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Massage Today
August, 2005, Vol. 05, Issue 08

An Open Letter to the Profession From the Medical Massage National Certification Board

By Lori Rolen

I support and encourage the development of a standard of education and experience in the practice of medical massage. My massage practice is in California, and I have been working with medical professionals in my community for several years.

I believe I have been able to earn a level of respect, but it has taken time. In the last year, several "massage practices" in my community have been investigated and closed down. Arrests were made and the media coverage was huge. When I attend a lecture or debate with medical professionals, there are always questions, and yes, even jokes about those businesses. There are also many spas in my community, which offer a host of services that are considered massage. Most of these services are very different from the treatment received in my practice. I am often frustrated that there is not a clear distinction between my education, experience and practice, and those of the businesses down the street. Not only is the medical community confused, but according to some of the phone messages I receive, the public is also confused. In your quest for respect and recognition, how will you tell the public that you possess special skills and knowledge? How will you ensure that you are a professional that the medical community can trust with their patients?

The burden is on us to prove our value. Certifications are offered as evidence of distinction in a vast number of industries and professions. Many of our profession's excellent educators offer certification upon course completion. Some certificates are awarded based on class hours attended, while others are awarded upon demonstration of comprehension. The accumulation of certificates may be impressive, but where is the distinction for the quality of continued education? Certificates earned for advanced education with a basis in anatomy, physiology, orthopedic assessment, medical documentation, pharmacology and the like, are far different from certificates earned for advanced education in reflexology or aromatherapy. The Medical Massage National Certification Board (MMNCB) believes that the medical massage therapist has a desire to distinguish him/herself and will ultimately be required to validate his/her knowledge and experience. Establishing a standard through a credible certification process positions massage therapists working in the medical arena for required regulation.

Most professionals prefer to set their own standards rather than be held to standards set by a governmental agency. Massage therapists are better equipped to encourage massage therapists to enhance their skills and gain recognition and credibility. We possess the knowledge, skills, expertise and "intellectual property" that are needed to develop a standard for our profession. When a profession regulates itself, it also retains the right and authority to revoke its credential from certificants who fail to comply with the established standards. The model for setting, measuring and enforcing such a standard should be established by massage therapists. The MMNCB has established an exam to evaluate and document the education and experience of therapists who have continued their education well beyond the 150-hour minimum requirements.

The MMNCB exam was developed to evaluate the level of education in MET, manual therapy, neuromuscular reeducation, orthopedic assessment, documentation, medical terminology, etc. Documentation of work experience is required in order to qualify to take the exam. For therapists who have a desire to work in the medical environment, this is an important distinction. MMNCB is in the process of being accredited by the same national agency that accredits the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB). It is a lengthy process of review. We need to be able to prove our credibility. The MMNCB does not recognize any specific educational agency. Educators are encouraged to submit documentation of their educational process for review by committee and will be recognized as "recommended providers" if they meet the established standard. We will continue to work toward instilling confidence in the medical community and the public.

The MMNCB recognizes that not all therapists desire to work within the medical community. We are not suggesting that the MMNCB exam become a standard for all therapists. We have no desire to compete with the NCBTMB. Our desire is to work with other organizations and professional leaders to protect our ability to minister to those suffering individuals who cannot afford or will choose not to seek care outside of their insurance benefits. The MMNCB believes that this certification process will define and validate a standard of excellence and distinction of skills and knowledge for our profession and a level of trust for the public we serve.


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