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Professionalism in Practice

Earle Abrahamson

Earle Abrahamson, MTI Chair, shares about how vital research is to building a professional culture.

As Chair of the Massage Training Institute, I am often asked about how we promote professionalism within our membership.

Professionalism is a complex practice. What is important is that each practitioner enters a unique journey towards professionalism and reflects upon the milestones within that journey. It is not simply a word, but a lived experience.

It is important, if not fundamental, to model professional behaviours to students. In training the focus is on encouraging students to become professional. Each profession has ways of thinking and being and works hard to develop a culture wherein a community of practitioners can share experiences, exchange knowledge and build skills to further enhance that profession.

Part of the culture of building professionalism in massage rests with the therapist's ability to use evidence to support their practices. For the rest of this blog I'm going to explore how understanding, analysing and engaging with evidence-based practice can help to build professionalism.

To fully develop research mindedness, we need to consider:

Time – creating time within our working week to devote to reading and applying evidence is critical. Massage therapy has been criticised for not using research evidence to support practice. Practitioners often need support in understanding how to read research and then consider what evidence is most useful. Often we tend to use a practice-based approach, where practice informs the evidence.

Effort – creating time is one thing but the quality of that time is more important. To develop as a professional it is essential to invest in the work we do and go deeply in to what we are discovering. This requires learning new skills, developing new practices and using an open minded approach to understanding and implementing change.

Meaningfulness – practitioners need to find meaning in the research they read and use. Simply reading research may not be enough to create changes in practice. The more the research findings speak to practitioners in accessible ways and it is clear how to apply the lessons learned, the more likely it is that practitioners will consider using the findings and recommendations in practice.

Feedback – a common problem in reading and using research is the sense of being alone within the process. At the MTI, we have developed a research group that is responsible for creating and promoting a culture of research mindedness. Through this group, we aim to support the process of learning how to use research in practice. Feedback from members is key to the success of the group. Feedback informs and drives how we consider change within practice. Every piece of research is either a continuation of a journey or the start of a new path within that journey. Feedback informs the direction of travel.

Practice – to fully appreciate the research inquiry cycle, we encourage our members and practitioners to practice reading research articles and then find avenues to disseminate their thoughts and feelings. This creates a community within a community to further discuss and develop what works.

Reflection – the final element is considering how best to use research to inform practice. Reflection does not solely culminate in answers, but rather invites different ways of asking questions. If done correctly, reflection can lead to unsettling experiences, which have the potential to inspire change.

As we continue to develop as practitioners we learn that to ask, and ask wisely, is part of the growth process. The more we think about what it is we are doing or aiming to achieve, the more we begin to appreciate the skills and knowledge we have.

If you are interested in learning about how research informs changes in massage and soft tissue practices and want to contribute to the dissusion, join the MTI research group.

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