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Recently, the Health and Human Services Committee of the Nebraska State Legislature held a round table discussion on the topic of massage therapy. At issue were the requirements needed to become a licensed massage therapist in the State. Specifically, legislators want to know if the requirements and the costs are too high. If the requirements and the associated costs are too high, they may discourage individuals from pursuing a career in massage therapy or from practicing massage therapy in our State.
Currently, Nebraska State Statutes require a minimum of 1,000 hours of in-class instruction and training. These 1,000 hours are broken down into 100 hours of instruction in each of the following seven subject areas: Anatomy, Health Service Management, Hydrotherapy, Hygiene and Practical Demonstrations, Massage, Pathology, and Physiology. The remaining 300 hours are devoted to subject areas related to the clinical practice of massage therapy.
The American Massage Therapy Association only recommends a minimum of 500 hours of supervised, in-class massage therapy instruction and training in four subject areas: Anatomy, Physiology, Theory and Practice, and elective subjects. Consequently, South Dakota, Colorado, and Missouri only require 500 hours of in-class training. Iowa requires 600 hours. Because Nebraska requires 1,000 hours of instruction and training, our massage therapists have acquired an excellent reputation for competence and expertise in the field.
Those who have been licensed in another state and who wish to practice massage therapy in Nebraska must still meet the 1,000 hours requirement. However, there are various ways they can meet the requirement. For instance, 50-60 minutes of in-class instruction or training at a college or university equals one hour towards the requirement, and one full semester of instruction or training equals 15 hours towards the requirement. Applicants can also obtain up to 100 hours towards the requirement for each year of full-time practice as a massage therapist, and an additional 100 hours may be obtained through continuing education programs. Finally, all applicants must pass a national Board examination with a minimum score of 75 percent.
Many massage therapists in Nebraska have found it difficult to make a living working in the field of massage therapy. It is common for students to acquire student loan indebtedness ranging from $10,000 – $17,000. Maintaining an office, tables and supplies add to the cost of doing business. Moreover, those working in rural areas often have to travel to where their clients live, and current laws forbid mobile units from operating in the State.
Besides lowering the requirements, I believe there are two things legislators can do to lower the cost for those seeking a career in massage therapy and to help them succeed in their businesses. First, when students enter into the practicum component of their training, they work on real clients. However, they do not get paid for the work they do. Instead, all fees collected go to the massage therapy school. Making matters even worse, students pay tuition to work on these clients. This would be like a farmer making his laborers pay to harvest his corn. Therefore, I will support legislation which allows these students to get paid and/or tipped for the work they do with clients. Second, I will support legislation which allows for mobile units to operate in our State.