A Matter of Opinion

Last week, the AFMTE released a position paper authored by Executive Director Rick Rosen, “Alliance Offers New Vision for National Certification.”

The AFMTE also recently announced that it is partnering with the FSMTB in their initiative to begin approving continuing education.

Both of these have attracted quite a bit of discussion on the various social media sites. And like any discussion, people agree, disagree, and agree to disagree.  I’m glad to say there hasn’t been any mudslinging of the nature that goes on at times in some of these venues. I think these discussions are useful and informative.  They sometimes bring to light a lot of misconceptions that people have about which entity does what, and how they do it.

I encourage everyone to read Rosen’s paper in its entirety, but to make a long story short, it is a plea to the NCBTMB to reorganize, and get out of the continuing education business and the entry-level exam business. The FSMTB has been stating the opinion since their founding 5 years ago that NCBTMB exams are inappropriate for licensing purposes, and encouraging the states to drop those exams and use the MBLEx exclusively. That hasn’t happened.  If the map on the FSMTB is current, 33 member boards are using the MBLEx. If the map on the NCBTMB website is current, 38 states are still accepting their exams, meaning the majority of states are accepting both, and offering their licensees a choice. The AFMTE is also supportive of the Federation’s stance, as is AMTA and ABMP. Still, the facts show that either the 38 states are doing the wrong thing, or else they are exercising their undeniable right to conduct their business the way they want to.

I haven’t been in this profession nearly as long as Rosen or some of the other players here. I became a massage therapist in 1999, and it seems like I joined at a time when everything was just really starting to swirl. I was in the first wave of licensees in North Carolina.  Mr. Rosen actually has license #00001…first person licensed in our state. He has seen and been instrumental in a lot of things happening. I would never try to minimize the contributions he has made to this field. I won’t criticize his career, his integrity, or his belief that he is suggesting something for the good of the profession on the whole.

My criticism is this, and it isn’t directed entirely at him; it’s directed at the concept of any organization trying to mandate to another organization how to run their affairs. We get enough of that from the feds, don’t we?

I believe that the FSMTB and their mission of public protection is a great thing. The member boards come together for the purpose of discussing common problems and looking for workable solutions. Anytime people sit at the table together to try to solve a problem, that’s wonderful to me. I also believe that the AFMTE was started with the noble intent of acting as the voice, advocate, and resource for massage schools and educators. What I don’t believe is that either one of them can unilaterally force the NCBTMB to change their way of conducting business, nor do I think they should have that right.

The FSMTB is developing a model practice act, in addition to developing a CE approval program. They can and do suggest to the member boards that their exam is the appropriate exam, their CE approval (will be) is the appropriate approval, their model practice act (will be) the premier example of an appropriate act, and so forth.  It’s part of the quest to streamline things  in a uniform fashion and promote portability.

However, suggestion is the key word. The member states aren’t bound by any legalities to do what the FSMTB offers in the way of suggestions. If they want to keep the NCBTMB exams, they can. If they want to keep their own practice act, they can. If they want to keep NCBTMB approved providers or continue to approve their own, they can. They all have the right to conduct their business as they see fit within the law.

There is certainly room for improvement, on the practice act front, in particular, when you see all the variance that’s out there between the states. Keith Eric Grant has summarized that. You can access it here.

The bottom line, to me, is that all of these entities, including the NCBTMB, also have the right to conduct their business as they see fit. Unless and until there is a federal law governing massage, the individual entities can continue to do whatever they do however they want to do it. The FSMTB and the AFMTE could spend days pointing out past shortcomings of the NCBTMB, but it wasn’t “the NCBTMB” as an entity that had the shortcomings. It was the human beings running the organization.

As the FSMTB is only 5 years old, and the AFMTE less than half that, neither of these organizations have been in business long enough to have been plagued with the personnel problems, inefficiency problems, financial problems and so forth that happened in the past at the NCBTMB. Board members come and go. Executive directors come and go. Priorities of boards and organization come and go. Even organizations come and go. Last week I learned from Dr. Kory Ward-Cook, CEO of the NCCAOM, that there was previously a Federation of State Acupuncture Boards that fell apart.

