Why First Aid Is The Most Important Course A Massage Therapist Can Take


“First Aid! First Aid!”

I’ve never heard so much distress in a man’s voice.

He was calling from the filing room (it’s where all the saws and blades are sharpened in a sawmill).

My heart sunk.

My mind raced with horrific images of what could be happening.

It was my responsibility to deal with it. Every employee looked at me as the expert to deal with these types of emergencies.

I was so scared to take responsibility.

After only a two week course, I was responsible for the health and safety of this man and 300 other employees in a sawmill. At any moment someone could be seriously injured and I was the guy relied on to fix the problem.

I raced through the mill and made it to the emergency scene.  As I rounded the corner I saw my friend laying on the floor.

For a second I froze, then all that First Aid training came back to me.

Thank God, everything was going to be okay.

First Aid Is Valuable Everywhere

As my career grew I got more involved in First Aid and joined the fire dept. Now I was one of the ones responding when the general public needed more help.

I was scared about the first time that pager would go off and I’d be responding to an emergency. But again, I would have senior people around to help  show me the ropes.

When the mill closed I decided it was time to go back to school for a better more stable career. I did some aptitude testing to see what would come up and Massage Therapy was one of the things listed. I jumped in with both feet and registered later that week.

While in college I was fortunate enough to start volunteering with the hockey team I still work with. One of the things that got me in with that team, was my experience and history working as a First Responder at the mill and fire dept.

Towards the end of my Massage College education, my fire chief asked if I would take the training to be a first responder instructor.

Of course!

Now as part of my career I’m fortunate to teach first aid to Massage students, Athletic Therapists and Registered Massage Therapist’s around the city.

Why First Aid Is Important

Recently the College of Massage Therapist’s of British Columbia made it mandatory for Registered Massage Therapist’s in BC to be certified in Standard First Aid.

I often disagree with some things the College does but I love this ruling. Here’s why.

1. Your Patients Safety Determines Your Success.

Whether working in an industrial environment or at an emergency scene, the rule is the same as in a clinical setting.


Above anything else, your and your patients safety should be the number one priority.

Throughout professional development courses in college we learned so many things about making the clinic space a safe environment. Proper draping, boundaries, confidentiality, limb handling, professional attire and demeanour. This safe environment goes past just treating in a professional manner and respecting boundaries.


Within our code of ethical conduct it states that a registrant shall:

  1. Act in the best interests of the patient
  2. Use his/her knowledge and skill to improve the health and well-being of others;

Providing a safe place also means being prepared for the unexpected.

If someone is going through an emergency it is always scary. When a patient come to see you, you are the medical professional, patients know you have significant knowledge about the human body. They are depending on you to help resolve whatever issue they are having that day. One of those issues could be a stroke, a heart attack, an allergic reaction. YOU are their trusted medical person that should be able to help them.

I just looked at our clinic and one day this week saw 27 people come into the clinic. The odds are stacked against us that we may face an emergency one day. Granted you may be lucky and never see anything happen within your clinic, but why take that chance?

Don’t let your clinic be a statistic.

Provide each of your patients with as safe an environment as possible.

2. A First Aid Certification Improves Your Credibility.

Recently there was some anger when it was made mandatory for some Massage Therapists to have their Standard First Aid certificate to maintain their license. It was called into question since it’s not mandatory for Chiropractors, Physiotherapists and some other healthcare professionals.

This is a good thing! Massage as a profession has been working to be more recognized within healthcare, being prepared to help patients in a state of emergency will only help solidify us as true healthcare providers.

We are privileged to see most  patients on a regular basis.

I know most Therapist’s have patients who make Massage part of their monthly and sometimes weekly routine. We see patients more often than most see their doctor.

As frontline healthcare professionals we need to have the ability to recognize when something is going wrong with patients in our clinic.

Being able to recognize a heart attack, stroke, breathing issue or any number of various medical emergencies proves our worth, not only to patients but to other practitioners within healthcare.

3. Being Unprepared Costs Money.

I have responded to hundreds of First Response calls over the years but that story at the beginning stands out.

It was ten years ago and I remember it like it was yesterday.

I was coming on shift at 5am and it happened.

I didn’t have any of my gear with me yet and there was a traumatic injury in progress.

I showed up to work unprepared that day.

This poor man was having a seizure surrounded by instruments that were sharp enough to turn logs into sawdust.

Although everything turned out fine, I will never forget the feeling of rushing to the scene unsure of what I was going to do without my proper equipment.  

