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Back to Practice

April 24, 20204 min read

Healwell has been watching our profession divide along the same rancorous political lines as our country. It doesn't have to do that. Make good choices, people. Trust science. Trust the frontline providers who are telling you just how bad it really is. COVID is real.  It's also real inconvenient.

Something beautiful came into being from ABMP and we want to be sure you know about it.  They kind of killed it this morning with the release of their "Back to Practice" Guidelines.


Take. A. Breath.

Dial down the hate and vitriol. Nobody is out to get you. This all about protecting us and the clients about whom we care so deeply.

In deft, but clear language, ABMP essentially says, "We really don't think you should be going back to work yet, but we know some of you will, so please read this document that we lovingly and painstakingly created before you do." The document invites us to be really thoughtful. To consider all angles and to take hygiene and safety so seriously, it's dizzying.

Read it.

Read the whole thing. It's only nine pages and the last page is resources, so seriously? You have time for this.

And don't skip the compelling and clear introduction written by Les Sweeney, ABMP's president.

This latest installment does a brilliant job of telling us that it's really not time to go back, without being paternalistic. It provides an even-handed, well-researched roadmap to support massage therapists who can't be dissuaded and who feel it's time to return to practice despite all signs to the contrary.

"Diverting supplies for non-emergency equipment requests at this time would be dangerous and unethical."

As has been characteristic of ABMP throughout the pandemic, their message is clear-headed and real.  Their guidelines and the introduction help us get our heads on right about how our lives will continue to be affected, as people, not just as practitioners, in the coming months and even year (or two).  Les references a New York Times article and accompanying podcast episode that are essential to integrating the overall message.

Healwell has gotten some blowback recently for saying that massage therapists should continue to sit tight. Please understand that when we say, "It's not time," we are not suggesting a "zero tolerance of risk" policy in which we don't return until all reasonable threat of COVID has been erased from our environments and memories.

Such a time will never exist.

We are simply applauding the realistic leadership ABMP is displaying in a time of incredible uncertainty.

It's been two months. Not two years.

We can wait a little longer. We can wait until the major spikes have passed in major cities. We can wait until hospitals say that they are able to handle the flow of patients. We can wait until there is enough PPE for everyone.

The document states:

"A likely requirement in any regulations or reopening plan will be the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), specifically face masks. We understand that PPE is scarce and any available supplies are being redirected—rightly so—to frontline workers and health assistance staff who are still operating without the proper supply of equipment they need to work safely. Diverting supplies for non-emergency equipment requests at this time would be dangerous and unethical."

Do you want to walk down to your local hospital and tell the frontline providers that you're going back to work in all of your "essentialness?" And that you'll be depleting their supply of life-saving PPE while simultaneously increasing their workload by inserting yourself as a new multi-contact infection vector?

We're not going on that field trip with you.

Yes, the guidelines provide resources to find and fashion PPE so you don't have to take the legit stuff from frontline folks, but this is not a war zone.  Massage therapists do not need to wear makeshift protection that leaves them and their clients at risk. The lack of real PPE is one of the many things that means it's not time.

a collection of cleaning and disinfecting products

So, for now, we can use these excellent guidelines to start to look at exactly what we'll need in terms of cleaning supplies, table supplies and equipment, procedures, intake process and all the rest so that we're ready when it's really time to go back.

If you're feeling antsy,  erase from your mind any plans of using tea tree oil or thieves oil to "kill COVID" and then go and research real cleaning supplies. Buy more sheets. More blankets. A no-touch trashcan, or three. Most of all, read this document and then imagine doing ALL (or even HALF!) of the things recommended in this document for Every. Single. Client.

This really IS what it will mean to "go back to work."

Start preparing, friends. We will work again and we have plenty to do in the meantime.

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Cal Cates

Cal is one of Healwell’s founders and its Executive Director. Cal speaks around the world on a variety of topics related to integrative medicine, emotional self-care for practitioners and the mechanics and politics of introducing massage therapy into clinical settings. They have been participating in research, teaching and developing curriculum for massage therapy courses focused on hospital-based practice, oncology massage and end of life care since 2007. Cal is passionate about elevating the profession of massage therapy and also about broader and more seamless integration of massage therapists into mainstream healthcare.

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