When most people think of a career switch in the wellness field, they probably imagine that a licensed Massage Therapist would train to become a Registered Nurse. Well, I did the opposite. And yes, some people think I’m crazy for it. But I promise that I’m not crazy. The transition from a career in nursing to becoming a Licensed Massage Therapist has been one of the best decisions I’ve made.
What I Learned as a Registered Nurse
Some people ask if I feel like my training to become a nurse was a waste of time since I chose to leave the field. Definitely not. I would not trade my nursing education or experience for anything. I went into nursing because I wanted to help people feel better, and I truly appreciate the training that helps me continue doing that today.
As a nurse, I thought my role would be to spend time with patients, getting to know them and their backgrounds. I wanted to advocate for my patients so they could find real solutions within the medical system and leave as healthier individuals. I thought that nursing would be a way to empower people to understand and care for their own health.
I thoroughly enjoyed my patients, and I’ve met some incredible people and heard some amazing stories (Vietnam veterans and Tuskegee Airmen tell the best stories). But the truth is that there was never enough time for the stories. Rather than taking time with patients, my job was more focused on delivering medications and pharmaceutically reducing pain. I tried a few different jobs to see if I could find the position that would allow me to apply my philosophy of wellness, but I was continually disappointed.
Nursing Today is About Policy Over People
What I was seeking as a nurse was a preventative approach to healthcare. I believe that educating people to take care of themselves, exploring symptoms to look for root causes, and partnering with patients is the best approach. Unfortunately, that is not the norm in modern healthcare.
Policies today are determined by administrators and insurance companies. Pain medication is distributed to mask symptoms while patients wait weeks to find out if a test or procedure will be covered. Sometimes that wait is a matter of life and death. Even when it’s not so drastic, the patient continues to suffer with chronic pain and mental anguish.
While there are hundreds of excellent doctors, nurses, and medical professionals out there, the system itself neglects the needs of the individual patient in order to establish system-wide protocols that end up being reactive rather than proactive. For me, handing out medication without concern for the whole person could not be effective healthcare. In my inability to spend quality time with my patients to find lasting ways to help them, I felt that I was part of the problem. I needed to be part of the solution.
This is not to say that medical interventions are unnecessary. It’s amazing what we can do with medication, surgery, and injections these days. Modern medicine has vastly improved life expectancy and given millions of people opportunities they wouldn’t have had a hundred years ago. But there needs to be more balance. As medical professionals, we should always be thinking about options that promote lasting healing, even if they are non-medical. That’s the inspiration that sent me looking for change.
Making the Switch to Licensed Massage Therapy
I will always be a nurse, but now I use that knowledge to support a role in which I can be part of the solution. Since becoming a Licensed Massage Therapist, I have continued training in advanced modalities like Myofascial Release, Craniosacral Therapy, and Zero Balancing. As a Massage Therapist, I have freedom to spend the time with my clients that I always felt was missing in nursing.
I am now fully focused on promoting the body’s own healing mechanisms through conscious touch. Though my work is physical, I find that by listening closely to my clients and seeking to fully understand why they are in pain, there is a great deal of mental and emotional relief as well. My goal is to approach each client with the knowledge that their body can heal, and it can heal long-term. I perform both healing and preventative massage care, and I help clients pay attention to their habits to promote healing between sessions. This may not fully eliminate medications or medical interventions, but it often greatly reduces the need for those things.
Since leaving the nursing profession to start my career in Massage Therapy, I feel like I found the place where I belong. I come to work every day looking forward to spending time with my clients, educating them, and empowering them to take control of their health. I have no regrets, of course. Without nursing, I could never have found my true calling and passion for helping others find real healing.