Alumni Spotlight: It Takes a Village to Raise an RMT!

Having a strong support system: in conversation with Krista Quinlan and Joan Oancia

Mother knows best! It was Krista Quinlan’s mother Joan who suggested that she should consider a massage therapy career. Joan had been a regular client at the MH Vicars School of Massage Therapy public clinic in Edmonton for years, and she had a feeling that her daughter had what it takes to become a successful RMT.

And she was right! Krista has a thriving practice at BodyTx Massage & Health in Fort Saskatchewan—and Joan still visits the Edmonton clinic for regular massages.

In this edition of Alumni Spotlight, Krista and Joan talked with Vicars communications director Robin Collum about how important it is for students to have a strong support system while they’re in school. Watch the full video, or scroll down to read an edited transcript of our conversation.

Robin

Let’s send our minds back in time a little bit to 2015, when you were considering a change in career and thinking of going back to school. Can you tell us a little bit about where you were in your life at that point when you were considering massage as a career?

 

Krista

Absolutely. So massage was actually the third time that I’ve gone back to school. I had gone into education, and then I tried to get into paramedics and I wasn’t able to really find a lot of work. And my mom said “You’re so into helping people, why don’t you look into massage?”

She had been going to the student clinic for I don’t know how many years before I even looked at going into massage therapy. And I was looking for just a different thing, a change, something where I could still work one-on-one with people. And massage just seemed to be right up my alley. So I went to an Open House, and Robin I think you were there! And it was just like, “This is going to be perfect for me, because then I can set my own hours and, you know, I want to have a family.” So I just thought it would be the perfect setup for me.

 

Robin

So it was your idea, Joan, which seems very convenient for you. Were there ulterior motives there?

 

Joan

Perhaps a little bit! I was client of Krista’s to begin with when she was practicing, and at first it was a little bit pokey, but it became very very good.

 

Robin

So why did you initially think that massage therapy would be a good choice for Krista?

 

Joan

I just thought she would be a good person to be able to give you good advice on your body or your aches and pains. She’d tried a few other careers and it just wasn’t really for her, so I thought this would be really good.

 

Robin

And obviously you were, by that point, very well acquainted with quality of massage of MH Vicars students. How did that experience as a regular clinic client factor in?

 

Joan

Well, because I had been going to the clinic for quite a while, and you could see the girls’ progress as they were practicing on the clients myself. And I was coming like weekly, so I could see the improvement that was happening with the girls. So I just thought it would be really good fit for Krista. Basically, I thought it would be better than the other couple of careers that she had looked at.

 

Robin

And Krista, by that point, you would have gotten to know a bit about yourself as an adult student. Were you looking for anything particular in an educational experience when you started looking for massage schools?

 

Krista

I was just looking, honestly, for something that was flexible. When I went to university, class schedules were Monday-Wednesday-Friday and Tuesday-Thursdays. And it was very heavy, just a lot of on campus time. So that didn’t really provide for a lot of home life stuff or work stuff. And when I found out that I only either had to go to school one day a week or one weekend a month [at Vicars] I was like, “This totally aligns with what I’ve got going on.”

Because I am an adult, and I was going back to school as an adult. So I already had a job, and I needed to figure out how I was going to go into higher education. I needed something that met with my schedule and what I needed. So being able to have an option of going one day a week and doing the studying at home, which I mean—there is quite a bit—but I really thrive in a very chaotic environment! [laughs]

I just found like, “Okay, I’ve got time here, and I’ve got time here. And this is when I can do this, and this is when I can do that.”

And I just found it really just nice, honestly, nice to have that ability to change. Say I couldn’t make it one day. I had the option of being able to talk to some of the other instructors, say, hey, look, could I pop in for this day because I missed it or I had an appointment or something came up, and I loved that ability, too. And it wasn’t all the time. It was just for those emergency times. But you guys were always so accommodating, and I just loved that and appreciated that so much.

 

Robin

That’s lovely to hear. One of the reasons that I wanted to talk to both of you at the same time is not just because it was an excuse to see you both, but we talk to our future students so much about the support system that they’re going to need while they’re in school. Because we want them to think ahead. Where are you going to find the time? Who’s going to pick up the slack and some of your responsibilities? Who are you going to go to for emotional support, logistical support, all of those things. And I know that Joan was such a huge part of your support system when you were a student, Krista. So can you talk a little bit about what kind of support you needed as a student, particularly in a program like this one?

