Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details
More options …

Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine

Editor-in-Chief: Lui, Edmund

Ed. by Ko, Robert / Leung, Kelvin Sze-Yin / Saunders, Paul / Suntres, PH. D., Zacharias

CiteScore 2017: 1.41

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2017: 0.472
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2017: 0.564

See all formats and pricing
More options …

“I am a healthcare practitioner”: A qualitative exploration of massage therapists’ professional identity

Amanda Baskwill
  • Corresponding author
  • Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence, and Impact, McMaster University and Faculty of Health Sciences and Wellness, Humber College, 205 Humber College Blvd, Toronto, Ontario M9W5L7, Canada
  • Email
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Meredith Vanstone
  • McMaster Education Research, Innovation and Theory, and Department of Family Medicine, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
  • Email
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Del Harnish
  • Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine and Biology, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Kelly Dore
  • McMaster Education Research, Innovation and Theory and Department of Medicine, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada
  • Email
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
Published Online: 2019-09-12 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jcim-2019-0067



A division has been described among massage therapists, some who identify as healthcare providers while others identify as service providers. The perceived division creates confusion about what it means to be a massage therapist.


This qualitative study answered, “How do massage therapists in Ontario describe their professional identity?”


Qualitative description (QD) was used and data were collected from 33 massage therapists using semi-structured interviews.


The resulting description of massage therapists’ identity in Ontario is the first of its kind. The identity described includes passion as professional motivation in practice, the importance of confidence and competence, a focus on the therapeutic relationship, individualized care, and patient empowerment, and a desire to be recognized for their role within the healthcare system.


There is still much to be investigated about massage therapists’ identity. Future research will explore whether this description resonates with a larger sample of massage therapists in Ontario.

Keywords: mixed methods; qualitative content analysis; qualitative description


  • [1]

    Smith DM, Smith JM, Baxter D. The drive for legitimation of massage therapy in New Zealand. Int J Ther Massage Bodywork 2012;5:21–9.PubMedGoogle Scholar

  • [2]

    Hart J. Analysis and adjustment of vertebral subluxation as a separate and distinct identity for the chiropractic profession: a commentary. J Chiropr Humanit 2016;23:46–52.PubMedCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • [3]

    Kimura MN, Russell R, Scaringe J. Professional identity at Los Angeles college of chiropractic. J Chiropr Humanit 2016;23:61–7.CrossrefPubMedGoogle Scholar

  • [4]

    Fagermoen MS. Professional identity: values embedded in meaningful nursing practice. J Adv Nurs 1997;25:434–41.PubMedCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • [5]

    Ashby SE, Adler J, Herbert L. An exploratory international study into occupational therapy students’ perceptions of professional identity. Aust Occup Ther J 2016;63:233–43.Web of ScienceCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • [6]

    Nicácio M, Heringer A, Schroeter M, Pereira A. Perception of nurse midwives regarding their professional identity: a descriptive study. Braz J Nurs 2016;15:205–14.Google Scholar

  • [7]

    Cruess RL, Cruess SR, Boudreau JD, Snell L, Steinert Y. A schematic representation of the professional identity formation and socialization of medical students and residents: a guide for medical educators. Acad Med 2015;90:718–25.PubMedCrossrefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • [8]

    Fitzgerald AM. The experience of professional identity development in graduating nursing students. Dissertations. 2016.Google Scholar

  • [9]

    Thomson OP, Petty NJ, Moore AP. Osteopaths’ professional views, identities and conceptions – a qualitative grounded theory study. Int J Osteopath Med 2014;17:146–59.CrossrefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • [10]

    Drolet MJ, Desormeaux-Moreau M. the values of occupational therapy: perceptions of occupational therapists in Quebec. Scand J Occup Ther 2016;23:272–85.Web of SciencePubMedCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • [11]

    Edwards H, Dirette D. The relationship between professional identity and burnout among occupational therapists. Occup Ther Health Care 2010;24:119–29.CrossrefPubMedGoogle Scholar

  • [12]

    Butt H, Duffin J. Educating future physicians for Ontario and the physicians’ strike of 1986: the roots of Canadian competency-based medical education. CMAJ 2018;190:E196–E8.PubMedCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • [13]

    Frank JR, Danoff D. The CanMEDS initiative: implementing an outcomes-based framework of physician competencies. Med Teach 2007;29:642–7.CrossrefPubMedWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • [14]

    Watson Newman R. From direct patient care to clinical research: transitioning to an emerging nursing specialty. Ann Arbor, MI: The George Washington University, 2016.Google Scholar

  • [15]

    Canadian Nurses Association. Canadian network of nursing specialties 2018. Available at: https://www.cna-aiic.ca/en/professional-development/canadian-network-of-nursing-specialties.

