Where Do You Work? Brent Jackson

Read about Brent Jackson's many experiences in the massage therapy field, from working on a hockey team to running a program on hospital-based and clinical massage

What led you to pursue a career in massage therapy?

After active duty in the U.S. Navy, I was searching for a hobby or a stepping-stone career. I studied nuclear propulsion and engineering in the military and wanted to pursue something more health care-oriented. I became interested in massage therapy because massage was related to a decrease in anxiety. A close friend was a psychiatrist and told me of the benefits massage therapy offered her patients. She recommended that it would be a great fit for me.  

Describe your current work environment. 

I am currently the academic program manager for Massage Therapy at Central Carolina Technical College in Sumter, South Carolina. The work environment encompasses traditional massage therapy academics, lecture preparation, curriculum design and clinical training experiences in both traditional and hospital-based education. We specialize in hands-on clinical experiences for hospitals and health care professionals. I also maintain a weekend practice for massage where I specialize in oncology and pain management.

What do you enjoy most about your position? 

I enjoy the opportunity to train students and work directly with other health care professionals. It is rewarding to see the impact that the students have on patients and the positive representation of the massage therapy profession seen by hospital administrators.

What is a typical day like?

The hospital clinical days are where I see my students shine the most. I begin the day meeting with the nurse manager or nursing director for the floor around 8:00 a.m. where I receive the patient information and review patient diagnoses, medications and files. At 8:30 a.m., we meet for preclinical debriefing with the students. By 9:00 a.m., the students and instructors are on the perspective hospital unit massaging. We keep no more than a 5:1 student-to-instructor ratio. Most patients receive massage therapy on the upper extremity and torso; however, some physicians leave orders or recommendations for other areas of the body. We massage and document until 2:00 p.m. We have a post-clinical discussion and debriefing. The students are typically dismissed. Then, all massage therapy department instructors will be involved in a teleconference to discuss progress in all hospital/long-term care sites.

What specific experiences have aided in your success?

I graduated from the SC Massage and Esthetics Institute in 2005 which gave me a solid foundation for critical thinking. My degree in workforce education and development from Southern Illinois University also prepared me to design educational curricula to meet projected workforce needs. Out of my plethora of continuing education courses, Gayle MacDonald’s Massage for People Living with Cancer course in 2011 had the most significant impact on my career and thought process.

I have also been fortunate enough to have taught for the last 10 years in higher education. I seem to eat and breathe massage therapy. In addition to teaching full-time, I have maintained a private practice, worked for a professional hockey team for two seasons and ventured in growing a spa from two people to 32 before it was sold in 2013.

Above all of these experiences, working hand-in-hand with other health care professionals aided me in dispelling the myth that other health care professionals do not want massage therapists as part of their team. Instead my experiences prove that they want massage therapists there as long as we can use the correct terminology and employ strategies and boundaries for professional behavior in a health care setting.

Can you describe your program on hospital-based massage?

Our college motto is Excellence, Integrity and Innovation. I truly see it in our curriculum and training. We have a three-semester (one-year) program consisting of 915 clock-hours. The students spend their first semester learning fundamentals of massage, sciences, communication, oncology and work with simulation units and student partners. We are able not only to teach with some of the most state-of-the art equipment such as computer automated simulation mannequins, but we also have a strong, supportive relationship with our community health care providers and our own nursing department, medical assisting and surgical technology department. This not only gives the students valuable information, but also prepares them for interdisciplinary teamwork.

We are extremely fortunate to have the full support of our dean of health sciences as well as our college president in ensuring that we have the most current technology for our classrooms and labs. The second semester dives deeper into pharmacology for massage therapists, pathology and continues mandatory hospital-based massage therapy with patients in five different acute-care and long-term medical facilities. The students continue the weekly hospital rotations in correlation with traditional student clinics, massage principles and more Anatomy and Physiology courses. The entire student hospital-based segment of our program gives the student 25 consecutive weeks of inpatient and outpatient hospital-based massage clinical experience. The students employ massage therapy skills in medical-surgical, pediatrics, telemetry, oncology, hematology, women’s health, neonatal, sub-acute rehab, post-acute rehab and senior/geriatric long-term care units. One of the most exciting aspects is that graduates are being employed by acute-care, long-term care and hospice facilities in our area. The professional growth and understanding of pathology by our graduates is astounding.

How has AMTA impacted your career?

My AMTA membership has significantly impacted my career by fostering a networking community of focused professionals and by providing valuable resources for our college’s massage therapy instructors and my private practice. The relationship between AMTA and the Massage Therapy Foundation also plays a significant role in locating research I am able to present to hospitals and physician’s offices.  

Advice for aspiring massage therapists?

A great massage therapist must be a chameleon in relation to skill, knowledge and professionalism in which survival and success depend on your ability to adapt to each massage therapy environment’s individual culture and policies.

Read more about massage and health care-related settings »

"AMTA is very supportive. I definitely am glad I chose to be an AMTA member."

Bailey L., AMTA member since 2016