February 16, 2001

Massage students lend hands to rub out stress

Featured Image

Dr. Dan M. Roden will use a $500,000 grant to study pharmacogenomics. (photo by Dana Johnson)

Massage students lend hands to rub out stress

Joyce and John Sisco pulled out of the driveway of their Elkton, Ky. home one recent Thursday morning before dawn. Two hours later, at 6 a.m., doctors began John’s back operation and Joyce took vigil in a surgery waiting chair. The last thing Joyce needed was someone rubbing her the wrong way.

Fortunately, around noon, someone showed up to rub her the right way.

Students from the Institute of Therapeutic Massage & Movement rolled two massage chairs into the Vanderbilt University Hospital second-floor waiting area, where Joyce and several others wearily waited for a loved one. For a 10-minute sit, the students knead knots and knobs out of stiff and contorted backs, free of charge. It’s not the poking and prodding normally associated with visiting a hospital.

“It feels so good,” Joyce Sisco said, stretching like a cat after a sit in one of the chairs. “She (massage therapy student Candace O’Field) could do that all day, it felt so good.”

The student demonstrations, sponsored by the VUMC office of Cultural Enrichment, serve two purposes: to afford necessary hands-on experience for the massage therapists in training and to take the stressful edge off of being in a hospital setting for visitors and employees, according to cultural enrichment program coordinator Jenny Lewis. Relieving stress around the medical center, from hanging artwork to scheduling musicians, is Lewis’ purview. “Massage definitely falls into that category,” she said. “Everybody loves massages, even people who are skeptical. After they sit down and relax, in just 30 seconds they’re melted to the chair.”

O’Field and a handful of other students need the work as part of their 200-plus hours required practical experience for massage therapy certification. It’s a seven-month program in all, and the students arrive at Vanderbilt at the halfway mark, said Angela Wood, co-owner and senior instructor of the Institute of Therapeutic Massage & Movement. The school has made regular stops at Vanderbilt since 1996.

“Coming here gives the students hands-on time outside the classroom where they can use all the skills important to the profession,” Wood said. And, she says, the students often get to touch people whose lives are wrought by life-and-death situations. “Stress is heightened here,” she said. Massage cuts through the stress and lifts emotions, Wood said.

Hospital staff can receive the same benefits, Lewis said. “A massage can be a nice 10-minute break for nurses. They can relax, and then take care of their patients in a better frame of mind.”

The students set up their chairs between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. every other Thursday (they began Feb. 8) in the second floor waiting area of the lobby, 11 North VUH and in the outpatient Cancer Center in TVC. Family, staff and patients (with a doctor’s approval) can line up for a free massage.