  • [16]

    Government of Ontario. Regulated health professions act, 1991. Ottawa, ON: Queen’s Press, 1991.Google Scholar

  • [17]

    Kania-Richmond A, Findlay Reese B, Suter E, Verhoef M. The professional role of massage therapists in patient care in Canadian urban hospitals – a mixed methods study. BMC Complement Altern Med 2015;15:1–10.Web of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • [18]

    Baskwill A, Dore K. Exploring the awareness of research among registered massage therapists in Ontario. J Complement Integr Med 2015;13:41–9.Google Scholar

  • [19]

    Dryden T, Moyer C. Massage therapy: integrating research and practice. Windsor, ON: Human Kinetics, 2012.Google Scholar

  • [20]

    Neergaard MA, Olesen F, Andersen RS, Sondergaard J. Qualitative description – The poor cousin of health research? BMC Med Res Methodol 2009;9:52–7.PubMedWeb of ScienceCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • [21]

    Sandelowski M. Whatever happened to qualitative description? Res Nurs Health 2000;23:334–40.PubMedCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • [22]

    Palinkas LA, Horwitz SM, Green CA, Wisdom JP, Duan N, Hoagwood K. Purposeful sampling for qualitative data collection and analysis in mixed method implementation research. Adm Policy Ment Health 2015;42:533–44.Web of ScienceCrossrefPubMedGoogle Scholar

  • [23]

    Thompson C. If you could just provide me with a sample: examining sampling in qualitative and quantitative research papers. Evid Based Nurs 1999;2:68–70.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • [24]

    Morse JM. The significance of saturation. Qual Health Res 1995;5:147–9.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • [25]

    Creswell JW. Qualitative inquiry and research design: choosing among five approaches, 3rd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 2012.Google Scholar

  • [26]

    Elo S, Kyngas H. The qualitative content analysis process. J Adv Nurs 2008;62:107–15.PubMedCrossrefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • [27]

    Vaismoradi M, Turunen H, Bondas T. Content analysis and thematic analysis: implications for conducting a qualitative descriptive study. Nurs Health Sci 2013;15:398–405.CrossrefWeb of SciencePubMedGoogle Scholar

  • [28]

    Krefting L. Rigor in qualitative research: the assessment of trustworthiness. Am J Occup Ther 2001;45:214–22.Google Scholar

  • [29]

    Canadian Massage Therapist Alliance. Medically necessary services & massage therapy. n.d. Available at: http://www.crmta.ca/doc/CMTA_medically_necessary.pdf.

  • [30]

    Aagaard K, Sorensen EE, Rasmussen BS, Laursen BS. Identifying nurse anesthetists’ professional identity. J Perianesth Nurs 2017;32:619–30.Web of ScienceCrossrefPubMedGoogle Scholar

  • [31]

    Gitto L, Trimarchi E. When passion becomes a nightmare: the burnout syndrome in healthcare workers. Med J Clin Psych 2016;4:1–18.Google Scholar

  • [32]

    Cook TH, Gilmer MJ, Bess CJ. Beginning students’ definitions of nursing: an inductive framework of professional identity. J Nurs Educ 2003;42:311–7.PubMedGoogle Scholar

  • [33]

    College of Massage Therapists of Ontario. College of massage therapists of Ontario 2017 annual report 2018. Available at: http://www.cmto.com/assets/FINAL-CMTO-Annual-Report-2017_ENGLISH.pdf.

  • [34]

    Brown RA. Spinal health: the backbone of chiropractic’s identity. J Chiropr Humanit 2016;23:22–8.CrossrefPubMedGoogle Scholar

  • [35]

    Evetts J. Professionalism: value and ideology. Curr Sociology 2013;61:778–96.CrossrefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • [36]

    Callaghan J. Professions and professionalisation. In: T Teo, editor. Encyclopedia of critical psychology. New York, NY: Springer Reference, 2014.Google Scholar

  • [37]

    Wilensky HL. The professionalization of everyone? Am Sociol 1964;70:137–58.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • [38]

    Suter E, Vanderheyden LC, Trojan LS, Verhoef MJ, Armitage GD. How important is research-based practice to chiropractors and massage therapists? J Manipulative Physiol Ther 2007;30:109–15.PubMedCrossrefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • [39]

    Gowan-Moody DM, Leis AM, Abonyi S, Epstein M, Premkumar K. Research utilization and evidence-based practice among Saskatchewan massage therapists. J Complement Integr Med 2013;10:1–10Google Scholar

  • [40]

    Ogden K, Barr J, Greenfield D. Determining requirements for patient-centred care: a participatory concept mapping study. BMC Health Serv Res 2017;17:780.Web of ScienceCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • [41]

    Luxford K, Gelb Safran D, Delbanco T. Promoting patient-centered care: a qualitative study of facilitators and barriers in healthcare organizations with a reputation for improving the patient experience. Int J Qual Health Care 2011;23:510–5.CrossrefWeb of SciencePubMedGoogle Scholar

  • [42]

    Fournier C, Reeves S. Professional status and interprofessional collaboration: a view of massage therapy. J Interprof Care 2012;26:71–2.CrossrefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar

About the article

Received: 2019-03-10

Accepted: 2019-06-24

Published Online: 2019-09-12

Author contributions: All the authors have accepted responsibility for the entire content of this submitted manuscript and approved submission.

Research funding: None declared.

Employment or leadership: None declared.

Honorarium: None declared.

Competing interests: The funding organization(s) played no role in the study design; in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data; in the writing of the report; or in the decision to submit the report for publication.

Citation Information: Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine, 20190067, ISSN (Online) 1553-3840, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jcim-2019-0067.

Export Citation

© 2019 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston.Get Permission

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in