I am a nurse. I am a massage therapist. And I’m not the only called to this unique yet professional calling where the emphasis is directed toward the holism, health and healing for our clients and communities. Massage techniques were an essential part of nursing curricula in the 1800’s through 1960’s. In my own nursing education, I recall learning basic back rub techniques that were used at hs care(care given at night prior to the patient going to sleep.) The act of touching, in a non-clinical manner, did promote a sense of calm within the patient and surprisingly within myself as well. The power of informed touch is a guiding principle within nursing, massage and other healing modalities that are not rooted in allopathic medical model. It would be many years(27 to be exact) before I would return to the holistic foundations in nursing via massage therapy. According to the philosophy of National Association of Nurse Massage Therapists(NANMT), “Nurse Massage Therapy is grounded in nursing theory and implemented within the context of the nursing process. It possesses a specialized body of knowledge and therefore represents a distinct specialty in professional nursing practice. Nurse Massage Therapists provide professional services in various practice settings and receive fair reimbursement for their services. Nurse Massage Therapy affirms nursing as both an art and a science whose primary purpose is to provide health care services that nurture and strengthen clients’ ability to heal themselves.”
So what does all that mean? In reality, nursing education encompasses a wide range of multi-disciplinary courses. More than just learning ‘nursing stuff’, RNs/LPNs are required to study psychology, sociology, cognitive and physical development along the human lifespan. We also study pharmacology, statistics and research methodologies too. It is because of this comprehensive approach in education and patient care that allows nurses and other nursing personnel to be the backbone of our health care system.
Fast forward to my massage education, I was mildly confused when my instructor said “Anyone can give a massage but only a massage therapist can perform therapy” In other words, a massage therapist is educated to understand the complex interrelationships found within the human biological systems. A deeper look and knowledge of ALL the muscles, tendons/ligaments, nerves and kinesiology is required. A massage therapist understands that the simple of act of touch is a human endeavor, encrypted within our DNA. The very development of the mammalian physiology is built upon the sensory experience of being touched. The term Mother’s Touch sums up this concept very well. Yet beyond the superficial act of touch, the massage therapist affects the health and well-being of clients not only through the manipulation of the soft tissues of the body but also by directly interfacing with the nervous system. And that folks, is where the magic happens!
The melding of these two disciplines have continued to meet at different intersections throughout history. Brought forward to the modern age, nurse massage therapists now stand as a recognized nursing specialty. One that is gaining traction and recognition among the public and other healthcare professionals As nurses operating within a holistic framework, it is imperative that NMT, work “to balance the trend of impersonal, technologically oriented healthcare” one that reduces the human being into a collection of symptoms and diseases.
In my own experiences in caring for people, I have come to see the wisdom of providing care along a spectrum, rather than a fixed point of ‘illness’ or ‘wellness’. I have also noticed changes within myself as I continue to study and practice multiple touch therapies. I would venture to say that my ‘massage’ hands/fingers/elbows vital information about the health of the client to my ‘nursing’ brain where it is analyzed and processed in a coherent fashion. The benefits of nursing and massage, safely and effectively combined for effective health and wellness care.