Riva Naimark was recently recognized as AMTA's 2012 Mentor of the Year. Read about why Riva finds it important to mentor the next generation and hear more about her experiences working in a health care setting.
What led you to pursue massage therapy?
Massage is a second career for me. Originally, I intended to try physical therapy. It was actually my own massage therapist that suggested to me that I might try massage. I have been licensed since August 2000.
What is your current work environment like in massage therapy?
Currently, I perform massage in a variety of locations, including my home office, a social service agency for people with HIV, and a palliative medicine and geriatric department in a hospital. I also work at events for an agency that recruits massage therapists to work on geriatric patients and wounded discharged members of the military. I found early on that I enjoyed working on patients seeking massage as part of their health care the best. I see myself as a health care practitioner, and I also work at The Swedish Institute College of Health Sciences where I proctor the nursing pre-entrance examination and provide administrative assistance.
What do you enjoy most about where you work? What are some of the challenges?
I enjoy being in a variety of different locations and working on patients who are ill. I am intrigued by pathology, and I love to research different conditions and figure out what might be appropriate massage treatment. It can be challenging to be supervised by people who are not massage therapists—they do not understand exactly what massage entails. In addition, I found that paid massage therapy in hospitals and medical environments is not as accessible as I would wish. It's difficult to convince some physicians of the value of massage. However, the newer generation of physicians is more open to it. One key to gaining acceptance is having patients explain how their quality of life has improved after having massage.
How did you become involved in the AMTA mentoring program?
Quite by chance, I found myself with extra time and thought that I could help new massage therapists interested in pursuing work with medical patients. Working with chronic and terminally ill patients poses quite a personal challenge, especially to those that might not have had health care experience prior to becoming a therapist. It is easy to get discouraged and burnt out without the proper support. I was lucky to know people, including my own massage therapist, who helped me out. I thought it would be great if I could do the same for someone else. Having a mentor is the difference that could help keep somebody in business.
How did you realize that working within health care was the best path for you?
When I was in my last term at school, I had a client with HIV come see me at the medical clinic. He was convinced that I knew what I was doing even though I doubted my own abilities. Later, as I went out and worked with different populations, I realized that my quiet temperament and gentle approach to massage appealed to the ill. Something about human suffering, and the examination of this, speaks to me in a way that I can't even articulate to this day.
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