By Sharon Livingstone
Do you remember where you were on this day last year? Do you remember what your thoughts were on that momentous day?
On Monday, 16 March 2020, AMT sent out an email asking its members to stop treating clients, effective immediately.
The Days Before
It had been pretty quiet in my clinic for a few weeks. It was unusual – March is traditionally busy in my clinic. There were rumblings about COVID-19 from late January through Feb and there was chatter in the AMT private Facebook group about closing clinic doors. My mind was buzzing. Was it overkill? Meanwhile, at the back of my mind was that I didn’t want to shut down because it meant no income.
On 14 March – Saturday – I treated 3 people instead of my usual 6. All 3 coughed at some point during their treatment. Only 1 covered their mouth. I was concerned. Whenever I get sick, it always goes to my lungs and I’m not exactly a spring chicken.
I spent the Sunday umming and ahhing over whether to shut down. I knew I had to but I was worried about no income. I barely slept.
The next morning, I received a text message to say that an announcement was imminent, telling AMT members to shut down. I was *%#@*& relieved. Taking that tough decision out of my hands was a blessing.
For others, there was a mixed reaction. The chatter exploded with wild theories, ridicule and a determination to stay open. I keep thinking of one particular AMT member who was very vocal in saying she would not close her clinic. A day or 2 later, in a move that still makes me proud of her, that member publicly announced she had been wrong and was shutting down. The guts that took … well, I don’t have them. But I believe that by telling everyone why she had changed her mind and closed her clinic, she helped others to make a pragmatic decision to close.
Prior to 16 March 2020, AMT provided general information on this blog specific to COVID-19.
On 31 January 2020 here.
On 6 March 2020 here.
Following the advice to members on 16 March to cease treating clients, another email was sent that evening with templates to advise clients and clinic owners of the decision to close.
Between 16 March and 31 March, AMT sent a further 18 emails to members – not including state specific information – covering financial support opportunities, updates, shutdown notifications, templates asking for massage therapists to be included in federal support, providing amnesty on first aid renewals, offering extensions to renew membership and how massage therapists could take action to look after their business and themselves.
There was an influx of massage therapists joining the AMT private Facebook group from massage therapists seeking information, guidance and support. Thankfully, AMT Board members stepped in to assist in the moderation of the group.
Comings and Goings
At this time, AMT were copping a lot of derision from some members displeased with the stance taken, from other massage associations and from individuals with their own agenda.
Meanwhile, AMT’s CEO Rebecca Barnett was never far from a pot of tea and had forgotten what her bed looked like. I am certain she was power napping whenever she blinked. It didn’t stop her from ensuring that every member was informed, that AMT Head Office staff were cared for and that governments were contacted/consulted.
AMT undoubtedly lost a few members over the firm stance on closing massage clinics. I believe that we have to be members of professional associations that resonate with us and our beliefs/culture. While there were losses, a number of massage therapists transferred into AMT because they wanted the support and culture that AMT provides.
Stress, Anxiety, Grief
Do you remember how you felt while you couldn’t work?
In the words of Doctor Who, this period has been distorted by some wibbly wobbly timey wimey … stuff. I don’t really remember it that well. I know by a series of facts what happened but in minute detail, it’s gone. I’m no expert but I reckon it’s a coping strategy.
Related Article: The Unenjoyable Ride by Liz Sharkey
I do remember the wisdom of Tim Clark. At a time when the future was an obscure concept, Tim shared soothing words and a truckload of useful resources. Read my interview with Tim here.
AMT contacted some members by phone to check in on them, to make sure they were getting the support they needed.
One thing is certain – it was an incredibly difficult time.
In the Loop
AMT sent another 15 emails in April with details about JobKeeper, video consultations, webinars, insurance updates, templates for client updates, and potential for re-opening.
Members were able to ask questions via the private Facebook group that were then answered in webinars.
Related Article: AMT Timeline of COVID-19 Events
As the months passed, AMT set up the Biosecurity Committee, which provided structure for massage therapists to return to work. Return to work self-assessment, risk assessments, cleaning protocols, screening intake forms …
We owe such a debt of gratitude to the volunteers on the Biosecurity Committee but apart from Liz Sharkey, I don’t know who any of them are. I was going to do an interview with each of them to see what they got up to on the Committee but the directions for the secret handshake – hands-off shake?? – were too complicated.
Whoever you mystery people are … THANK YOU!
Really Moving On
Sadly, a number of massage therapists called time on their massage career during 2020 as a direct result of COVID-19. This included Dave Moore, Tara Goulding and Sam McCracken, who provided such wonderful treatments to my niece in the months before she died – read the story here. I wish each of them good luck in their new careers and best wishes with their retirement.
Related Article: Well, That’s Not What I Planned by Tara Goulding
On this first anniversary, I reflect on the support AMT provided to members across Australia, the structure they gave members to safely return to work and how incredibly strong AMT’s Board were to make the tough decision for us all.
Coming soon: How one massage therapist changed her massage business as a result of COVID-19.
About the Author
Sharon Livingstone is a massage therapist based in Sydney, NSW. She is exhausted. And probably needs a coffee.