AMTA and ABMP have their own missions and their leadership has their own opinions. As do we all. And any organization, just like any individual, has the right to run their business as they please, as long as they are not breaking the law. The NCBTMB is not breaking any laws by continuing to conduct their business as they see fit. The other organizations are not breaking any laws by conducting their business as they see fit. They all have that right. You don’t have to like it. I don’t have to like it. One organization doesn’t have to like what the other organization is doing. But until the federal government steps in and says, “you must do this,” they can all do as they dang well please. If any of them don’t do well enough at whatever it is they choose to do, they won’t survive.

Everybody has their own opinion on what’s good (or not good) for this profession, what’s good for licensing, what’s good for certification, what’s good for teacher standards, what’s good for education, what’s good for continuing education. There are just as many opinions on all of that as there are opinions on what kind of massage oil you ought to use.  Everyone is entitled to that. And everyone is entitled to conduct their business the way they choose to, as long as it’s within the law.

The AFMTE posted on LinkedIn that they had posted Rosen’s position paper directly to the NCBTMB. I suggest that if the folks at the NCBTMB are interested in hearing more about it or discussing it that they will get in touch. And if they don’t, then I suggest that the AFMTE, and in fact all organizations, concentrate on being good at what they set out to do for their organization, and leave the NCBTMB to do as their board and their leadership sees fit. Their Board is elected by their certificants, and their ED serves at the pleasure of their board.  They may well thrive and survive by doing things their own way, or they may fail altogether.

Either way, I think the burden to make it or break it is on them, just like the burden that is on all the organizations, and on any of us as practitioners and business people. And any insinuation of the NCBTMB being “uncooperative” is an opinion, not a fact. I can tell you how to run your business, you can decline to take my advice, and I will not refer to you as uncooperative. I will assume that you are exercising your right to conduct your business in the manner that you see fit, whether it suits me or not.

That’s just my opinion.

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.

Competency vs. Hours

I have long desired to see the standards for massage therapy education raised in my state and across the nation. Here in North Carolina, the requirement is only 500 hours. That varies in the US, from the unregulated states that have no requirements at all, to the 1000 hours required by New York, Nebraska, and Puerto Rico. The rest fall somewhere in between.

Our neighbors to the north in Canada have a few provinces that are unregulated, but those that are regulated have a much higher hour requirement than the norm here in the US. However, in looking over their documents pertaining to their regulations, I see that it is not really about the number of hours; it is about the basic competencies that they have set forth for an entry-level massage therapist, and I must say that I find it quite impressive. You can read those here.

I imagine that the higher number of hours is merely a by-product of the competencies that are required. It would take a lot more than 500 hours to pack all those competencies in. And I couldn’t find any fault with any of them. It actually bears a lot of similarities to our recent document, the Massage Therapy Body of Knowledge. That’s not a perfect document; it’s just a start on defining what an entry-level therapist should know here. I’ve heard a good many complaints about it. In fairness to the dedicated volunteers who gave of their time and expertise to work on it, they offered a long period for comments from the profession, and I was personally appalled at how few they got. I think they got about 600 or so, and about 50 of them were mine. It was also very telling to me that when our Board sent out a survey to the approximately 40  school owners and program directors recently about raising the standards, only 7 of them bothered to reply. There is a big lack of interest in raising the bar.

The complacency here is staggering, and people just tend to complain after the fact instead of offering input on the front end. It’s the same thing I’ve seen over and over again when it comes to detrimental legislation in our profession; a few dedicated people will contact their legislators before something awful gets passed into law, and the rest will just gripe about it after it happens. That’s another blog, and one that I’ve written several times.

I’ve actually been pushing for our Board to raise educational standards, which like anything a public board is considering gets passed along to a committee for study. It is unfortunate that we could not find any concrete evidence that requiring more hours leads to better test scores. Then again, is that what it’s all about? The ability to pass a test? In our paradigm, yes, it is. We are lacking here in measuring competency in any other way.

I am the author of a popular book on how to pass the exams that are required here, and for over ten years I’ve been teaching a test-prep class as well as tutoring students privately. Let me tell you what I’ve observed. There are some people who can’t pass a test. Does it mean they can’t give a good massage? Not at all. They might be perfectly capable of putting me to sleep on the table or helping my aching back. And on the other hand, we’ve got the people who happen to be good test-takers and who are good at regurgitating information, who couldn’t give a decent massage if their life depended on it. They just don’t have what it takes. The ability to pass a test doesn’t make you competent, in my humble opinion. It just demonstrates that you know a certain amount of information.

