Bringing Massage Therapy Back into Nursing

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    It was at one time, a standard of practice in nursing to provide patients with the comforts of massage. This allowed nurses time with the patient, satisfying the need for touch and allowing the patient the ability to heal themselves. Unfortunately with all increase in technology, the need for extra charting for fear of lawsuits and a nursing shortage, this has led massage to fall to the wayside and is no longer a part of our nursing curriculum or daily patient care.

    Bringing Massage Therapy Back into Nursing

    Approximately 1 in 4 persons have used some form of complimentary and alternate medicine / therapy. Hospitals, physicians and nurses are finding ways to incorporate alternative options in health care to their patients. In keeping with current trends and a holistic approach in healthcare there is a need for nurses to keep up with these modalities, one being massage and bodywork.

    Bringing massage back into the profession of nursing not only can benefit the patient but the hospital, physician and the nurse as well. Massage Therapists in general provide the application of various techniques to the muscular structure and soft tissues of the human body. They consist of massage, joint mobilizations and stretching. With so many modalities to choose from in massage, all have a place in patient care. For relaxation and stress reduction a good choice would be to utilize a form of Swedish massage. Pain reduction in musculature after or before physical therapy may need some deep tissue or a sports massage. As an example, patients who are unable to obtain a massage due to their diagnosis may be relaxed with a simple hand massage and some active listening while getting their chemotherapy. A registered nurse with a background in massage therapy can be a valuable resource person to provide comfort in a very overwhelming, scary environment of monitors, I.V.'s and medical procedures.

    Nurse Massage Therapists can offer more in the way of education in addition to massage and bodywork. With their background in the disease process, psychosocial issues, nutrition, medications and anatomy, nurse massage therapists can assess, develop, implement and evaluate a treatment plan for each patient. Teaching comes with the job of being a nurse and discussing prevention, nutrition and lifestyle changes for better health remains within our scope of practice while doing massage and bodywork.

    According to the National Association for Nurse Massage Therapists, the requirement is to be a licensed registered nurse (R.N.) who has completed 500 hours of post graduate education and training in massage therapy and bodywork. Most states recognize massage as within the scope of practice of physicians, physical therapists and nurses therefore leaving them exempt from the massage licensing act providing they have the 500 hour required education in massage therapy.

    The working environment for a nurse massage therapist can be numerous with new opportunities opening everyday. Listed below are just a few examples of areas a nurse may work with massage skills added to her scope of practice:
    • Hospice Massage Nurse
    • Physicians Office
    • Prenatal/ Postpartum Care
    • Infant/ Pediatric Massage Therapy
    • Hospital Based Massage Practice
    • Labor Doula
    • Chiropractors Office
    • Medical Spa
    • Solo Practitioner

    The list provides a diverse inter-relationship with other medical fields and can provide physicians with an opportunity for a more "hands on" practice for their patients. In a hospital based setting the nurse massage therapist can implement massage into his/her care of the patient's treatment in any setting from the physical therapy department to oncology and to it can be formatted to any age group. By employing qualities of active listening, experience as a nurse, wider knowledge base and the comforts of therapeutic touch it benefits the hospital by providing continuity of care and making their patients feel special or pampered. It takes away some of the clinical feeling of the hospital setting and makes it more spa-like, warm and welcoming. This makes our patients a satisfied customer and they return for their wellness needs.

    Salary varies with place of employment but a hospital based nurse massage therapist would expect to get a minimum of $60,000/ year. Benefits that may be options to the therapists are dental, health insurance, paid vacation, sick time and retirement benefits.
    Some hospitals even have tuition reimbursement benefits providing it may be used at their place of employment and you may have to guarantee working there a minimum of one year after you have graduated or received your certificate.

    The benefits obtained from a patient whose heart you have touched with a massage outweigh any benefit that can be written. It truly is an act of kindness and fulfills the basic need of touch in everyone. To know you can change someone's outlook on their life or help change their prognosis with something as simple as touch from a hand massage or back massage is very rewarding. The benefits to the patient are phenomenal. Enhanced immune system, relaxation to decrease muscle tension and their perception of pain being decreased are just a small example of things massage can help with. Did you know a 20 minute hand and foot massage decreases a patients pain by 20 % after surgery? This decreases the need for high doses of pain meds because the massage increases the output of endorphins in our body which are neurotransmitters that act like morphine, reducing the pain and producing a euphoric feeling.

    The drawbacks are very few in this profession. It is good exercise for the person giving the massage, provides a time for meditation and is almost like doing a dance or comparable to tai chi exercises. The hours can be hard as nurses work eight hour shifts and also are required to work the holidays. You must be in good physical health which enables you not only to provide good massage techniques but makes you a good role model to your patients as well. The different areas of nursing provide many opportunities for use of several different massage modalities so continuing education is a must and this can be costly. Some of the continuing education seminars require out of town travel and can run upwards of $500.00 for a 4 day seminar not including airfare and hotel stay. The requirement is 48 continuing education hours every 4 years.