There is nothing worse than seeing someone in distress and not being sure how to handle it. Everyday a therapist probably see’s five to six patients, sometimes more. That’s five to six times we need to be prepared to help should something go wrong.

I know most people take their first aid course, put the text-book on the shelf, scramble three years later when their certification expires, then groan because they have to take that damn first aid course AGAIN. I am begging you, review that book every once in a while. Even hold a little practice once in a while in your clinic to stay on top of things.

Don’t allow three years to go by without doing at least some review of protocols, signs and symptoms or techniques.

If you’re subscribing to this blog, I’ll do my best to make sure you’re getting a regular review of how to handle emergencies in your clinic.

4. You Will Be Required To Know First Aid Soon.

More and more Professional Practice Groups, Sport Massage and special needs environments are requiring Massage Therapist’s to have a higher level of certification when it comes to First Aid.

Advancing to a First Responder Certification is starting to become the norm if these are the types of specialties you want to get into (yes I know, we can’t say we specialize in something). In those cases, the groups or organizations recognize the need to give a higher level of patient care should something happen to someone on your team or within that environment.

Working in a sport environment it is often a requirement by leagues to have a dedicated number of First Responders at each game to provide emergency care for the home team and visiting team should a medical emergency or injury take place. In situations like this if you want to be on the medical and therapy crew for a team, you don’t have a choice but to advance your first aid training.

5. First Aid Will Be Mandatory For All Clinics.

You also owe it to your fellow practitioners.

At any one time in an average clinic there could be a couple of Massage Therapists, Acupuncturists, Chiropractors and Physiotherapists all working in one space.

In any other workplace Occupational Health and Safety would deem that at least one employee be trained in first aid to provide a safe work environment for all employees on site. Because most clinics have people working there that are considered sub-contractors the same rules don’t apply. However OSHA puts those rules in place for a reason, and its usually because someone was injured and uncared for or there was a fatality that led to that ruling.

According to WCB regulations your clinic may not be meeting standard regulations that are put on employers. Most clinics probably get around this because of the clause where each therapist is a contractor and not an employee, but the regulation states:


  1. Where a workplace creates a low risk of injury that is more than 20 minutes surface travel time away from a hospital
    • 2-5 employees (workers) there must be a standard first aid kit on site
    • 6-30 employees (workers) there must be a standard first aid kit and someone trained in Level 1 first aid.
  2. Where a workplace creates a low risk of injury and is 20 minutes or less surface travel time from a hospital
    • 2-10 employees (workers) there must be a standard first aid kit on site
    • 11-50 employees (workers) there must be a standard first aid kit and someone trained to a Level 1 first aid.

I don’t know if this could ever be enforced because of that contractor clause, but its important to know that these regulations are in place for a reason.

Companies like WCB don’t have a think tank of smart guys sitting around thinking things up just in case something should happen. Most regulations are in place because something happened that made laws change to prevent the same accident or occurrence from happening again.

The regulations of making sure someone is trained in first aid to cover a certain number of people is there as a protection for the people on any work site. In the case where all the therapists are trained in first aid, there isn’t a need to designate one person as the “attendant” but if you wanted you could just look to whoever has the most experience in that regard.

Some of us spend more time with our co-workers than we do with our families and friends. Could you handle it if something were to happen to one of them and you couldn’t deal with it?

Why We Built The MTDC

About a year and a half ago I decided that I wanted to start a blog about massage therapy. I wasn’t really sure of the direction I wanted to go with it, I just knew I wanted to do it.

I spent a lot of time researching how to blog and bought books about writing, apps and blogs to try and learn how to be more successful with it. I was still unsure of what direction to take with it so I reached out to the people in my network who were running very successful blogs. I had hundreds of phone conversations but one stuck out with me in particular.

The call was with Jon Goodman from the Personal Trainer Development Center. We talked on the phone for an hour or so with him essentially interviewing me (not quite how I had expected the conversation to go). He asked me what my intent was and what I wanted with the website–this really changed my focus. I originally thought that I wanted to start the blog as a marketing tool to get more clients to come in and maybe to raise a little awareness about how massage can benefit people.

But, as we continued to talk, I started to realize there were a lot of similarities in what the Personal Trainer Development Center was doing and what I wanted to do with the my blog. Jon inspired me (or more accurately told me) which direction to go. From there, the idea of a blog grew into a website and then into a community and then into the Massage Therapist Development Center (MTDC).

