Strategic Plan for the RMT Profession

The 2009 joint RMT strategic plan between Ontario’s RMT professional association, regulatory body and training colleges was launched 4 years ago with much fanfare.  Unfortunately the announced and much celebrated union seemed to fall apart soon after, with each organization pursuing its stated goals somewhat independently and without regular report.

Massage practitioners feel disappointment over this failed attempt most acutely these days, given the economic climate and threats to RMT practice viability I’ve written of previously.  This last four years were a real opportunity to pool resources, collaborate and get some real work done and the opportunity has been squandered.

The strategic plan announced a lofty vision, but I think it’s objectives were intangible and hard to measure.  “We’ll put an astronaut on the moon within a decade” Kennedy said, and every American could focus on that goal.  The 2009 RMT Strategic Plan for Ontario was less tangible, and perhaps that was one factor in its failure.  The other – a seeming disinterest by the decision-makers and stakeholders in collaborating in the trenches together to get this very important work done.

I suggest an alternative plan – tangible, clearly defined, and doable within the realistic confines our profession faces in this economy and as a health care service.  The outcomes can be clearly measured, and collaboration amongst stakeholders/decision-makers is essential to execution of the plan.  From my recent article in Massage Therapy Canada:

Cultivate thought-leaders
I think we should focus on bringing our brightest together in a physical or virtual symposium to discuss the key issues: finding viable business models, determining how to support RMTs-turned-business owners; learning how to manage multiple identities/market sectors served; ensuring the quality of training colleges, accreditation and interjurisdictional competencies; mitigating incredulity with government, insurance industry, gatekeeper disciplines and pubic/media; and advancing regulation and research. The objective of this think-tank: put forth tangible solutions to address core profession issues head on.

Involve all stakeholders
Once initial recommendations are formed, we would share the findings with massage practitioners across the country for their reflection, input and to enrich the plausible solutions put forth. Educators and training school administrators, regulators, researchers, suppliers, publishers and employers would all be invited to help us shape our direction.

Get to know ourselves
We need to poll practitioners across the country on key benchmarks – net income levels, work capacity compared to actual workload, type of practice/market sector served, age, gender, rural or urban, perceived obstacles to work (physical, business or manual/technical expertise, resources), years of practice and employment status – employee, self-employed or business owner of group practice. We will need a lot more information regarding the health and demo/psychographics of our practitioners if we are to support them in building practices.

Ensure resources for professional associations
In order to function at optimal levels, our associations need to hire great support staff and ensure sustainable funding for operations. Associations can pool resources and leverage power to obtain preferred pricing for member services/products, launch a national public/media relations campaign, offer excellent professional development programs, support research, exert political influence on government health-care and taxation policy, improve insurance industry and gatekeeper health practitioner relations while dealing with exploiters and profiteers, and continue to poll members as to viewpoints, professional practice benchmarks and emerging expertise.

RMT association representatives would identify shared resources, craft strategic plans and take initial steps to actualize the objectives in tandem. Inherent in carrying out the strategic plan is the convention that common operations can be better served through national collaboration rather than reinvent-the-wheel, “made-in-so-and-so” policies.

Raise the bar on education
We need to support training college accreditation, compliance with inter-jurisdictional competencies and health-care regulation and support evidence-based practice. Admittedly, we need to dovetail these objectives while acknowledging the diversity of practice and holism of philosophy that constitute massage therapy’s identity. We are not physiotherapists or chiropractors . . . our rich, interwoven, multifaceted history requires a different future than other professions.

Provide a hand-up to practitioners
We should continue to strengthen RMT practice with mentoring, semi-annual virtual symposiums and community groups. RMT practice can be isolating – RMTs must get together more for dialogue and debate. The eventual and hoped for result . . . innovation and evolution.

Join forces
Eventually the organized and united massage therapy profession could consider partnering with major CAM professions and corresponding industries in fitness and wellness to exponentially increase marketplace presence and power. Common objectives include training and education, research and developing evidence-based practice, lobbying government and insurance industry for more favourable policies and compensation, and financing strong public and media relations. Combined efforts would help to position health and well-being as a societal ethos . . . something that is part of the culture and fabric of society.

What do you think about this strategic plan?  I would love to read your thoughts.


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