    To bring massage back into the nursing profession provides benefits to everyone involved. As a Nurse Massage Therapist it expands our career choices, complements our profession by following trends in therapy and allows us to become closer to our patients. It benefits the hospital by expanding their therapies and offering the community complimentary and alternative medicine. It benefits the patients with an alternative choice in medical treatment and makes them feel special by nurturing their need for touch. Physicians are less likely to prescribe costly medications with many side effects to a patient if alternative therapy were available. Best of all it benefits the nurse with the reward of knowing you made someone's life better because you decreased their pain and stress with just what nurses are known for a little "TLC", Tender, Loving , Care.
    Author : Denise , R.N., B.S., C.C.E., NCBTMB massageRN Copyright 2007


    Goley R.N., B.S.N., April, "APN's Need to Learn More about Complementary and Alternative Medicine," Advanced Practice Nursing eJournal, 2004, accessed 9/4/05.

    Huebscher Roxana, PhD. and Pamela Schuler. Natural, Alternative and Complementary Health Care Practices, Mosby, Inc., St Louis, Missouri, 2004.

    McIntyre R.N., MAS, NCTMB, Elizabeth, "State Regulations Vary For Massage Therapists", Nursing Spectrum, Dec., 2003.

    Massage Licensing Act of Illinois and Rules of Practice, printed by American Massage Therapy Association, Illinois Chapter. March 2005.

    National Association of Nurse Massage Therapists, Http//: Accessed 9/4/05.
    Last edit by traumaRUs on Mar 10, '15
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    About massageRN

    Joined: Sep '06; Posts: 23; Likes: 24
    maternal/child R.N., Licensed massge therapist, Perinatal and Infant massage certified, certified lamaze instructor
    Specialty: 30 year(s) of experience in Maternal-Child/Ob-Gyne/NICU

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  3. by   dsoginer
    I am a RN student, finishing in May. One of the clinical directors in our school is a licensed massage therapist and preaches the wonders of massage.
    Two weeks ago, I had a patient dying of esophageal cancer and she was alone for the two days I was assigned to her, no family or friends. She was reportedly a difficult patient, not allowing standard care. Not long after I received her for the day, she complained of a headache (which rapidly became severe), and pharmacy had not sent up the meds prescribed, so I asked if I could rub her back. At first she mouthed, "NO" but I asked her how long had it been since someone rubbed her back and she started crying. I massaged her back (in my own inept way) for the 10 minutes it took for the meds to come up to the floor and take effect. During the massage she told me her pain was much better and she continued to cry softly throughout those 10 minutes. After that this notorius "bad" patient become passive and when I left that afternoon, she was clean, calm and sleeping.
    I have incorporated massage into my nursing whenever it is appropriate; I am sold on this wonderful technique of care.
  4. by   Bugaloo
    Thank You!
  5. by   Hellllllo Nurse
    The basics of nursing care are my favorite tasks. I love to give bed-baths and massages. I don't often have time, but when I do, the pts really enjoy it and it's very rewarding for me, as well.
  6. by   kukukajoo
    Thank you. I read this the other day and very next day helped a classmate with her pt who was in end stages of cancer. After a bedbath I gave him a back and neck rub. He siad it helped immensely and nobody ever did that for him before. It provided him with a great amt of relief from the pain of bone cancer and allowed him to doze off to sleep.

    I was told he passed quietly same night.
  7. by   Fibril_late
    Great article and I wholly agree. I've been an RN x 24 years and just finished a year of Massage Therapy school (500 hours). I see this as a real enhancement to my nursing skills and intend to integrate it into my nursing practice.

  8. by   gina gina
  9. by   massageRN
    Ginagina...The article does say to be a registered nurse massage therapist you need the 500 hour curriculum...patients thrive and heal with touch..and compassion is what we are known for and a basic instinct of our job. Nobody is asking you to go above and beyond your job description but it is nice to provide basic comforts to our patients in a scary environment. We seem to forget we are used to being there they are not. Thank you to all the nurses who provide my child or my grandmother with just a little time spent at the bedside listening and comforting. I can only think of the picture of Florence Nightingale touching a soldiers arm in comfort. Simply you can incorporate smaller version of massage or touch therapy into your care, it's too bad you "don't have the time" because I seem to find lots of time after all they are paying me to do "patient care".
  10. by   CaLLaCoDe
    Gosh, ever looked into massage therapy school? 500 hours could cost you as much as it takes to get your RN at a Community College! I give massage to my fellow coworkers. It is the great stress reliever. Trouble is, rarely is it reciprocated!
  11. by   dsoginer
    Gina Gina

    While I am not a licensed Masseuse the patient dying of cancer did not seem to care, and sweetie that is all that matters.
  12. by   Trinh
    FYI, we are not masseuses, we are massage therapists or practitioners. I am a licensed massage therapist pursuing a BSN/RN. Specializing in pain relief due to injury and/or stress, it is my perception that nurse massage therapists receive referrals from docs more frequently than massage therapists w/o a medical background. It is unfortunate that as nurses, there is no time to provide massage therapy to patients, however, many hospitals are now providing optional massage therapy services which the patient must pay for. However, you must be an RN to do it. Nurses are everywhere! Nice to have so many options.
  13. by   a caring aide
    i strongly agree on a massage thearpist, i would love to make an elderly person feel good, even though they are old.SO WHAT!!! they deserve to be pain free, and feel good. i wish i could do that for them....
  14. by   dsoginer
    Sorry Trinh, I did not mean to insult you. Actually I was being a bit sarcastic because someone wrote an email being very negative about RN's giving massages to patients and she had used (or attempted) to use the word "Masseusses" and had spelt it wrong. I did not want to be too nasty in my answer so I spelt the word correctly and made a comment after it. I am very aware that that title is an inappropriate description of the skill and education that is put into this wonderful craft. I guess I woke up on the wrong side of the bed.