AMT Chairperson Winter Message
In her last AMT Chairperson Message, Michelle McKerron wrote, “I hope that you can label 2020 ‘the year that kept getting better’”. Ruling out Fortune Teller as her Plan B career choice, Michelle instead returned to her role as Massage Therapist. Michelle shares how Day One went.
By Michelle McKerron
I’ve forgotten what I wear to work. It’s been so long since I have worked and it was a different season in early March when I closed my practice. I’m not sure I can get my rings off - they used to slip off easily when I worked 3 or 4 times per week. I’m not even sure my tools of the trade remember their actions and I’ve lost muscle tone in my back, shoulders, arms and hands.
Diary, I haven’t spoken to anyone from the general public about their pain in months. I’m worried I’ve forgotten how to process that information into a viable treatment. What if I bring my pain into someone else’s session? In particular, I feel the weight of having the longest unplanned time off work I’ve ever had. My head is full of all the other things I’ve ever had to take control of with little lead-in time and not much training. I feel like a losing boxer, head being smacked one way, then the other, with no relief from the conflicting information I’m receiving from all areas of life.
I guess all of this sounds defeatist. But it’s only half the story.
I’m tapping into some resilience I’ve built up along the line. Or maybe some sheer selfishness is telling me ‘you’ve had this business for 24 years, don’t give up now!’. Certainly, I am building on the kind and encouraging words of co-workers, the awesome guidance from the AMT Biosecurity Planning Committee, and the genuine pleasure in the voices of clients as I speak to them about today. The day I return to work.
It’s been 3 months and the self-doubt is raging. I’m fighting it with the joint flags of courage and risk assessment flying high. I have the checklist of areas to clean, the washing regime, the new payment process, the new screening process, the new access to the clinic process, the new timing of everything process. I am prepared. But am I?
I’m exhausted! How did I use to be able to work multiple shifts per week? I found something to wear but I forgot about my hair, which has always been so short I’ve hardly needed to pin it … until there were no hairdressing appointments going. My ring slipped off. I forgot it always does in winter! Everything I touched – no, even looked at – in the reception area, I second guessed whether I should give it a ‘quick disinfect’, even as I remembered I had washed hands and used hand sanitiser. I forgot to read the client file till the last minute as I double checked my new screening form, then realised it had been 3 months since I saw this client so the last treatment had little relevance and interviewing would be from scratch anyway. That self-doubt was clearly well founded.
Finally, we get to start the hands on, and a funny thing happened. My hands and my head and everything in between, like the efficient team they have been for many, many years now, took over. Remove emotional stressors, concentrate on landmarks, the feel of the tissues, the response of the client, ask questions, breathe (that is a tough one when you’re wearing a mask!), and, hang on, notice that I’m actually enjoying the moment.
I was really aware that I needed to listen. I needed every piece of information she could give me to recall the skills necessary. After the session I needed to take a few moments every now and then to reassess my work, what I might need to rearrange in the clinical setting for next time, and quietly freak out about just how many towels I was going to be washing!
The most devastating part was when my client left (after expressing heartfelt gratitude for her treatment and disappointment in not being able to rebook for weeks) and there was the kick-in of adrenalin as I looked at my Frequently Touched Surfaces list, donned the gloves and began to clean. I’m pleased that I’ve had the foresight to leave plenty of space between my clients (half hour is feeling about right).
COVID-19 nearly beat me, Diary. But I think I’m back!
One of the most important processes that has allowed me to regain the confidence to take the step of re-opening my clinic doors has been the amazing support that I have felt from the AMT team and network. I am so proud to work alongside these trendsetting, member and client focused, eternally patient and ridiculously hard-working people. I can’t state this loudly enough. The amount of hours that have been spent formulating everything COVID-19 may never be fully recovered: media releases, clinic documentation, information webinars and professional development options.
Also a huge shout out to those who have actively supported AMT as we attempted to help all therapists make the best decisions through this increasingly frustrating and confusing time.
It has been fortifying to read the comments of other therapists throughout this whole journey going through similar circumstances, or encouraging and upholding others as they share the successes or sadnesses that have come with the virus (and off the back of a terrible summer).
My heartfelt thanks to those who volunteered precious hours of their time to the Biosecurity Planning Committee, who have provided not just AMT members but anyone else interested, the most comprehensive framework for risk assessment currently available.
I hope we can all take the information provided and continue to be therapists that first and foremost do no harm, and have the resources to educate others with the ‘why’ of the decisions we make and act upon.
About the Author
Michelle McKerron is currently representing AMT members in the role of Chairperson of the Board of Directors. It’s a role she takes seriously because, as a Massage Therapist herself, she knows what it’s like to be working in the industry and wants to encourage members to continue the tradition that AMT holds in standing up for excellent massage therapy in Australia.