2011 – Foundations of Evidence Informed Practice for Massage Therapy

Posted:Friday, March 31, 2017

Sarah Weaver, MFA, M.Om, L. Ac., NCTMB,
Sarah Gottfried, B.A., NCTM
Louise Delagran, MA, MEd
Michele Maiers, D.C., MPH
Roni Evans, D.C., MS
Northwestern Health Sciences University

Introduction: Northwestern Health Sciences University (NWHSU) is a multidisciplinary university that educates professionals in massage therapy, chiropractic, and acupuncture and Oriental medicine. In 2007, NWHSU in collaboration with the University of Minnesota received a grant from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (R-25AT003582). The purpose of the grant was to integrate research into NWHSU’s academic curricula and enhance students’ research literacy.

Purpose: The purpose of this presentation is to describe a new course introducing massage therapy students to health care research in the context of an evidence-informed practice (EIP) model. This model emphasizes the tripartite relationship between client presentation, clinical experience, and evidence from scientific research.

Methods: A multidisciplinary team of educators and clinicians was assembled to meet the unique learning needs of massage therapy students. The ADDIE (Analysis, Design, Develop, Implement, Evaluate) model of instructional design was used. An initial analysis of student and faculty views of research was performed, as well as an assessment of the existing massage therapy curriculum, and the COMTA research competencies. A 1-credit, course was designed based on 8 broad EIP competencies adopted by NWHSU. Teaching strategies include classroom and online strategies. Lesson plans emphasize practical application of concepts introduced in online learning modules and focus on the specific needs of massage therapy students. Assessment includes online quizzes, online discussions, written exercises and in- class exams. A competency based survey assessing self reported EIP skills and behaviors is given at the beginning and end of each course.

Results: A new course, “Foundations of Evidence Informed Practice for Massage Therapy” was implemented in the final trimester of the massage therapy curriculum. It has been administered to 7 cohorts, reaching over 100 massage therapy students. Recent assessments indicate students believe it is important to be able to use research in massage therapy practice. Results of the surveys show general increases in student self-reported EIP skills and behaviors (e.g. discussing research with others, accessing summary resources, applying the EIP model). Challenges have included the low-credit load, and placement of the course at the end of the massage therapy program.

Conclusion: Despite some challenges, overall, we feel the implementation of the new course has been successful. Students are gaining important research-related skills that will enable them to participate responsibly and more fully in the health care system. Ideally, the foundational related principles related to “evidence-informed practice” would be offered early, and consistently throughout the entire massage therapy curricula. NWHSU faculty are working towards this goal.