of Education for ABMP were there. Bob brought his considerable business acumen to the meeting. I’ve worked with Anne before and she’s just a go-getter who shares my philosophy of “make it happen.” She has a great sense of humor, too. There was a lot of laughing this week, which is always a great ice-breaker and good for the cohesiveness of the group.

The facilitator, Drew Lebby, provided exactly the right balance of keeping things moving, listening, and explaining. We had breakout groups and larger discussions and the whole meeting just had a great flow. Having been in meetings with some very boring facilitators in the past, I thought he was wonderful and I would highly recommend him to groups who are looking for a great facilitator. He has 35 years of experience at it and it shows.

I heartily applaud the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards for sending Kathy Jensen, VP of the FSMTB, and kudos to the NCBTMB for inviting the Federation to participate. Since the MBLEx has taken a huge chunk of the NCBTMB’s exam market share, and the Federation has also recently announced plans to jump into the CE approval arena, I can think of past administrations at the NCBTMB that would have spent the time sniping about the Federation as competition instead of inviting them to attend, all the more reason why I appreciate their willingness to play in the same sandbox. That theme was reiterated by Ribeiro and several others this week–this isn’t about your organization, or my organization, or who’s the biggest or the best–it’s about massage and increasing the quality of massage education.

COMTA was also represented by Commissioner Randy Swenson. Several state board members were in attendance, as were approved providers and a couple of nationally certified massage therapists.

The AFMTE was not represented, although they were invited to participate, and as a founding member of that organization I personally found their refusal to attend distressing. This meeting was about education, and in my opinion, they should have been there. I contacted Rick Rosen to give him the opportunity to explain their absence, and his response was that since the AFMTE has decided to partner with the FSMTB in developing their CE program, he felt it would blur the issue and divert their focus to attend.

Nice try, Rick, but since the Federation was invited, and in fact chose to participate in the meeting, I don’t buy it. The mere term “Alliance” suggests that you are representing education, and not just one faction of it. The Alliance could have made some great contributions to the meeting and you missed out on a good opportunity to do so. Rosen is of the opinion that the Federation should replace the NCBTMB and the individual states who do their own approvals as the only provider/CE approval entity. We’ll just have to agree to disagree on that issue.

No one has been a more vocal critic of the NCBTMB than I have in the past, and I have defended the right of the FSMTB to offer their competing exam, as I don’t believe that any entity is entitled to a monopoly. I will go further and say that I don’t believe any entity is entitled to a monopoly in any arena, so I am not in support of the Federation having a monopoly on continuing education. They have the undeniable right to jump into the market if they choose, and the marketplace will decide. I am personally not going to be dictated to of which entity I have to throw my CE approval business to unless my state makes it a law that I have to choose one or the other. I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for that to happen.

There are 42 member boards in the Federation and so far, although many states have voted to accept the MBLEx, and some have adopted it exclusively, many others have refused to throw out the NCB exams, and continue to give their licensees a choice in which exam to take. I believe the same thing will happen when it comes to continuing education. Some states will go with the FSMTB CE program, and others will continue to allow providers to make their own choice. It’s the American way. Furthermore, in many places legislative changes will be required in order to switch from one to another or add another approval entity, and we all know that legislation most often moves at the speed of molasses. That is also the American way.

There were a number of problems identified with the NCBTMB’s current system. For one thing, some providers have taken advantage of the fact that once they received approval, they could add on classes at will. Some have ignored the fact that there is a prohibition on classes that are based on a product they sell. Some have ignored the fact that there is a prohibition against classes based on religion and/or spiritual practices. Some have ignored the fact that they need to be genuinely qualified to teach in their subject area.

Bruce Baltz, an NCBTMB Board member, mentioned people who teach NMT techniques suddenly throwing in a class in lymphatic drainage needing to be looked at carefully…sorry, but your attendance at a weekend workshop does not qualify you to suddenly start teaching it yourself. The people who have been guilty of these offenses are going to have a little awakening when some of the changes to the program are implemented.

The suggestions for solutions were great and it was interesting to see that when we broke up into small groups to do problem solving, most of the groups were on the same page. Some of the suggestions included requiring providers to submit videos of their classes, a much stricter and more frequent auditing process, an improved evaluation process where students can go online anonymously and evaluate teachers and class content, a required online class for teachers themselves to improve instructor competence…lots of good ideas that the NCBTMB is going to consider and decide which ones to implement.

Every organization and individual at the meeting expressed a genuine interest in assisting the NCBTMB in this endeavor. Even better, they all agreed that all the organizations, not just a choice few, need to come together once or twice a year for the good of the profession. Bob Benson stepped up to the plate on that front and good for him for doing so…AMTA and ABMP can take a few swipes at each other, but in the final analysis, there is room in the sandbox and he knows it.

All in all, I thought it was a wonderful gathering of some of the best and brightest, with the intent of creating a positive outcome, and I was honored to have been included. Paul Lindamood and his team did a great job in organizing the gathering and assembling the best people they could get. And hey, any meeting that includes keeping chocolate on the table at all times does it for me.