A Community For Massage Therapists

Similar to the personal training industry, there are so many variations on massage therapy in the world. There are so many different opinions, different levels of education, different levels of training and different levels of beliefs. Eventually, the idea of the MTDC turned into reality.MTDC_logoblue:grey

I started making it my goal to get as much quality information about massage therapy and massage therapists into the world. I committed myself to building a community of like-minded professionals that want to see the field grow and prosper. Then, I went out and recruited other high level massage professionals to the cause and together we started building something that would help all massage therapists. We wanted to help them not only improve their treatments, but to improve their overall business.

Massage Therapists Deserve Respect

After spending 3000 hours in Massage college and being absolutely astounded by what I had learned, I came to realize one really important thing–massage therapy does not get the respect it deserves.

Very often, massage therapy is referred to as a “complimentary” or “alternative” therapy. We have all seen the success that patients can have from treatments and yet we are still referred to as something for people to indulge in. Some clinicians in my network have referred to me and my friends as nothing more than an expensive alternative to a foam roller.

I thought I was alone in feeling sick to my stomach every time I heard a “happy ending” joke or heard someone say “you’re just a massage therapist”. There are many misconceptions in our industry that we need to keep working together to overcome. One of the biggest misconceptions is that massage therapy is just a relaxation technique meant for exotic locations and not meant to be part of anyone’s daily lifestyle.

I remember reading a book from a respected hockey trainer who’s work I had been following for a while and in his book it said “A massage is good if you want to relax, but not much good for specific tissue work”. I shudder to think that this is a common opinion and it bothers me just as much when I get a new patient who asks me “do you work on legs”?

A Change Is Coming In Massage Therapy

Massage therapy is a true healthcare profession. Massage therapists are just that, THERAPISTS. I’ve had the privilege of working with some of the greatest practitioners in the world over the past few years and I’m always amazed by how much advanced knowledge–anatomical or otherwise–we therapists have. 

I was told in college that we would come out with a greater anatomy knowledge than medical doctors. After working with doctors over the last few years, I have realized it’s not that we have greater anatomy knowledge, its that we are privileged enough to have it as our focus. One doctor I worked with had experience at several Olympic games, Pan Am Games and other huge sporting events. He told me how the doctors would gather around to pick their teams and would draw straws for first pick of which attending therapists they got to have on their team. He said his first pick was always the Massage Therapist. Every time. This is how we need to start acting–like we are at the top of the healthcare profession, not the bottom. We need to create more of these attitudes amongst other professionals.

A Development Center For Real Massage Therapists

If you’re a massage therapist at any level, from student to 20-year plus expert–theMTDC is your site. 

We want to hear from you…

Are you having great success in your practice?
Are you doing something unique with your career?
Do you know other therapists who are doing great things?

This is an open and supportive forum for you and everyone. TheMTDC is backed by an amazing group of therapists who all want to help you better your practice and better your overall career.

First Aid Certified Massage Therapists

Recently, many colleges and organizations have made it mandatory for massage therapists to be trained in Standard First Aid. This is something theMTDC strongly believes in.

Over the past thirteen years, I have responded to hundreds of medical emergencies as a firefighter and I still get nervous every time. Imagine how scared and helpless I would be if I didn’t have over ten years of First Aid training and experience?

The MTDC posts extensive articles about how to handle medical emergencies in your clinic to help make you more comfortable in dealing with these issues. Let’s face it, you’re probably not going to look at your first aid manual again until you have to recertify every three years. Don’t worry–we have you covered. We will distill the current trends and scientific information down in to bite size chunks that you can easily digest.

The MTDC Coaches

I am truly humbled that the therapists I reached out to agreed to come on board. Here are just a few of the therapists we have on board now…


1. Laura Allen

Laura started practicing massage back in 1999 and has since gone on to become a massage educator, own her own practice and write successful books on the practice of massage therapy. Laura writes quite often about ethics and professionalism, something we can all afford to learn more about. Check out her blog at www.Lauraallenmt.com

2. Walt Fritz PT

Walt has been providing Myofascial Release education to physical therapists, athletic trainers, occupational therapists, speech/language pathologists and massage therapists through his “Foundations in Myofascial Release Seminars” since 2006. Walt also provides information on continuing education seminars in myofascial release and runs another national based website for therapists containing research articles for myofascial therapists. Check out his blog at www.waltfritzseminars.com

3. Allissa Haines

Allissa is a massage therapist with a full private practice in Massachusetts. She creates marketing resources for massage therapists at www.writingabluestreak.com, teaches online marketing at Bancroft School of Massage Therapy as well as continuing education events through the US. Allissa also wrote one of the first ebooks on blogging that I ever bought called “Blogging for your Massage Business – A Guide to get on your way”. Allissa is also not afraid to speak her mind, which I like. As well she is also a marketing consultant, professional speaker, and wanna-be ukelele recording artist.

