By Dale Healey, Interim Dean, College of Health and Wellness, Northwestern Health Sciences University
The time has come for the statewide regulation of massage therapists in Minnesota. Regulation imposed at the city level present a real barrier to massage therapists as they strive to create successful businesses. Many local ordinances were designed to control prostitution and are not appropriate for the regulation of a healthcare profession.
Massage therapists are often employed by more than one business, and are located in more than city. They also frequently have the opportunity to travel to clients’ homes and events, both of which may take them to multiple cities. The requirement to research and comply with the regulations of each individual city where they conduct business is onerous. Often, a massage therapist is put in the very difficult position of having to choose between complying with onerous regulations, conducting business illegally or turning away business – all because the opportunity is located in a neighboring city.
However, there is a provision in statute which allows massage therapists to work under a chiropractor, medical doctor or other appropriately credentialed healthcare practitioner without meeting certain criteria. While this allowance is well-intentioned, it creates an additional complication. For example, a chiropractor could hire a massage therapist who does not meet the requirements of the city in which his or her practice is located, while an independent massage therapist in the same area is held to a different requirements. A statewide standard would be a good step toward eliminating that inequity.
Massage therapists need access to at least a voluntary credential to distinguish themselves as a therapist in the marketplace. Most of the public already believes that there is state regulation of massage therapists in place. This creates the unfortunate opportunity for individuals without appropriate massage training, or worse, the intent to harm the public access to the public as a massage therapist. The current system permits such an individual to move from city to city with no mechanism to be discovered. The current system also does not equip the public with tools to protect themselves from such an individual – or at the very least choose a therapist who has met a minimum standard of training. This is critical in a profession that involves a clinical encounter with so much potential for harm.
One of the most important reasons a statewide credential is needed is so massage therapists can contribute in a meaningful way to the healthcare crisis facing this state and the entire nation. Massage therapists with appropriate training are, in fact, healthcare providers. Their knowledge of the body and the muscles, combined with their exceptional tactile and palpation skills, make massage therapists important members of a care team. The fact that a typical massage session lasts at least 60 minutes, and that clients and patients often have a very positive, comfortable relationship with their therapists, puts the massage therapist in an excellent position to be a strong contributor to public health. The current regulatory system is inappropriate for this type of healthcare provider. Massage therapists are the only healthcare providers who are regulated at the city level. To add insult to injury, many of these regulations are designed to curb activities associated with prostitution, rather than regulate a profession with such great potential to contribute to health.
Cities are ill equipped to fill the role of regulators of massage therapists and are eager to relinquish this role to a body better designed to manage the responsibility. Massage therapists are willing and able, with the guidance of the Nursing Board, to manage themselves at the state level. The time has come to join the vast majority of states who have come to recognize the appropriate mechanism to regulate this great profession.
To learn more about the MN Massage and Bodywork Therapy Act, go to our website: http://www.almtmn.org/