Healing hands

Massage therapist relieves stress and anxiety for patients

By Jennifer Lassiter
star staff

  Luster Shell has taken her nighttime job and turned it into her career. Shell, a registered nurse for 39 years, has filled a new position at Sycamore Shoals Hospital (SSH) as a licensed massage therapist.
  "They say 'don't quit your daytime job until your nighttime job is paying,' well my night time job is paying," said Shell.
  Shell began massage therapy eight years ago, in addition to her nursing career at SSH, until recently when they began a pilot massage therapy program. In March, SSH was the first in the Mountain States Health Alliance hospital systems to have a massage therapist in an effort to improve their patient centered care.
  "I had a massage after a marathon, once, and I could walk without pain. I wanted to give this to my patients," said Shell. Following her experience Shell took a course at a local school, and after 500 hours of practice and passing a national exam she became a licensed massage therapist.
  "Being in a hospital can be stressful, especially for someone who wasn't expecting it. Massage therapy offers them a break, so they can relax and deal with their situation," Shell said.
  Shell is requested by many patients, but oftentimes assigned to certain patients by a doctor. "Every once and a while a doctor will see a patient suffering from hospital anxiety and could use a break," said Shell, "so they'll ask me to come and offer temporary relief for the patient."
  Shell visits her patients in their room. Being mobile, according to Shell, takes even more stress off the patients. Her visits usually last around 10 to 20 minutes at a time. All of her patients are alert and consent to the body work.
  According to Shell, the future of massage therapy looks hopeful at Sycamore Shoals. Currently, massages are only available for patients, but it's a possibility that staff members will receive Shell's magic touch.
  Shell, an Elizabethton native, plans to continue her work at SSH. Massages are available Monday and Thursday mornings at SSH when requested.