When I was reading the Canadian document, I was more than a little envious of it. I kept comparing it to what I learned in massage school, and thinking, “Wow, I wish I had been taught that at the beginning.” In the dozen years since I went to massage school, I have managed to learn most of it through continuing education, self-study, and on-the-job experience. I’m the resourceful type and a go-getter, and I’ve had a modicum of success in spite of not knowing these competencies right out of the gate. I’ve learned a lot of them through the school of hard knocks. There’s no doubt I could have avoided some of those hard knocks if I had known these things at the outset of my career.

As a provider of continuing education, I’ve often been distressed and appalled when people call me up and say something like, “I need 6 hours, do you have any classes that long?” They don’t give a rip if the subject matter interests them or not. I’ve also been informed that “I don’t know why I have to get continuing education, I already know everything I need to know.”  They are clueless.

One of my North Carolina colleagues stated on a forum this week that his poll showed that people were very satisfied with the 500 hours, and of course, a lot of people are. Going beyond that requires money and effort, and many people don’t want to spend any more money or effort than they can get by with. I’m personally not interested in just getting by.

Education is never wasted, and hopefully, I still learn something new every day.That’s my goal, anyway.  My education didn’t end at 500 hours. It hasn’t reached 3000 yet, but I intend for it to, and I still won’t know everything there is to know.

Daylight’s Burning

I hit the floor early every morning, so early that I’m usually on my second cup of coffee by 5 am. “Daylight’s burning,” my Granny used to say…meaning get up and get at it. It’s been my lifelong habit. I’m pretty worthless after 9 pm.

I’ve been feeling more than a little paranoid lately. As my schedule gets busier and there are more demands on my time, I find myself constantly looking at the appointment book on the desk at the office, the calendar on my computer, and the calendar I carry around, and hoping I’m not forgetting anything. Yes, I have been one of the last people on the planet without a smartphone, but I just ordered one a minute ago. It’ll be here in a couple of days. So I will be carrying around an electronic calendar, but I’ll still be checking it against the appointment book at the office, where I also record my activities for the benefit of my staff, who might wonder where I’m gone and when I’ll be back. I also record Chamber meetings, local events I’m attending and so forth in the appointment book, because staff members are sometimes involved or might want to be. I will also have to keep the Google calendar, because it is shared with the other members of the North Carolina Board or Massage & Bodywork Therapy, so that we can all keep up with committee meetings and the tasks that we have all been assigned to do and we are supposed to check in on it when we’ve completed our assignments. It’s a balancing act and I keep worrying about missing something.

I get to my office at 7:30. I handle the housekeeping chores, like cleaning the bathrooms, catching up any laundry left over from the night before, vacuuming and making sure all the trash cans are empty. People sometimes act shocked to hear that I still scrub the toilet at my office…well, if I didn’t do it, I’d be paying someone to do it, and I have the cleaning there down to a fine science of about 15 minutes a day. I’d have a hard time finding someone who only wants to work 15 minutes a day. When I’m there, I’m also the receptionist. I file all the insurance. I answer the phone. I schedule appointments and check clients in and out. When I’m on the road teaching, I pay someone to do the job…and frankly, nobody does it better than I do. It’s my business. It’s hard to find someone who will care about your place as much as you do and take care of it in exactly the same way. When I get back from a trip, I have to keep myself in check not to be too critical about how things were taken care of while I was gone. I know the clients got good service, I don’t have to worry about that part of it, but as for the mundane tasks of running the business, I will be pouncing on everything with my eagle eye, noticing that the blinds are dusty, or that the office helper entered a cash transaction as a credit card on the daily log or that the insurance was filed incorrectly and got kicked back.

In between all this, I try to keep abreast of the legislative and regulation activities going on that relate to massage, write my blog and work on the articles I am writing for the various magazines. For the past six years, I’ve also almost continually had a book in progress that needs my attention, too. I check in on my FB and youtube channels and make posts or upload new videos. In accordance with my own advice, I spend at least 30 minutes a day on marketing activities for my business…working up new ads, sending out the email newsletter, updating my website, calling clients, sending out birthday cards, or whatever it is I’m focused on that day.

