The purpose of massage therapy is to relieve pain, rehabilitate injuries, reduce stress and increase relaxation, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. All of those goals sound as though they might meet the needs of hospital patients, but with the exception of specialty hospitals, the BLS doesn't include these institutions as a massage therapy work setting.
Although standards exist for massage therapist education and certification in most states, according to the BLS, they aren't related to hospital practice. In most states, massage therapists don’t have a degree but obtain a postsecondary certificate that takes about 500 hours. The certificate includes courses such as anatomy, physiology and hands-on practice, according to the BLS, which notes that massage therapists must have licenses or certificates in most states. Hospitals don't restrict massage therapists from practicing, however, according to the American Massage Therapy Association.
Breaking New Ground
Hospital-based massage therapy is a relatively new idea, according to a November 2010 article on the AMTA website. According to the American Hospital Association, however, 37 percent of hospitals offer complementary and alternative therapies, and massage therapy is one of the top two services in inpatient as well as outpatient facilities. The AMTA notes that no matter what their training, massage therapists who want to work in a hospital setting need some specific qualities, such as emotional resilience and strong interpersonal skills.
Massage therapists use the same skills and techniques, whether they practice in hospitals or another setting, according to the AMTA. Some massage therapists may also have clinical training. The National Association of Nurse Massage Therapists, created in 1992, reports that nurses who are also massage therapists can provide integrated care to patients in a variety of settings. A registered nurse who's also a massage therapist could have a nursing diploma, associate degree or bachelor’s degree.
Selling the Idea
Although hospital-based massage was once a standard modality -- typically as part of nursing care -- the AMTA notes that technological developments and financial constraints decreased the emphasis on hands-on therapeutic interventions. Massage for pain management, however, could decrease the need for expensive medications -- a selling point for the massage therapist who wants to move into the hospital setting. Massage therapists who want to work in the hospital setting should be prepared to sell the benefits to hospital administrators, according to the AMTA, no matter what educational preparation the therapists have.