When I enrolled in massage school at Sutherland Chan in Toronto, I thought the learning would be easy. I had done an undergrad in kinesiology and felt confident in my ability to study and work hard. My initial thought was that a lot of hands on techniques would be learned and we’d probably go over anatomy and physiology again. What I was not aware of was the depth of study and volume at which we had to move through the material. So what goes into becoming an RMT?
Here’s a quick list of the credits we took:
Anatomy Body Awareness
Business Clinical Assessment
Hydrotherapy Joint Mobilization
Professional Matters Neurology
Nutrition Exam prep Pathology
Research Literacy Sports Massage
Massage Techniques Therapeutic Exercise
Therapeutic Relationship Clinical Education Overview
Student Clinic Specialty Clinic
Anatomy and physiology are pretty obvious courses – we need to know the structures of the body and how systems work. But delving deeper, we also need to know how to work with people with different conditions and understand how changes in a system can impact what positions we treat a patient in, what techniques are effective, and what some expected outcomes are. This is where Clinical Assessment, Pathology, and Neurology came in. How can we assess the way someone moves and figure out what is optimal for them? Are there other factors aside from someone’s structure that is affecting the way the move and feel? Learning neurology was eye opening to me as I honestly didn’t even register with me that I could be treating people with nerve related issues like carpal tunnel.
The hands-on credits like massage techniques and hydrotherapy are also as expected. I had no idea joint mobilizations existed outside of the stuff that chiropractors do. It was great to learn a gentler version of that as a technique to use to affect joints and not just muscle directly. There are also so many techniques out there aside from just Swedish techniques! Endless variations and styles exist out there and they are all integrated in a treatment is a whole learning curve if its own.
Nutrition is listed on there but it is not in our scope to give advice on it – this is more background information for us to know about how nutrition can affect tissue quality. Same with learning about medications – not something we can advise on, but we have to be familiar with common medications and their effects on patients.
Then are also non-treatment skills we needed to learn. How to speak to patients and other practitioners, how to create boundaries, and how keep in good standing with the provincial College of Massage Therapists are some examples. Other topics included ethics, privacy laws, health care laws, and how to look out for yourself as a contractor.
At a recent IASTM course I attended, the instructor had some great comparisons charts that sums up the hours of education between different practitioners:
Ongoing education is a requirement of being an RMT. Every 2 years we have to take a certain number of courses towards our Continuing Education credits. There are mandatory credits the College of Massage Therapists will put out, and then there are both practical and professional credits that are required. This mixed in with real life experience means us RMTs are always learning and honing our skills.
My main goal of listing this all out is so that you can have trust in your RMT that we are knowledgeable. You don’t have to come in for a massage with a sore knee and say “don’t worry, that’s more of a physio problem, just focus on my back”. Let us use our experience and schooling to help you!