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Toni Talks about PT Today

Therapeutic Hypocrisy

Published January 11, 2011 6:10 PM by Toni Patt

The annual Houston Marathon was a hot topic at last week's district TPTA meeting. Our leadership came under fire for providing free massages to the runners after completing the course. This practice has been going for several years and I have never supported it. I don't understand how on one hand we fight to separate ourselves from massage therapists because we do so much more while providing complimentary, referral-free massages when it suits our purposes. All that does is reinforce the massage therapist image.

That inconsistency has finally hit home. The Texas Board of Examiners stated that PTs in Texas cannot provide therapy without proper documentation of examination prior to that treatment and maintenance of those records after the fact. Therefore, free massages can only be provided following a documented physical therapy examination. The only exception is when said treatment is provided as part of an education program.

Faced with this ruling, the coordinators of the event had two choices - cancel participation or somehow turn the thing into an education-based event. Naturally they chose to go with an educational event. Now there will be handouts of stretches at each massage table. Massagers will be coached on what to say to each person to ensure an educational opportunity. Signage will be posted at the starting and finishing areas educating the runners on the benefits of massage and stretching. They fail to see the hypocrisy of what they're doing.

I'm nearly speechless. These ladies are dead serious. It is imperative that PTs provide free massages after the race. They're going to do whatever is necessary to make sure that happens, even if it flies in the face of everything they espouse. First and foremost of which is that PTs are not massage therapists. I don't know why PTs are even involved in this. Massage therapists provide this service at other races at a cost of one dollar per minute of massage. I fail to understand why it becomes our responsibility to provide this service for free.

I have got to be missing something somewhere. I don't understand why charging the runners for the service is a problem. Nor do I understand why it is so important for PTs to be involved with this race. Does anyone really think this is a good way to develop brand recognition? If education is our goal, this would be the perfect opportunity to educate the public on what PTs do. We could provide handouts about the profession of physical therapy and why we are musculoskeletal experts. Oh wait, then we couldn't perform free massages.

The ultimate hypocrisy occurred later in the meeting. Another board member was complimented for refusing to treat a physician without a referral. Another member piped up that she does that, too. She only treats her physicians a few times. Otherwise she makes them get a prescription. Obviously she isn't charging for her treatments. She is basically stealing her time and productivity from her employer to provide services for which she could lose her license if discovered. The rules are pretty clear. We can evaluate without referral. We can't initiate treatment until said referral is in the possession of the facility. Anything outside of that is beyond the practice act.

I think I'm beginning to understand the massage thing a little bit better.

2 comments

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January 12, 2011 1:52 PM

I agree.  There are multiple chasms in understanding here.  They aren't doing the profession of physical therapy any favors.  There is one area that needs to be explored further:

"She is basically stealing her time and productivity from her employer to provide services for which she could lose her license if discovered."

She WAS "discovered".  She just hasn't been reported.  Why not?  That is also hypocrisy - to see a problem, to complain about the problem, but to be unwilling to address it.  

But that may explain why the therapists at the meeting are so willing to do these things.  There are people who do the right thing, just because.  But there are others who only do the right thing because of the fear of consequences.  This therapist announced in a room full of colleagues that she was acting in a way that was against the law.  She felt perfectly comfortable doing that.  It would appear the actions -or inactions -of the therapists in the TPTA have effectively removed the fear of consequences.  

Janey Goude January 12, 2011 12:39 PM

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