Are we there yet?
By Rebecca Barnett
AMT unofficially launched a new strategic plan at the Annual General Meeting in Melbourne in early May 2019. It was a pleasure and a privilege to talk about where AMT is heading in front of a group of enthusiastic, engaged AMT members.
I’m not entirely sure what an “official” launch of a strategic plan looks like. Maybe this:
Or possibly this:
Regardless of the level of fanfare at the AGM (or lack therein), there might be a few sharp-eyed members who have already noticed that the new strategic plan has been hiding in plain sight on the AMT website for a while now, with the banner proudly carrying our new vision statement that:
Australians have access to safe, ethical and evidence-informed massage therapy treatment within the Australian healthcare system.
The Strategic Plan
We have distilled all the key elements of the strategic plan into a handy double-sided A3 poster for your viewing and reading pleasure. You’ll find it here.
The Board and staff of AMT are dedicated to delivering on the objectives in the strategic plan and promoting the vision statement so it was especially gratifying to experience the buzz in the room as we talked through our new (and renewed) direction.
When you’re excited, we’re excited!
It is heartening to receive positive feedback about the changes and programs that were implemented prior to the launch, particularly the ongoing changes to the CEU system to improve access to a variety of activities nationwide and the introduction of AMT’s mentoring scheme.
One of the trickiest challenges that AMT has to navigate is the balance between our role as advocates of the massage therapy profession and our responsibility to protect the public. There’s clearly a significant overlap between these roles but that doesn’t stop it from being one helluva highwire act.
We believe that the new vision statement, which underscores and informs the whole of the strategic plan, strikes a perfect balance between AMT’s duty to our members and our duty to the public by positioning massage therapy firmly in the domain of healthcare but simultaneously emphasising the importance of informed, ethical and safe practice. It reflects an evolving philosophy of care that places the patient back in the centre of the frame, winding back the power imbalance and paternalistic relationships that have characterised much of the modern era of biomedicalism.
It also acknowledges the multi-faceted and nuanced nature of the concept of advocacy.
What does it mean to advocate for something or to be an advocate? AMT’s position, which is reflected in the strategic plan, is that it’s not possible to be a healthcare professional without being a patient advocate as well. This effectively means that AMT’s ability to carry out the vision hinges on the extent to which every single member is ready, willing and able to be a healthcare professional/patient advocate. As an association, we can provide support and resources to our members to be both ready and able but we can’t force or coerce you into being willing. Those levers are tough to pull.
One of the key ways we can become better advocates, both for the profession and for the public, is by seeking out opportunities to break the massage industry silos that we tend to inhabit.
It means we need to spend more time turning up in places (both actual and virtual) and engaging in public health dialogue where other kinds of health practitioners are present, be it at conferences, workshops, events, or Twitter and other social media.
We complain that nobody wants to recognise massage therapists as healthcare practitioners but, until we start showing up outside the silo and making ourselves known, we’re just relying on other practitioners within the healthcare system to imagine we exist.
This is why, over the past few years, we have been making lots of recommendations and suggestions to members for professional development opportunities that fall more broadly under a public health banner. On this score, it’s exciting to see a huge swathe of AMT members currently undertaking the University of Tasmania’s ‘Understanding Multiple Sclerosis’ MOOC and comparing notes on their progress in AMT’s closed Facebook group. (I have said it before but I will say it again – if you’re not already in AMT’s closed group, it’s time to join or you’ll just keep missing out on a thriving community of practice.)
It’s bloody brilliant to see a growing band of AMT members willing to turn up at events predominated by other health practitioners and flying the flag for massage therapy.
In the coming months, AMT members will be able to participate in the first official intake for our mentoring scheme. Having seen the outcome from the pilot program, it’s difficult to articulate how excited we are to be rolling out this program more broadly to the entire membership of AMT. Whether you are an early-career massage therapist or an established practitioner with years of experience, you will be able to take part in the program. Stay tuned for an announcement regarding applications for the first intake soon.
Professional Development Scheme
The AMT Education Committee is also working in earnest to finalise a revamped professional development scheme, which will cement the work done so far to make the CE system more flexible and relevant to all members, regardless of where you are situated geographically and professionally. We are working towards a rollout in 2020 and we’re quietly confident that you are going to like the new model.
There’s lots to look forward to and we hope you’ll enjoy treading the path with us.
Please let us know what you think of the new strategic plan via email or in the comments. If there’s enough interest, we may consider getting posters printed to distribute at AMT events.
About the Author
As proud CEO of AMT, Rebecca Barnett is clearly pleased as punch to be launching AMT’s new strategic plan, however-the-hell you’re meant to do that anyway. She looks forward to an army of massage therapists storming the healthcare Bastille.