Mary Cheers is a massage therapist and educator who shares the power of touch with hospice patients.
Learn more about Mary's career, advice for those who want to work in hospice and information about her session Massage Techniques for Hospice + Palliative Care at the AMTA 2016 National Convention.
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What drew you to the massage therapy profession? How long have you been practicing?
I have been practicing since 1988. A number of things drew me to the massage therapy profession. I had a disc removed from my neck and had pretty severe post-op pain. Massage was one of the few things that gave me any relief.
I was looking to change careers (I was a registered radiologic technologist) and wanted something in the medical field. The body/mind/spirit connection fascinated me. When I discovered a local medical massage therapy school in my area, it seemed like the logical next chapter in my life.
What is your current work setting like?
My current work setting is varied. The majority of my work is with Hospice of the Miami Valley. I see patients wherever they are living, either a private home or retirement facility. I have a small private practice in my home/office for longtime clients.
I also teach at SHI Integrative Medical Massage School in Lebanon, Ohio, and offer continuing education classes.
What do you enjoy most about your current position? What are the challenges?
What I enjoy most about the massage therapy profession is the variety of avenues it has allowed me to pursue. Even more importantly, all the amazing people I have met, who have allowed me to touch them and who have touched me.
The challenges I face right now include balancing my schedule and making sure I take enough time for self-care.
How has AMTA impacted your career?
AMTA has impacted my career in numerous ways:
Why should massage therapists attend your session "Massage Techniques in Hospice + Palliative Care" at the AMTA 2016 National Convention?
Whether or not they think they want to work with hospice patients, the elderly or those in need of palliative care, sooner or later they will have a long term client or family member who is facing a life threatening illness. My session will provide tools to help these people.
What is one takeaway from your session that attendees won't read about in the description?
One of my main goals is to empower the attendees. I want them to leave knowing new techniques, as well as how to modify techniques they already know, for hospice and palliative care. The new techniques I offer are also easily adaptable for their current clients.
What advice would you offer to massage therapists who want to work in hospice?
1. Be flexible. I had to completely let go of all my ideas about the flow of a good massage. The flow is often controlled by the patient's position and tolerance.
2. Be willing to become a team player. Since many massage therapists are independent contractors, we are accustomed to discussing the frequency of massage sessions with our clients. As part of a hospice team, the frequency is determined by the case manager RN and the hospice medical director, with our input.
3. Be aware of attitudes and feelings about death and dying. Confronting my own death and dying issues has been challenging and rewarding. My patients have taught me so much! It is both humbling, and a great honor, to be allowed to work with patients and their families at this stage in life.
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