Out of the estimated 50-60 times a day or more that the phone rings at the office, at least a half-dozen of them will be someone who wants me to answer questions about the massage board, continuing education requirements, or what they should do about some ethical dilemma they’ve found themselves in. Or I’m asked to do some project for someone, that in the end turns out to be a total waste of my time because they didn’t like the way I handled it. My e-mail is the same way, as are the messages in my FB inbox. I listened to Michael Reynold’s great e-mail ninja presentation this week, and implemented the “requires action” folder, and it is already stuffed full.

I’m participating in a lot of webinars and live events, which I’m grateful to be doing, but along with those also comes the accompanying responsibility of publicity. In addition to just getting ready to teach my own classes, there are radio interviews and video commercials to make, and of course the organizers would like those posted every day. I have to look back on my FB page and Twitter to make sure I’m giving everyone equal time. I also have this paranoia about not appearing to be fair and impartial, and I don’t want to give one event more coverage than another. I also try to help my friends in the massage profession advertise their events, and I worry about that…did I post Gloria and forget to post Felicia, or was it the other way around? I’m always checking back to see, and I’m afraid when other things take precedence, I feel bad when it doesn’t happen at all, especially if they’re helping me, which they usually do.

Like everyone else, I also have a household to maintain, laundry to do, meals to cook, a spouse to spend time with, bills to pay…I am childless, and those people who are parents have my admiration for doing all I do and more.

In the past ten days, my husband’s best friend died at the age of 61, another friend survived crashing his private plane although he did sustain some serious injuries, one of my brothers flipped his truck on black ice and thank God didn’t get hurt but it was still scary, and yesterday the wife of one of the musicians I play with on Sunday nights passed away, also at the age of 61.

None of us have the guarantee of drawing the next breath. So what if I don’t get everything done that’s on my to-do list everyday…I can’t take it to the grave and in the general scheme of things, the world isn’t going to come to an end if I don’t post a blog or make a new video. At the end of the day, all I really want is to think I did the best I could. Daylight’s burning, and I’m pedaling as fast as I can.

Report from the Federation of Associations of Regulatory Boards

This past weekend, I attended the annual FARB conference in New Orleans.  FARB, the Federation of Associations of Regulatory Boards was formed in 1974. Members come together for the sharing of information; public boards of all types are welcome to join, as are industry supporters such as testing companies that provide exams to the membership and the law firms that represent the Boards.  The Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB) is a member, as is the North Carolina Board of Massage & Bodywork Therapy, and it was on our Board’s behalf that I attended.

The conference was quite enlightening. It was my first time attending this particular meeting, and the panel included speakers from various boards, everything from medical boards to social work, optometry, and even mortuary boards. Debra Persinger, Executive Director of the FSMTB, was one of the dozen or so panelists.The primary topic of discussion was the various problems facing public boards today and how those can be addressed. It seems that no matter what kind of board was represented, we all have the same problems: unethical behavior from licensees, problems with public perception about what a board actually does, problems with education and exam breaches, lawsuits, interference from lobbyists, and a lack of transparency, among other things.

The first speaker was Meghan Twohey, a reporter from the Chicago Tribune, who for a year or more has been reporting on problems surrounding the medical profession in IL. She has repeatedly been denied access to medical board records surrounding physicians who have been accused of rape and sexual assault–and who have not been disciplined–they’re still out there practicing on the public. It really brought to light how professions with powerful lobbies can close ranks around their members and continue to abuse the public trust.

Persinger spoke about various problems with massage and bodywork exams, including one association who is still giving handwritten exams in public libraries with no security measures at all in place. A representative from Pearson Vue, who administers the exams for both the MBLEx and the National Certification Exams, explained that Pearson Vue is now using something called Palm Vein technology to identify candidates at their test centers. It is reportedly much more reliable than fingerprints and should eliminate the problem of proxy test-takers who use fake ids to take a test on behalf of someone who can’t pass it.

Quite a bit of legal advice was dispensed by attorney Dale Atkinson, who represents FARB, the FSMTB, and numerous boards and agencies all over the country. Among his advice to boards, that got my attention because as a board member myself I have seen it happen: never accept voluntary surrender of a license but to instead insist upon a consent order.  He also advised boards not to be afraid to permanently deny an applicant, something that in five years I have never seen happen. We have refused to license people based on their criminal record, but they are usually told they can reapply in X number of years, usually 1-5 years. The logic, which makes perfect sense, is that some people will never be suitable candidates to place their hands on the vulnerable public. Boards have had a tendency not to permanently deny anyone for fear of litigation, such as being accused of prejudice and subjected to a discrimination lawsuit.

