Continuing Education Massage Therapy
Law Updates – Countdown to 2021 Renewal!Aug 1, 2020
By Pete Whitridge
Lee and I hope everyone is safe and healthy in this time. This month, I want to highlight some recent changes to the laws governing our profession and make sure you’re aware of a couple of deadlines. The state legislature made extensive changes to three sections of Chapter 480, the Massage Practice Act, which prompted the Board of Massage Therapy to begin rulemaking in three areas: Massage Establishments, Biennial License Renewal, and Discipline.
First, the information we’ve all been wondering about (drum roll please!): due to COVID-19 the Department of Health has authorized each board to pass rules allowing all licensees to take courses either by distanced learning or by live in-person classes. For this renewal period only, you may take all your coursework online. The Board created this rule on July 10. Once the waiting period required for comment has passed, this will go into effect and you should receive notification about it from the Board.
Now, on to the two changes which carry deadlines, one past and one upcoming. These arose from the state’s work to combat human trafficking, a sadly prevalent situation in Florida.
Designated Establishment Manager – There is a new standard for all Massage Establishments which requires that one person on the staff be identified as the “Designated Establishment Manager” (DEM). That individual will be responsible for the establishment’s compliance with all applicable state laws. This new position was to have been filled by January 1, 2020. The Board staff extended the deadline until March 20, 2020 to help establishment owners comply with this new statutory requirement [480.033(12)]. The DEM must be a massage therapist with a clear/active license and no disciplinary history. The DEM must notify the Board within 3 days if they resign or no longer work at the location. Establishments have 10 days to name a replacement DEM and to report that individual’s information using a change form available on the Board website.
Human Trafficking CE class – According to the new law, all LMTs must take a class approved by the Board of Massage Therapy in Human Trafficking Awareness. This coursework must be completed before January 1, 2021(yes, 5 months from now!) This is a legislative mandate applying to ALL Department of Health Boards and Councils. You can find an approved course on the CEBroker.com website. This class is also offered by the FSMTA in English and Spanish for all Florida LMTs. It is free to members and has a nominal charge for non-members. The hour(s) will count toward your overall total hours for license renewal. Lee and I both took this class and it was very informative. Remember: this class must be completed by January 1, which is before the end of our renewal period!
Signage and Policy Statement – As part of the new requirements for massage establishments, each location must post a human trafficking sign that is 11”x15”, printed in 32-point font. There are PDF files on the Board website to download and take to a commercial copy shop so you can print out the correct size poster. Finally, you must have a statement in your policies and procedures manual outlining how you will report any known or possible human trafficking to the trafficking hotline 888-373-7888 (or text HELP to 233733.) The link to the Human Trafficking website is http://www.flhealthsource.gov/humantrafficking/
Massage Establishment Renewal – There are statutory changes to Chapter 480 that specifically address some issues with massage establishment ownership, especially regarding unsavory locations that offer sexual activity under the guise of massage. These locations have shady, sometimes nebulous corporate owners, so the legislature added language to Chapter 480 to combat unlicensed activity in massage establishments. In 480.033, the legislature added two new definitions into the Practice Act. Paragraph (11) defines, “Massage Establishment Owner.” This paragraph outlines typical business statuses like LLC, sole proprietor, partnership, and corporation. Now that this definition is in the statute, the Board can verify with accuracy through the Secretary of State’s office and Sunbiz.org, if an application for licensure of a massage establishment is actually registered and current with the state agency. Before this statutory change, the Board was not authorized to track corporate filing status. This change is designed to weed out unregistered and unsavory business owners from getting a Department of Health license.
There is a final item regarding establishments, which also comes from Board staff and Prosecution Services. Biennial license renewal for establishments continues to remain the same but there have been changes to the delinquent status of Massage Establishments. The new rule [64B7-28.002(5)] states that a massage establishment can only be in delinquent status for 6 months. After that, the license will automatically go “null and void” and the establishment will have to reapply for licensure. This will reduce a previously lengthy and cumbersome disciplinary process which disreputable establishments have been taking advantage of to continue operation.
Changes to Continuing Education Requirements [64B7-28.009] – I outlined the new required class in human trafficking above but there are a few more changes that I’d like to highlight as we start the one-year countdown to August 31, 2021. The Board and staff have worked tirelessly to wordsmith and clarify the rules regarding Continuing Education. Please review the newly amended rules so that you can clearly understand the change in terminology.
New Descriptors – The amended rules now outline two new descriptors for identifying CE hours. While this does not appreciably change our requirements, it clarifies the actual intention of the Board regarding continuing education. The first is called an “instruction hour.” This is defined as “no less that 50 minutes of any one clock hour which the student participates in an approved course offered by an approved provider” [64B7-28.009(1)]. These can be, “by correspondence, home study, video or digital media, distance learning, or in an in-person setting. If the instruction hours are not delivered in an in-person setting, the course must include an evaluation graded by the instructor.” [64B7-0095(5)B]
The second descriptor is called a “classroom hour.” These hours are always in the presence of an instructor. According to 64B7-0095(5)C “Approved courses which provide classroom hours must be taught in an in-person setting, must include hands-on instruction or demonstration, and must have stated learner objectives which are relevant to and focused on massage therapy techniques, skills, and protocols as defined in Section 480.033(3)”. This means all therapists must take some in-person classwork focused on “massage therapy techniques, skills, and protocols” during each biennial period. Even though we can satisfy our requirements online this renewal period, you will still need to make sure your 12 (normally in-person) classroom hours focus on massage skills and techniques.
Here is the new breakdown of required hours for all renewing licensees: [64B7-28.009(4)a-f]
“(4) During each subsequent renewal cycle, licensee shall complete:
(a) Two instruction hours in prevention of medical errors
(b) Two instruction hours in laws and rules which govern the practice of massage therapy
(c) Two instruction hours in professional ethics
(d) One hour in human trafficking awareness
(e) Twelve classroom hours [must be in-person and focused on massage therapy techniques, skills, and protocols]
(f) The remaining hours …” [can be classroom or instruction hours bringing the total to 24]
New Licensees – If you are a new licensee, you must take one CE hour per month of licensure up to 24 CE hours. Your total hours must include the two instruction hours in Prevention of Medical Errors and one hour in Human Trafficking Awareness that are required of all renewing LMTs [64B7-28.009(3)a-c]. Your actual CE hour requirement will be variable depending upon when you received your initial license. For example, if you’ve been licensed for 12 months, you would need a minimum of 12 hours total: two medical errors, one human trafficking, and the balance (9 hours) may be taken by any method (in-person or distanced) and in any subject matter that you choose. Some of you will take the minimum 12 hours, others will take more. There are many opportunities to further your education in massage therapy and your practice will benefit from the time you spend learning.
These changes were put into effect prior to the current pandemic. Since we are able to take our “classroom” hours virtually this renewal period, this language clarification will have more relevance in subsequent renewals.
Of course, we hope to see some of you in person, to complete your massage related hours. Our first in-person workshop in quite some time, Therapeutic Strategies for Effective Pain Relief, is scheduled (safety permitting) for October 3-4 here at FSM. Enrollment will be limited and safety protocols will be observed. Please contact us if you are interested at email@example.com or by phone (772) 332-6116. At present, we’re adding to our online offerings. We have Prevention of Medical Errors and Professional Ethics up and running. Florida Laws and Rules Review will be available soon.
Wishing you vibrant health and happiness in this challenging time.