“ One of the reasons people get into massage is because it ’ s a flexible position , but if they ’ re working a part-time massage job and then they have to move , they have to get licensed again .”
At the time of our last update , the process of developing these compacts was still in its earliest phase , but in late 2021 and early 2022 , a team at the Council of State Governments worked to identify key stakeholders and bring them together to discuss how to build the compact so that it can be at its most effective when it ’ s finally enacted .
Deirdre Strunk , who serves as the vice chair for the Nevada State Board of Massage and as vice president of spa , fitness and beauty at Canyon Ranch Spa + Fitness at Venetian Resort Las Vegas , is one of those stakeholders . As someone with a foot in both the state massage board and spa business worlds , Strunk is as well-positioned to contribute to the development of this legislation as almost anyone .“ I ’ m probably a bit of a unicorn in this space because I have the view of the massage board and what challenges we face , and then also , I have the perspective of how important it is for companies to be able to use massage therapists across the country and not be held up by licensing ,” she says .
Though some kind of reciprocal licensure agreement has been sought after for years , Strunk says that , like with many things , the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated those efforts . As an example , she points out that , due to widely varying pandemic-related restrictions , spa companies with locations in both New York and Washington state could have sent New York-based therapists to Washington to support the company , but they were unable to because of licensing issues .
Beyond the need illustrated by the pandemic , however , Strunk says the compacts are critical primarily because these license-related challenges only exacerbate the industry ’ s existing staffing challenges .“ One of the reasons people get into massage is because it ’ s a flexible position , but if they ’ re working a part-time massage job and then they have to move , they have to get licensed again . If they have a compact license , they could move and get to work right away , instead of having to wait for three or six months , explains Strunk . “ And the amount of money a license costs in each state can also be significant .”
There is no doubt that freeing therapists from these kinds of restrictions is an exciting prospect for both the therapists themselves and their prospective employers , but Strunk notes that doing so may also help fill the industry ’ s talent pipeline with a few more would-be practitioners . “ It would probably help [ massage therapy ] schools with enrolling students with the idea in mind that they could move someplace . For people that hold positions where they could possibly move around a lot , it ’ s going to be key ,” she says .
As part of the group that has helped craft the initial language the compact will be based on , Strunk reports that she ’ s confident that the steps they ’ ve taken so far — which include meetings and breakout sessions held both virtually and in Washington , D . C ., and facilitated by the Council of State Governments — has put the agreement in a good spot .“ The progress has been really good ,” she notes .“ They ’ ve ” moved on to the drafting phase , and then they ’ ll have drafted language for public comment this summer . Then , it will come back again , and we ’ re hoping to have it to the legislature by 2023 .”
The process is complex and necessarily time-consuming , but despite the spa industry ’ s clear interest in getting the compact in place as quickly as possible , Strunk feels that , by taking their time , those involved in the compact ’ s development can leave every stakeholder feeling comfortable with the final agreement .
One potentially contentious issue that the group has addressed is handling so-called “ bad actors ” and illicit activity that the industry has worked so hard to minimize over the years . The last thing anyone wants is for the compact to abused in a way that leads to a rise in such activity . But Strunk is confident that those concerns will be addressed by the compact ’ s final implementation , which will likely involve the use of a national database to allow for easier tracking of licensed therapists records and movement .“ That ’ s basically what the conversation is — wanting to protect the public from illicit and inappropriate behavior ,” she adds .
Strunk is hopeful that a significant number of states will ultimately adopt the legislation , but she recognizes that it won ’ t be in all 50 states overnight . “ We ’ ll probably start out with a small number , and then states will see that it ’ s going well . We ’ re really going to need the support of our communities across the country to support this because that ’ s what it ’ s going to come down to — the kind of support it gets in each state .” n
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