 

Krista

Oh, all kinds of support. Honestly, I found that the biggest thing for me was just having the support with the day to day tasks that needed to be done. I was living back home with my parents, but I still had responsibilities around the house. And so obviously I’m not going to be able to do everything that I had been doing before because this is a priority for me. This is something that I need to do for myself. So really just sitting down and having a conversation of like, “This is what I’m going to need from you. I’m not going to be able to help out as much. I’m not going to be able to galavant and do all the fun things with my mom all the time, because I’m like school comes first!” And just telling them—and them knowing—that “Hey look, this is important to me.” It made it a lot easier for me to say no to certain things that I may have wanted to participate in.

I did not get any financial support from my parents with school, but they supported me in other ways, especially when it came to exam times and I was going through major anxiety and feeling like “I don’t know if I can do this.” Just knowing that I had my mom and my dad in my corner supporting me and pushing me and saying “You’ve got this.”

And we’d always celebrate when I came home saying “Look what I got on my exam!” Especially when I was having those anxious moments and fearful moments of “Am I going to do it? Can I do it? I don’t know.” They were always there supporting, which you absolutely need.

You need a support system. And if they aren’t your immediate people you’re living with or people who are immediately in your circle, the other people in the classes can also be your support. I had a close-knit group of friends within my own class, and we always got together, texted, called, did whatever we had to do if we needed some extra help. And we supported each other as well. So  if you don’t necessarily have that support at home, there is plenty of support that you can find through the school to help you get through this and do something for yourself.

 

Robin

Nobody understands what you’re going through like someone who is also going through it!

Joan, what do you remember about those two years? Do you remember having that sit-down conversation where she said “This is what I’m getting myself into.”?

 

Joan

Yes, I do. And I thought it would be really good for her. And like she said, her dad and I would really push for her to be going to school to find something that she really wanted to do. So it was easy to support. There were days that she just was anxious. But we were there to stand beside her—and there to get the extra few massages!

 

Robin

Yeah, that’s what I was going to get to next, actually, because people who aren’t familiar with our school might not know! Obviously, it’s a blended learning program, and you do lots of hands-on in class, but you also do lots of hands-on practice at home. We call it your Out-of-Class Practicals: your massage assignments. Can you talk a little bit about your experience as being one of Krista’s go-to ‘bodies’? Getting to watching her, or rather feeling her, improve?

 

Joan

Yes. In the very beginning, it was a little bit pokey! And as time had gone on, it was getting better and better. And then I was handing out flyers to bring more customers into our home, so she could have more practice. Quite a few neighbours benefited! I’m sure they were finding it a little bit pokey to begin with, too! But it was very good. And I really enjoy getting a massage from her now.

 

Robin

There’s something special about getting a massage now and also having experienced every step along that journey.

 

Joan

Now I’m like “I’ll be over every day!”

 

Robin

Krista, what are you most proud of in terms of accomplishments or challenges that you’ve overcome in your career?

 

Krista

It was a brand new experience, this whole massage thing. I was like, “I don’t know, I don’t know!” New situations give me really bad anxiety, but I was like, “You know what? I’m going to push through.”

 

And I’m so proud of myself for sticking with it and pushing myself as hard as I possibly could. I knew for myself having to pay for school on my own that this was my own thing. I was responsible. And just looking back and seeing the progress that I made, I am so proud of where I’ve gotten and where I’m at in terms of my massage career. I’ve gone on and done some other [continuing education] courses, and I’m just really finding my own way.

And the clinic that I work at just fills my heart because all of our therapists are amazing. We all talk to each other about different techniques that we’re using, and we’re very much a family. And I wouldn’t have known that massage therapists were so family-oriented or into wanting to help each other out until you kind of get into that.

So I’m just honestly proud of myself for sticking through, and even after school. Because the other two career paths that I went down, I finished the schooling, I attempted to go into the workforce, but it didn’t push myself nearly as hard as I did with massage. Because I really found that I had a much bigger passion for it than I did for my other career choices.

So I’m just proud of the fact that I stuck with it and I did it. And I pushed through the anxiety and that fear of “Am I going to be good?” You just get better and better with time and the more you learn, right? So I’m just really proud of myself for pushing forward and doing something for me.