Hospitals throughout the U.S. offer massage therapy to inpatients, staff, outpatients and family members.
Massage can be found in the maternity ward, offered to oncology patients, as a part of cardiac care, and used to soothe infants—and used for many other populations.
U.S. hospitals annually provide more than 600 million outpatient visits and 27 million surgeries, and deliver almost 4 million babies, according to a report from the American Hospital Association.
U.S. hospitals also employ almost 6 million people and are a top source of private-sector jobs. I’m sure we’d all like to see even more massage therapists holding positions in hospitals.
How can you, the massage therapist, go about forging the way for a new massage therapy program at a hospital where you live? There are 11 key steps to take, which I outline here.
Having worked at and consulted with other hospitals as they started or expanded their postnatal massage therapy services, my recommendations for getting started in hospital based massage therapy include:
- Consider choosing a hospital that is committed to patient centered care and the integration or expansion of integrative medicine including postnatal massage therapy in their organization such as planetree.org.
- Align yourself with a one or more ally in the hospital organization—such as a nurse, midwife or physician—who wants to champion a postnatal massage therapy program proposal to hospital leadership.
- Let the medical staff take ownership of the how to design and pay for the postnatal massage program from their resources and budget.
- Conduct a focus group or survey of obstetric patients choosing where they want to give birth and determine what amenities including postnatal massage are most valued by the women of your community.
- Write a proposal to hospital leadership including rationale, survey results, program structure, staffing and plans for reviewing program results annually.
- Create a patient pre- and post-massage assessment that records patient satisfaction, pre- and post-massage pain levels, perceived value scale, and track potential medical cost savings and improved clinical outcomes.
- Consider conducting a postnatal massage pilot program for a shorter duration to explore the program’s best structure for success before full program implementation.
- Write Standing Physicians Orders with input from the OB-GYN staff and renew them annually.
- Hire the best massage therapists with prior postnatal massage training and experience and consider an additional on-boarding training with a hospital-based postnatal massage program consultant.
- Invest in needed supplies including uniform or hospital scrubs, hypo-allergenic lotion and dispensers, additional pillows or bolsters.
- Create annual competency training to keep therapists current with skills and new research, and review safety protocols.
Michele Kolakowski is passionate about improving maternity care, one pregnancy, birth and new family at a time. She taught maternity and infant massage therapy at Boulder College of Massage Therapy and Cortiva Education for 17 years before joining Carole Osborne’s Pre & Perinatal Massage Therapy instructor team in 2011. Kolakowski owns Sanctuary Healing Arts.