RMTs need a bigger voice in the health-care community
By Patricia Reynolds
Last weekend I attended an annual function with my partner for his company. He puts it on every year in appreciation of the contribution of his employees. The seating is arranged such that each year we get to sit with different people, giving us an opportunity to get to know different members of the executive team a bit more personally by having more in depth conversation over dinner.
By Patricia Reynolds
His director of finance’s husband and his executive assistant (EA) asked
about my practice and how things are going. “Are you still teaching?”
“It must be hard not to bring all your ‘stuff’ (like the personal
emotions and/or reactions to what’s happening in my life) to your
patients.” “I guess you really bring everyone’s ‘stuff’ into your body,
because you’re touching them with your hands."
Great insight. Most people just think they’re getting a "good massage"
but these folks were really considering the implications of our work. I
was excited to share and really happy with their interest.
stopped teaching. The initial reason was a clash in values between the
school and myself. However, I came to realize over the following year is
that the classroom wasn’t ready for what I had to offer. That is
exactly what the EA asked about: “How do you separate yourself from
what’s going on in your life or things that you’re worried about and
your therapist self while you are with a patient?" It was such a great
That is exactly what I tried to teach the students
before they stepped into clinic each night; to be aware of where they
were at, mentally and emotionally, acknowledge it and then decide to
deal with it at an appropriate time, so they could be present for their
patients when it was time to be a therapist.
For the most part
the students were not interested. Those who were interested were
outweighed by the majority, and my strategies were squashed. At that
stage of learning, most massage therapy students are more concerned
about their marks and making it through boards than they are about how
they show up as a therapist and how they sustain a practice.
Practice Management, which was one of the courses I taught, I pushed the
students to look ahead and understand that their classroom would soon
disappear, and what they’d be left with was themselves and their skills.
What I wanted them to understand was that at some point they would be
accountable for not only every technique they used, but also every word
and action put out in practice. They would be accountable for the
experience each patient had with them in their clinic. The secretary at
the school front desk would no longer be there for them to deal with a
disappointed patient and give excuses as to why the student therapist
didn’t show up for the appointment. In practice, these future therapists
would be on their own, explaining to the patients what transpired. They themselves would
be financially impacted by their decisions.
There was so much to
learn and so much to teach. Seventeen years of experience was a lot to
cram into a 10-week clinic session or a three-and-a-half-month course.
It just wasn’t translating.
A therapist’s first year in practice
is fragile and as a community, as a profession, we do not have a
network set up to support our new therapists.
We lack connection
as a profession. How many of us are working together on a regular basis
to share learning and support each other in professional process, such
as charting skills, filing, keeping up with current legislation,
practice management, marketing, lateral integration of learning to
We fail as professionals when we lack focus,
and an aligned purpose. We end up being too vague as a profession, which
leaves people with a sense of insecurity.
The public is
sometimes wondering what our purpose is as a profession. What exactly is
it that we represent and what are we bringing to the formal system of
Canadian health care. I believe this is why we still have hundreds
running to their general physicians for low back pain and rotator cuff
With organization and integration we could create
clear purpose and articulate the intention of it to the public. We would
be recognized as a viable and reliable community and support our new
therapists in that process. Both psychotherapists and acupuncturists
have moved legislation to have HST removed from their services in the
past year. Doctors have interns whom they teach and mentor before
leaving them alone with patients. As massage therapists we lack these
formalities and end up failing each other in community.
professional organization, the RMTAO, represents us as a community.
However, I believe that not only our professional community, but the
community at large, the public, would benefit from some real leadership
in this area.
There is to date no provincial or federal plan
that I’m aware of that delves into integrating our health-care system to
utilize the incredible power of preventative medicine. We need a leader
who can stand up and get the real raw data about what we’ve been
willing to give to continue utilizing a system that doesn’t work and is
definitely on its last legs. Our profession is critical in such a plan,
our voices should be heard and our skills should be seen and taken
Connection is key, and it starts with connecting to
each other in our own community. As that strengthens we can reach out to
other health-care communities in Ontario to initiate a better system
for our patients, for ourselves as part of the public and for the
survival of critical care in Canada.
What do you think? I want
to hear from students and veterans alike. We need to form an alliance as
a community and, as we build that, define ourselves within the
profession and within the larger health-care community, and begin to
take our rightful and necessary place as a partner in the health care of
Patricia Reynolds is a sole practitioner with a
studio in the west end of Toronto. She has provided massage therapy for
over 17 years, and recently has added yoga and structural integration to
her repertoire. She continues to take an interest in the growth and
ethics of the industry and holds health-care integration as her ultimate
goal – to see massage therapy considered an essential part of a
health-care team in and out of medical practices of any origin.