4. Todd Hargrove

I first heard about Todd as our local Massage Therapy Association had him speak at a pain conference. So I started following his blog about pain science and was pretty excited to get to talk to him and have him be part of the MTDC. Todd is a Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner and a Certified Rolfer living and practicing in Seattle. He became interested in movement and pain twenty years ago, when a lawyer, he was trying to treat his own chronic pain and win more squash matches. He got some great results, and eventually changed careers to help others make similar improvements. In 2008, Todd started writing his blog at www.bettermovement.org to share knowledge with a wider audience. His writing seeks to explain why pain science and neuroscience is relevant to manual exercise therapists. He recently published a book called “A Guide to Better Movement: The Science and Practice of Moving with More Skill and Less Pain”

5. Robert Libbey

Robert has been a RMT for twenty years and is recognized as a national instructor across Canada instructing L.A.S.T. Ligamentous Articular Strain Technique. He has a passion for inspiring manual therapists to perform to their highest ability and to provide high quality educational programs to the profession. This passion definitely comes across in Robert’s blog and writing. You can check it out at: www.lastsite.ca Finally, from 2001-2008 Robert instructed the Orthopaedics and Neurological Examination departments at the West Coast College of Massage Therapy (WCCMT).

6. Meaghan Mounce

I’ve been fortunate enough to know Meaghan for six years. She is one of the most positive people I’ve ever met which also comes across in her writing. Meaghan is a RMT, massage therapy college instructor and personal trainer in Victoria BC. She graduated from the West Coast College of Massage Therapy in 2010 and has been working as a RMT since. She focuses her practice on injury rehabilitation, stress relief, chronic pain and cervical spine dysfunction. Meaghan also has a significant amount of experience in women’s health, especially pre and post natal treatments. She loves being a positive part of her client’s day. Meaghan is passionate about the fitness industry and therapeutic exercise. She has been involved in the fitness industry for almost ten years and has taught everything from indoor cycling to bootcamp and has trained beginners to athletes. As a college instructor, Meaghan teaches massage therapy students courses in pathology, therapeutic exercise, research and nutrition. She loves being a part of the RMT students education and has learned a lot from each student she is lucky enough to meet. You can check out her blog at www.meaghanmounce.wordpress.com

7. Dr. Erson Religioso III

When I started reaching out to coaches, I was really nervous about reaching out to this guy. As you read his bio below you might understand why. I was happy to find a very kind and welcoming man that is only too happy to share. Erson graduated form D-Youville College in 1998 with a dual Bachelor’s of Science and Master’s of Science and Physical Therapy. His interests in Orthopaedics and Manual Therapy lead him to pursue a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from the University of St. Augustine. Studying under Stanley Paris, Ph.D, PT, internationally known for his manual skills and knowledge of the spine as well as his distinguished faculty, Dr. Religioso earned his DPT and Manual Therapy Certification in 2000. He later became credentialed in Mechanical Diagnosis and Treatment of the Spine in 2000, and in 2008 became one of four mentors in the country who can train orthopaedic manual therapy to MDT Diplomats, of which there are only several hundred in the world.

Thanks to extensive training and certification from Dr. Mariano Rocabado, PT, of Chile, one of the world’s foremost experts in treatment of TMJ dysfunction, Dr. Religioso became certified in evaluation and treatment of oromaxillary, craniofacial and temporomandibular pain in 2005. Later in 2005, he obtained Fellow status in the American Academy of Orthopaedic Manual Physical Therapists and serves as a mentor for future Fellows through Daemen College’s Fellowship in OMPT program. He recently became certified in FMS level 1 in December 2011 and expects certification in level 1 of the Selective Functional Movement Assessment soon. In January 2013, Dr. Religioso became an official FMT level 2 certified Rock Doc, a state of the art method on kinesiotaping. In mid to late 2013, Dr. Religioso is purusing courses leading to the completion of the Postural Restoration Institute’s PRC Certification.  You can read more about Dr. Religioso here at the following webistes–www.themanualtherapist.comwww.physioanswers.som, and www.edgemobilitysystem.com

It’s an exciting time to be a massage therapist.

With the constant flow of new research, greater understanding and unlimited information out there, the time is now for us all to network and make a real impact on this profession. The team at theMTDC is looking forward to engaging with you here. Remember, you are a healthcare professional. Proudly walk into your practice tomorrow and perform like it.