The worldwide web is brimming with articles about nurses who have combined the two disciplines of nursing and massage therapy into a viable and complementary client-centered practice. Nurse Massage Therapy is a sub-set of Holistic Nursing.
It seems to be a perfect marriage for those who are drawn into nursing initially by the desire to help decrease suffering and effect positive changes in patient health and comfort. Nurses can utilize skills of patient assessment in obtaining a history of the client's problem and in formulating a plan of care.
Massage therapy involves therapeutic touch and manipulation of muscles and soft tissues of the body. Studies have shown therapeutic massage will positively affect physiologic and chemical changes in the body that can lessen pain (acute or chronic), lower blood pressure, decrease anxiety and help manage stress.
It is a physically demanding occupation, and repetitive stress injuries may occur. As massage therapists work by appointment, they may experience a greater sense of control over their lives by being able to schedule their own work hours. Reports indicate a high rate of job satisfaction, using skills that produce positive outcomes.
Nurse massage therapists must possess strong interpersonal communication skills, good decision-making in interviewing clients and then choosing techniques for each one's needs and tolerance, good business acumen, physical stamina and strength as well as dexterity. Some may choose to expand their area of influence and undertake teaching in schools of massage therapy.
Massage therapists may start their career working part-time, until networking and exposure help them build a steady, word-of-mouth client base.
Membership in professional organizations may increase the Nurse's potential for contacts thus increasing the likelihood for steady work.
The majority of massage therapists are self-employed. This is a different work environment and focus than most nurses' work environment, that of being employed by a facility (whether hospital, LTC center, outpatient clinic or office). Often, preconceived ideas and deeply-ingrained reluctance to market one's self and skills must be overcome in order to establish a clientele. The following are not all-inclusive work settings.
fitness centers and health clubs
hospitals and nursing homes
independent nurse entrepreneur
pain management clinics
A Few Specialty Areas
Ensuring Massage Therapy Standards
Nurses who practice massage therapy must stay abreast of changes and rules/regulations regarding their practice in order to stay current on legal issues.
Nurses have the obligation to review their individual State Boards' Nurse Practice Acts (NPA) to determine if the practice of Nurse Massage Therapy and/or Holistic Nursing is legally approved. If your practice does not fit within the definition and scope of practice for an RN in your state, you may be in violation of the NPA.
Example: Texas BON: 15.23 The Use of Complementary Modalities by the LVN or RN
The Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB)
Ensures that the practice of massage therapy is provided to the public in a safe and effective manner. This entity strives to improve massage therapy education and licensure.
The American Holistic Nurses Association (AHNA): Nurse Practice Act (NPA) Analysis Summary December 2019
In 2019, this association conducted a state-by-state analysis of Nurse Practice Acts in U.S. Boards of Nursing (BON) in all 50 states and six jurisdictions, including Washington, DC., that referenced or addressed holistic nursing, holism, and/or complementary alternative modalities or integrative therapies within the scope of practice of licensed Registered Nurses.
The Licensed Practical/Vocational Nurse and Registered Nurse can legally practice Nurse Massage Therapy as defined by their NPA.
Graduate from accredited RN or LPN/LVN nursing program
Successfully pass respective NCLEX examinations
Current, unencumbered RN or LPN/LVN license in U.S. state of practice
NOTE: Standards and requirements vary by state and locality.
Exams, Certificate Programs, Certifications (not all-inclusive)
Nurse Massage Therapists may be either licensed or board-certified. Local ordinances may require a business license as well as massage therapy license or certification. Passing a state exam may be required for licensure or one may apply to take nationally recognized tests.
Massage and Bodywork Licensing Exam (MBLEx) from the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB)
American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) Sports Massage Specialty Certificate Program
Certification Exam for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork, through the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB)
The American Holistic Nurses Credentialing Corporation (AHNCC) offers the Holistic Nurse and Nurse Coach certification.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for massage therapists is $42,820.
According to PayScale, the hourly rate for a board-certified holistic RN is $37.65.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the need for massage therapists is projected to increase by 21% through 2019-2029.
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