Hospital Massage Therapy Growing Throughout Health Industry
December 17, 2014
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Though you may not think of massages when you think of the hospital, hospital massage therapy is a growing therapeutic form of healing. Two professional hospital massage therapists, Tracy Walton of Massage Today and Anna Kania from Massage & Bodywork magazine, shared their insights and recommendations on the relatively new profession, which is being adopted by an increasing number of hospitals and rehabilitation centers.
A New Profession
According to Kania and Walton, the most likely way to become a hospital massage therapist is through an oncology unit. Pain control is among the most important benefits of massage therapy, and cancer patients are often in severe and chronic pain. Other hospital units where massage therapists are useful include the emergency room, labor and delivery rooms and psychiatric care.
Walton notes that many massage therapy programs do not adequately prepare students for a hospital setting. To combat this, she said, students should ensure they are trained in using and managing electronic medical records and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act regulations.
Hospital culture and the norms of professional behavior are also important but are often left out of some programs, according to Walton. She added that many new therapists are especially challenged by the medical diagnoses they encounter.
Most massage training programs are simply not tooled for the hospital setting, although that is changing. The palliative care needed by so many cancer patients has motivated some programs to initiate massage training in oncology. Kania, who works as a massage therapist at a Canadian rehabilitation hospital, said in 2007 that American Hospital Association subsidiary Health Forum conducted a nationwide survey and discovered that "the number of hospitals offering massage therapy has increased [by] more than one-third during the past two years."
Benefits of Hospital Massage Therapy
The following are some of the direct benefits massage therapy offers patients:
- An enhanced sense of well-being;
- Improved mobility;
- Increased relaxation;
- Less pain;
- Reduced levels of anxiety.
The benefits of massage therapy extend beyond patients, however. For example, when their patients are more relaxed and comforted, nurses spend less time medicating patients to alleviate suffering; physicians find their patients to be more compliant; and therapists achieve more with patients who experience less pain and anxiety. Some hospitals also include massage in employee wellness programs and encourage their massage therapists to educate staff about the benefits of therapy. Additionally, the hospital itself benefits from increased patient satisfaction, shorter lengths of stay and a progressive and inclusive image.
Becoming a Hospital Massage Therapist
Massage therapists are required to be licensed, and most receive certifications. Although most programs do not provide hospital massage therapy as a concentration, many include course work either directly in hospital therapy or classes that benefit practitioners who intend to work in a hospital setting.
The highly specific nature of the work can help make your job hunt easier after graduating from a program. The Society for Oncology Massage, American Massage Therapy Association and the Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals all provide platforms for networking as well as career development and certification.
One of the greatest challenges is that Medicare, Medicaid and many insurance carriers do not reimburse patients for massage therapy services. While this is tremendously limiting, this barrier will likely come down, albeit slowly, as baby boomers flood the medical system and demand massage and other complementary and alternative medicine modalities. If you are interested in studying to learn how to be a massage therapist and providing this specialized therapy to an ever-growing patient population, consider enrolling in a qualified massage therapy program.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons