Andrea Engel, RN, LMT, CPT

Aesthetic RN, Ashiatus massage therapist, health coach near Rhinelander, Wisconsin.


On Being a Nurse and a Massage Therapist

Many of you know that I’m a nurse as well as a massage therapist. I had met my edge in nursing with overnights on call, and sought balance in my life by going to massage school. My plan was to do each job 2 days per week and have a weekday to myself for solitude/errands/house cleaning/adventures. I left my full-time hospice nursing job and took a casual position, working on a pretty regular weekly basis for Aspirus Comfort Care & Hospice Services. No on-call expectations, help out when I’m available and they need me, etc. Perfect arrangement. Balance. Two wonderful jobs.

My massage business quickly took flight. I expanded my hours for a crazy promotion in November 2017, in which I gave away 100 thirty minute massage sessions to the community. I called it Project Give Some to Get Some, and it was a resounding success! Since then, my calendar has been full 6-8 weeks out. Some clients signed up for a year at a time! My expanded hours have stuck, so my only available day for hospice was Wednesday. Most weeks I work as a massage therapist now 4-5 days (and try to squeeze my husband in on Sundays!).

It’s been some time since hospice needed me on a Wednesday. I generally have massage clients hoping they can get in that day as well, so I give Aspirus first dibs.  As of now I want to say it’s been about 6 weeks since I put on my scrubs.

And a funny thing happened recently. Once I put aside my guilty conscience for having invested in my education to become a Registered Nurse and hone my hospice skills (I do love hospice work), I realized that the very work that has taken over my weeks (massage therapy) is everything that I hoped nursing would be.

I meet a new client and assess their needs. I diagnose (not medically, duh, I’m not a doctor). I make a plan. I implement the plan. I evaluate the treatment (I love it when folks follow up in the couple of days after their massage – it helps me shape their treatment).

I provide hands (ok, feet too!) on care. I provide touch. I provide comfort and space to just be. I nurture. I help. I develop a relationship with my clients that gives continuity to my work. As I get to know them, I give thought to ways I might better serve whatever they’re coming in for.

This is what I went to nursing school for. And I’m finding it as a massage therapist.

I don’t love spending as much time charting as I spend with patients as a nurse. I don’t love turning down overnight call (my body just doesn’t handle that well at all – hello adrenal fatigue!) because I feel like a jerk even though I know it’s not expected. I realize people have pain and die in the middle of the night.

I love being my own boss, too! Heck, if I’m feeling overworked I have no one to blame but myself! I get to work in yoga clothes every day. My meditation and yoga practices benefit not only me, but those I work with.

So here I am, away for a weekend of ashiatsu massage training and excited to learn. Every day I spend in my rental room downtown giving massage, I am so grateful. My heart overflows. I needed more calm in my life and I found it. My work is my creativity. We’ll see if Aspirus feels like keeping me around or if I go 100% in on massage.

Either way, thank you for allowing me to discover and live my highest passion.

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    1. Hello, I loved this blog post. I went to school for massage therapy a couple of years ago and now plan to go to nursing school soon. I think the knowledge of both careers is wonderful. The calming and holistic approach you learn in massage therapy school, then the more medical side with nursing is a beautiful duo. Congratulations on your massage therapy business by the way! That is amazing.

      Stay well ?

      1. Thank you, Nicole! It really has been a great combination, even if I am not working as a nurse currently. That background is very valuable, and it’s also a great backup plan. Best wishes in your journey!

  1. I’ve been a nurse for a little over two years and I’m now looking for a side hustle due to my current family situation. I’ve also been a massage therapist for about 10 years, but never worked as a therapist. I am now looking to become a hospice or palliative massage therapist utilizing my nursing skills. Would you mind letting me know how you got started and/or giving me some advice on how I can get started?

    1. Hi Tammy! I have a particular love for hospice/palliative care. I would recommend reaching out to your local hospice agencies. Many of them keep a massage therapist on staff!

  2. What an inspiration! Having talked with my fellow massage nurses, there is a big difference in a massage nurse and a massage therapist… as massage nurses we often sell ourselves short on this unique dual licensure skill set.

    1. I am an emergency y department nurse finishing a massage therapy program in 4 weeks. I take my mblex 9/21sr. I worked as a hospice nurse for 2 years in between ER burn outs.. Your article speaks volumes. I am still confused and can’t imagine a large career change or flip. I have a lot of reservation and questions as I transition into this calling. Can we connect? I have been a nurse for 18 years. I am 47. Your mini bio below is my dream life!

      1. Hi Jennifer! Well, since then I’ve gone 100% in on massage. It’s been over 3 years since I practiced as a nurse. I do maintain my license just in case. However, massage took over my schedule and I’m not complaining. I work from home now and absolutely love it!

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