“After nearly 14 years, I am still passionate about Massage Therapy,” says Paul Weston, massage therapy coordinator at Gritman Medical Center in Idaho. Paul has some advice for those considering working in a health care setting.
Read Paul’s story below.
What first attracted you to the massage therapy profession?
I met my wife who is a physical therapist while I was working and living in Saudi Arabia, and she initially piqued my interest in physical medicine. I was also training for my first marathon and a friend introduced me to a sports massage therapist. I discovered that regular sports massage helped me recover from my long training runs a lot quicker.
What has kept you in it?
In my previous life, I was a scaffolding engineer so I refer to my massage therapy career as my “mid-life crisis!” I do consider myself extremely fortunate to have found a second career that I love. Every day and every individual presents their own challenges--I am never bored.
What specific types of education have helped you succeed in your current role?
I graduated from the Colorado Institute of Massage Therapy with dual certifications in massage therapy and neuromuscular therapy. My education also included an internship at a local hospital, so I wasn’t too intimidated when I joined Gritman Medical Center in 2005.
From a clinical point of view, I have found the following combination of training and education to be phenomenally effective: neuromuscular therapy (Judith DeLany), active isolated stretching (Aaron Mattes), and soft tissue telease (Stuart Taws). I am also a Certified Kinesiotaping Practitioner. Clinical documentation and knowledge of current insurance billing practices are also extremely useful tools. I also believe a degree from the “university of life” is helpful!
What advice would you offer other massage therapists looking to establish themselves in a health care setting?
Be professional in appearance and demeanor, and treat everyone with the respect they deserve. Be prepared to demonstrate your knowledge and expertise. Understand your scope of practice, and when to refer to other health care professionals.
How would you describe your work at the Gritman Medical Center compared to other settings where you may have practiced?
Gritman is unique in the state of Idaho. Our massage therapy department provides outpatient services and complimentary massage therapy to patients in the hospital’s Family Birth Center and Medical/Surgical Units. We also have a satellite office at the University of Idaho, and provide hospice massage through a collaboration with a regional homecare company and the Gritman Foundation.
On a day-to-day basis, the biggest difference I have found between working as a solo practitioner and working at Gritman is the level of support–both professionally and personally. We refer to the Gritman Medical center as the “Gritman family.” Gritman is small enough (25 bed critical access / not-for-profit hospital) where everyone knows and cares about everyone else.
From your experience, what special skills and traits are expected of massage therapists practicing in a health care setting?
Massage therapists are expected to learn the language and terminology. It’s important to constantly work on your communication skills. Flexibility is critical. Hospital-based massage therapy has to flow with the patients’ timetable –not necessarily yours. Be a team player.
What do you think the outlook is for massage therapists looking to practice in health care settings?
The door is opening and the possibilities are endless. More and more health care organizations understand the role that massage therapy can play, either as an adjunct or a stand-alone therapy, to the benefit of their patients.