Practicing Ethically

By Nancy Dail, BA, LMT, BCTMB

 

Each practitioner upon entering a profession is invested with the responsibility to adhere to the standards of ethical practice and conduct set by the profession. ND

An active massage therapy practice is the result of hard work, education, and a credible professional reputation. We can advertise, use social media, network with other health professionals, but our reputation is the corner stone of successful practice. Ethical dilemmas are a part of our society and to think we are never going to be exposed to a professional ethical dilemma is naïve. What if your employer suggests you give extras in your workplace and you are strapped for money? We know this is unethical. Shall we sweep it under the rug and say it never happens? That would be like saying that crime does not exist. And since denying that this practice is not what therapeutic massage therapists do, what should we do now? People have faults. People make mistakes. We can deny this happens and it is all fantasy or we can investigate the ethical pathways that help us stay on the straight and narrow.

How do we practice ethically? We have to make sure that our professional identity is clear, otherwise the work can be laden with stress, be less satisfying and ethical dilemmas are apt to appear and remain unresolved. Therapists have to continually follow a code of ethics and attend continuing education in ethics. Ethics goes beyond school and the ethics class. We represent an entire profession and if we practice unethically it reflects back to our field. This is our responsibility. The value of attending an ethics class is to remind us of our boundaries that will help maintain our stellar reputations, bolster our existing character traits and toss around ways to solve ethical dilemmas in the work place environment. Operating without peer advice can lead to snap decisions that are not necessarily the best ethical avenue.  Protect your corner stone of your practice by exploring the boundaries of the profession and sharing ethical dilemmas with your peers and with an expert with an objective ear!

Somewhere along the line of our practice, we have to develop value in our ethical foundation. Developing value in your practice represents an investment in maximal competence, a sense of duty to uphold standards, protecting relationships, boundaries and honesty with clients, employers and colleagues/health professionals. Work should be satisfying and grow with you and your practice involving developing goals.

How do we develop and keep the value in Ethics beyond school and into our practice?

  • Modeling – Adhere to the highest standards of conduct.
  • Enforcement – Unethical behavior should not be tolerated.
  • Communication – Maintain a open dialogue about ethics as an investment for schools, students, faculty, CE providers, therapists and industry ethics, and for our reputation as a whole.
  • Transparency – Openly post codes of ethics and mission statements. Have policies posted on how you deal with ethical issues.
  • Oversight – Support organizations, boards, associations, schools, etc. to maintain consistent enforcement policies and have committees that review codes.
  • Education – Promote ethical courses and dialogue in all aspects of our profession.
  • Prevention – Recognize at the outset where conflicts of interest may arise and put specific safeguards in place. Utilize and develop policies before a problem presents itself.

A code of ethics does not ensure ethical behavior. We have to construct an ethical culture for our industry and it starts with our investment and commitment to massage therapy and bodywork.

Investment and commitment will help you to create a legacy to leave to the profession of massage therapy. Remember this is your journey, but sometimes you might need a road map, so here are a few suggestions:

  • Involve yourself in taking continuing education
  • Find a mentor who can help you see the forest through the trees
  • Involve yourself in your state chapter – join a committee
  • Look at how you can further massage in your community or in your state
  • Make a five year plan – look at your life as a journey and plan your route.

Ask yourself, why am I in this profession? What can I do to further the profession?

  • Start small – you do not have to be President tomorrow, either in your state chapter or for the National Board.
  • Do you want to teach? Look into the standards for teaching from the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education. AFMTE.org
  • Take courses that will prepare you to teach.
  • Surround yourself with individuals who are visionary.
  • Link yourself to a school that supports standards, provides CE hours, and supports graduates.
  • Reach out and meet your peers. These are people of like minds.
  • Research massage – The Massage Therapy Foundation has provided us with the mechanisms of research. Another wonderful organization to investigate!
  • Write – the Alliance has many members who are authors and publishers attend our conferences. Authors are giving. There are many present here!
  • Present about massage.
  • Get massage yourself.
  • Attend ethics classes and share your experiences with peers.
  • Remember self-care and prevent burn out.

Whatever you do, remember that massage therapy provides a social service that is unquestionably valuable to the human race. Be proud to be a massage therapist. This is a wonderful, satisfying career. Enjoy the ride and give back. Create your legacy and retain the value of practicing ethically!

Bio:

Nancy W. Dail, BA, LMT, BCTMB, has a BA in Health, Arts, and Science from Goddard College in Vermont. She began her professional career in Massage in 1974, combining acupuncture, Aikido, and Western massage, the essence of which is the foundation of technique classes at DSM. Now a leader in her field, she is board certified, has served on the AMTA National Board, numerous committees, COMTA, and was Charter President of the Maine AMTA Chapter. Nancy participated at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games in the Village Sports Medicine Clinic, and presented for 8 years in Boston at the annual Complementary Medicine Symposium. An international representative for massage, she presented at the University of Belgorod, Russia in the fall of 1997. She is the founder and director of the Downeast School of Massage in Waldoboro, Maine (USA) (1980). At home in Waldoboro, Nancy reviews books for the industry, has produced A Gift of Touch, the DVD used in the DSM program. She was the lead author of Kinesiology for Manual Therapies published by McGraw-Hill in 2011. Nancy is certified in Orthopedic Massage, sports massage, and uses her skills in her practice, teaching at the school and internationally. She keeps her administrative duties as DSM director in balance by teaching Dimensional Massage Therapy, Kinesiology, Ethics, Advanced Skills, and related subjects. Nancy has retained membership in the AMTA for over 45 years and is also a founding member of the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education. She is passionate about massage therapy, and actively participates to bring the industry together to further its vision.

ndail@aol.com

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