Healing Hands at St. Cloud Veterans Hospital

Posted by on July 23, 2012

Minnesota School of Business Massage Therapy Students Share Their Skills

Lacy Watkins Massages VA Patient

By definition, the Pregnancy and Special Populations class for Massage Therapy students at Minnesota School of Business addresses unusual situations where massage can be a beneficial—and perhaps an unexpected—treatment for pain and disease. At the St. Cloud Veterans Hospital, it is a therapy that hasn’t been utilized for many years.

Irene Rangen, Massage Therapy Program Chair, has helped forge a partnership between the VA and MSB. Massage Therapy students have volunteered at staff Health and Wellness Days, giving chair massages, and students have also presented on the benefits of massage at a staff Lunch and Learn. Most recently, however, massage students were given the opportunity to work hands-on with VA patients, creating a lasting experience for the students, clients and instructor, Nicole West.

“This was a very special opportunity for the students, and for me as an instructor and professional massage therapist,” says West. “Our students got the opportunity to work with clients of a variety of special populations:  Alzheimer’s, Schizophrenia, Geriatric, clients who live with a respirator, and muscular dystrophy.  Every 25 minutes the students worked on a client who had different special needs.  This allowed the students to fully understand the importance of considering the needs of each client individually and to learn how to effectively communicate with their clients so that they could give them the highest standards of care.”

Student Lacy Watkins agrees. “I don’t think we could have picked a better project for the special pops [class] if we tried.”

The day was not without its challenges, but that is where the students truly applied their learning. Mindy Larson sites as an example: “I had a gentleman with a respiratory machine, and it kept going off, and I thought something was going wrong. But it was his breathing pattern changing because he was relaxing. It made me feel good.” Larson also noted the difficulties in assessing pressure for a Muscular Dystrophy patient and working around wheelchairs.

Students came away with a special appreciation for the diverse needs of an older population. “I now feel confident and happy to be able to offer massage to the older population. I can even see myself doing more volunteer work in nursing homes and hospital environments,” comments Angel Hajrasiewicz.

Watkins concludes, “I believe that I would take a position working with geriatric people as a career, given the opportunity.”

Neither was it lost on students that this population was special because of its military status. Watkins, herself, is a veteran and was gratified to be of use to her fellow soldiers.

Rangen is pleased with the VA relationship and notes that MSB will soon be placing a Massage intern at the hospital. “It’s been a long time in coming,” she says. Staff, patients, students and instructors are all glad that day is here.


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