The same issue has affected schools, according to several educators from public institutions who spoke. Admissions departments in public universities who have a limited number of places in an educational program can and do refuse applications based on academic merit and other reasons. According to Dorinda Noble, an educator and member of the Texas Department of Social Work Examiners, one of the major issues facing licensing boards today is the proliferation of for-profit career schools who don’t turn anybody down–if you have the tuition, you’re in whether you are unsuitable to the profession or not, and if you don’t have it, they’ll bend over backwards to get it for you, in the form of crippling student loans. Incidentally, I thought Ms. Noble was the most informative and engaging speaker of the conference.

I have often preached the sermon of the need for massage therapists to stay informed and to be involved in their profession in the interest of 1) knowing the law (how can you abide by it if you don’t know what it is?) and 2) rising up together to prevent legislation that is detrimental to us. It doesn’t do any good to complain after the fact. My attendance just reinforced that. All in all, it was very informative, and from my perspective of being one who has a vested interest in the regulation of massage therapy, I’m glad I went.

Glad Tidings for Massage Therapists from the World Massage Festival

The World Massage Festival brought glad tidings to over 50 massage therapists yesterday when founder Mike Hinkle held the drawing for the Christmas in July contest, gifting all of them with free tuition to the 2011 Festival that will be held July 14-17 in at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, NC.  That’s what I call “community service.” The $350-value tuition covers all the classes you can pack in over the course of the three days. The plan was to have a winner chosen from every state in the union, all the Canadian provinces, DC and the American territories; only 5 states didn’t have anyone enter the contest. There was also an international winner chosen, who was from Poland, and two winners chosen from Canadian provinces (the others didn’t have any entrants).

Mike Hinkle has one mission: to help as many massage therapists and industry supporters as he can. Recognizing that people want great continuing education at an affordable price, he started the World Massage Festival in 2006 as an alternative national event.  The WMF is not associated with any of the national organizations–who are ALL welcome to be there. Politics are not a part of the Festival; vendors are not excluded based on which organization competes with another and that kind of thing. All who wish to sponsor an event or have a vendor exhibit are welcomed with open arms. The Festival still needs sponsors for 2011, and I in particular urge those who have been turned down at other places due to politics to get on board.

There’s a vendor exhibit hall that anyone can enter at no charge, including members of the public who’d just like to know more about massage; there’s some very exciting live entertainment happening (I get to be the emcee), and the lineup of classes and instructors is nothing short of downright impressive. The 2011 theme of the conference is “Research and Education is Our Future.”  Over 40 instructors, including Ruth Werner, President of the Massage Therapy Foundation; Nancy Porambo, AMTA National Vice-President; Dr. Ben Benjamin, and so many more will be presenting more than 285 hours of CE classes.

I cracked Mike up last year when I started touting the Festival as the “Woodstock of massage gatherings.” I called it that because it’s three days of peace and harmony…a big family reunion. I ran into so many friends at last year’s event in Berea, I couldn’t even spend time with them all. There was picking and grinning going on, too, as well as a number of free student events, social gatherings, and just a general good time. The Massage Nerd was there making free videos for anyone who wanted one. You couldn’t beat the whole thing with a stick.

Leave your coats and ties at home, and you don’t have to bring a pile of money. Accommodations and meals are available as low as $60 per day for those who wish to purchase a package. WCU has beautiful dorm rooms and a cafeteria that rivals most chain buffet restaurants, including vegetarian options. There are also a number of other food outlets and a convenience store on-campus. Transportation to and from the airport is available, and so is ride sharing and opportunities for room sharing to keep the cost as low as possible.

I’d really like to applaud the organizers for their generous gift. They don’t have a membership organization, they don’t collect dues or anything of that nature that would subsidize such a selfless act. Mike and Cindy’s generosity in giving this gift represents a personal cost to them of close to $20,000. A lot of this campaign was conducted over Facebook, and I noticed the comments immediately start rolling in from winning therapists as soon as they were announced.  People are so excited, and I’m excited for them. Merry Christmas to the winners, to the Hinkles, and to all of you. I hope to see everyone in Cullowhee.