Mohawk College massage therapy students provide helping hands to Hamilton’s front-line workers during pandemic

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Published October 26, 2021 at 11:22 am

Through a partnership with Hamilton Health Sciences, students have been providing massage therapy for front-line workers at Juravinski Hospital. (Photo: Mohawk College)

Everyone has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, in one way or another. For health care workers, it’s been a continuous battle in the front-line trenches.

Mohawk College students in the Registered Massage Therapy (RMT) have been helping to provide some relief.

Through a partnership with Hamilton Health Sciences, students have been providing massage therapy for front-line workers at Juravinski Hospital.

“The students are taking such joy in getting out in their community and giving back to our health care workers who have been working under incredible strain these past 18 months, it has been a pleasure to provide this for them,” said Alexis James, Mohawk’s RMT outreach coordinator.

The initiative is part of the program’s experiential learning component. As part of the curriculum, students in the six-semester RMT program at Mohawk College are required to have a number of hours in the field to fulfill mandates from the College of Massage Therapists of Ontario.

Those enrolled in the program are not only getting college credit by providing therapy to front-line workers, but they’re also receiving meaningful hands-on experience.

Senior student Amelia Brown says it’s been “extremely rewarding.” Brown and her classmates’ efforts have extended to all front-line workers.

“Our class has really come together during COVID times,” she said. “Providing support and understanding… we are all so thankful. It is a particularly rewarding experience when we can provide treatment to those who work in health care — to listen to them and to provide relief from pain”.

“We have had the privilege of treating nurses, personal support workers, firefighters, doctors, police officers, and many other front-line workers during our time in the clinic,” Brown added. “It has been a wonderful experience.”

According to a Statistics Canada study released earlier this year, seven in ten health care workers surveyed reported worsening mental health during the pandemic. Participating health care workers who worked in direct contact with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 and those who experienced restrictions or conditions on the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) were more affected than others.

Melissa Cummings is the Healthy Workplace Coordinator at HHS and says it’s a win-win for all involved.

“On-site massages for frontline healthcare workers started before the pandemic began, and were suspended due to COVID-19 restrictions,” said Cummings. “This service has resumed at the Juravinski Hospital in compliance with appropriate infection control practices – and staff are loving it.”

“Our partnership with Mohawk is new since the program resumed, and it’s a mutually beneficial relationship. The students are able to practice their skills, and our staff get a quick break and recharge during a busy shift,” Cummings added.

The response from all sides has been overwhelmingly positive. Chris Owen, who is an RMT instructor at Mohawk College, hopes the program can extend beyond the pandemic.

“We are always looking for new opportunities to work within our community,” he said. “But for right now, I can’t think of anyone who needs it more than our frontline workers who have been toughing it out for the last two years.”

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