The field trips have included two visits to Opportunity Inc., a day services facility for disabled adults, and Stoney River Senior Community, an assisted-living facility.
All of the students in the class expressed a sense of nervousness about their first field trip to Opportunity Inc. They weren’t sure what to expect. However, Holly Rajski said the feeling “fell away immediately.”
“I just felt really happy to be there to give massages to people who probably don’t get that kind of attention very often, if ever,” she said.
By their second field trip to Stoney River Senior Community, the students felt much less nervous. Instead, their confidence had greatly increased.
As Hattie Mahner observed, “I was genuinely excited to work with the elderly clients. I have no experience providing professional care for the elderly, but we all have grandparents. … I was happy that we would be given the chance to share and practice our skills with them.”
Holly noted that she learned more than massage techniques during this visit. She talked about the experience of talking with her client. “The stories he told and the insights of wisdom he shared were touching and left a lasting impression on me. I’m grateful he felt comfortable enough to share his stories with me in such depth, especially because we had just met. He had a great sense of humor and we shared many laughs throughout the visit.”
Hattie noted that all of the clients she worked with at Stoney River shared a sense of loneliness. She was happy that their class helped them interact with others, if only for a short period of time.
“There will always be physical benefits to massage, but sometimes the emotional benefits outweigh them,” she said. “We got to help our elderly clients feel important and a little less lonely. The power of touch is more powerful and more important than we know.”
Maurice Steffans said of the trip to Stoney River: “There was no clock in sight, and I thought that was perfect.”
“It was a great feeling knowing that I left a positive impact on the person I worked with. … Unfortunately, there are many elderly people in assisted living who do not get a lot of visitors, and I feel like this is a great way to give those individuals some positive interaction and companionship, even if it is just a short visit,” she said. “Spending an hour with an elderly person …can really brighten their day, maybe even their whole week.”
The confidence these students gained during their trips has continued to grow, and they have all appreciated the opportunity to develop their skills outside of the classroom.
“These trips are a great experience,” Jolene Kinney said. “I am grateful that I was able to have this experience to take with me for possible future clients. These trips helped to open my eyes to see all of the different types of clients that massage is beneficial for. I also realized that as a massage therapist, there are many different people that we are able to work with. I will take this experience with me and remember how rewarding it was to be able to provide massage to the clients and in the future, be able to use what I have learned and continue to build my skills.”
Holly added: “The effect that positive touch can have on a person is remarkable; even a small hand massage can provide results on many levels, seen and unseen. These field trips are very valuable in helping to spark some creative ideas in my mind to try when I start my career as a massage therapist. The possibilities and opportunities to positively impact the lives of others through massage therapy seem to be endless.”
Maurice summed up the benefits of applied learning experiences like these field trips:
“A lot of stuff we learn in class has terminology, written technique, ideal practice and structured performance expectation. A lot of stuff we come across can be difficult to understand when we read about it, memorize and analyze it. Yet, getting out into a hands on experience with a perfectly random person is just what a student needs to do. There’s no written text on how to communicate with the elderly. There’s only so many words to describe fragile skin. There is no book in the world to explain what the mood is going to be when an elderly woman’s eye appointment is canceled and instead a massage student knocks on the door.”