Move over, Oscars. Take a seat, Golden Globes. This awards season, we’re only interested in the Best of YEG Fitness awards – because three of the nominees for “Best Massage Therapist” are Vicars graduates!

Kory Ring, Andrea Yacyshyn, and Dustin Ring (no relation to Kory) are among the top five finalists for the award, which is determined entirely by public votes.

The awards are presented by YEG Fitness magazine, a local publication that highlights all areas of the local fitness and wellness community.

“We view fitness as healthy living, and it’s all about balance. It’s about taking care of your body: nutrition, different kinds of activity and training, and having physiotherapists, chiropractors, massage therapists working with you to both prevent and treat injury if you need it,” explained TJ Sadler, the magazine’s editor. “The awards are a way for us to showcase those people who are doing great things.”

Discovering that so many of their clients considered them among the city’s massage elite was a great feeling for the three Vicars grads.

“I’m so grateful to all of my clients and everyone who voted for me for this,” said Dustin, who graduated in 2017. “I never thought that I would make a list like this so close to coming out of school.”

“I was so honoured that enough people typed my name – and I have a hard-to-spell last name! It was incredibly validating as I love this work so much,” said Andrea.

Being included on lists does more than just boost a therapist’s confidence. It can have a significant impact on future business. So what can fellow Vicars graduates learn from Andrea, Dustin, and Kory’s success?

A good massage begins before the client is on the table

I asked all three of the nominees to try to identify what it was about their treatments that made clients so excited that they’d go online and vote. I expected to hear about their hands-on expertise and specialized techniques – and I did – but the first thing that each therapist highlighted about themselves was how they try to listen to and relate to their clients off the table.

“The thing my clients have consistently said to me is that they feel like I listen to them, I care, and I don’t rush them,” Andrea said.

“I’ve been told by a lot of clients that they like that I actually take the time to listen and do a proper assessment and address their concerns – just like we were taught to do in school,” Kory agreed. “And they get the results that they’re looking for, a lot of the time.”

And once your clients love your practice, they’ll keep coming back. And they’ll tell their friends.

Word-of-mouth marketing works. Don’t be afraid to ask for it!

“I actually don’t accept tips at my practice at all, and when people do try to tip me I tell them that if they want to pay me a compliment they can just tell their friends and family about me, or leave a Google review,” said Kory. “Ninety-nine per cent of my clients come from referrals, I’d say.”

No one knows how amazing you are – or is as excited to talk about why – like the clients who keep coming back to you. By encouraging your current clients to recommend you to others, you’re getting your name out there in a more authentic and efficient way than any ad could ever deliver. And, you’ll attract the kind of client who is most likely to fit in well at your practice, which means they’ll keep coming back (and refer friends of their own).

It doesn’t hurt to offer a small thank-you in return.

“I offer a $10 referral [gift] when someone sends me a new client,” explained Andrea. “A client I had from school referred another client, who then referred her sister, sister-in-law, brother-in-law, and multiple friends. And then those clients referred people to me. It was a huge domino effect that really paid off and landed me with 10 new regular clients rather quickly.”

Don’t just tell clients about your practice – tell everyone!

One of the ways that Dustin was able to become so successful so quickly after graduating was by tapping into the professional connections that he already had as a yoga teacher. These clients and colleagues became his first cheerleaders.

“By being in the yoga community and immersing myself in different aspects of the fitness industry I’ve developed an ongoing clientele that I never thought that I would have this early in my career,” he said. “I also did a lot of volunteer events. If you’re good, people are going to tell other people.”

Some of your most important connections as a therapist aren’t with clients, but with other health care professionals. Being a source of trustworthy referrals for your clients adds value to your services at the same time as it helps clients get the care they need.

Kory’s clinic is located within Evolve Strength, a downtown gym. This mixed clinical environment has helped him make connections with other professionals.

“There’s a good referral network within the gym,” he explained. “The athletic world, I’ve come to realize, is a pretty tight-knit community in this city.”

Andrea’s practice is in her home, but that hasn’t stopped her from developing an extensive referral list of her own.

“I have a chiropractor, 3 massage therapists, an acupuncturist, a physiotherapist, a Pilates studio, a [naturopathic doctor], a medical clinic, and a pelvic floor specialist that I refer to,” said Andrea. “I have their cards in my treatment room and some of their profiles on my website. By working with them and sending them my clients, they up sending me theirs and we create a collaborative health network for our clients.”

The winners of this year’s Best of YEG Fitness awards will be announced at a ceremony on February 6, 2019.

“Looking back now, I’m definitely glad I went the Newfoundland route. It’s been a long process, but I’m finally there!”

That’s Jenna Kluthe, who graduated from MH Vicars School’s Edmonton campus in 2017. She was one of nearly a dozen Vicars grads who travelled to Newfoundland to write that province’s entry-to-practice exam with the final goal of becoming RMTs in BC. Jenna now practices in Nanaimo.

Tyler Shortridge, Karen Goforth, Jenna Kluthe, and their classmates celebrate together after writing the CMTNL exams. Photo courtesy Karen Goforth.

Jenna and her classmates chose Newfoundland because the process to apply for the exam was simpler, faster, and less expensive than going directly to BC. The College of Massage Therapists of Newfoundland and Labrador officially recognizes the Vicars program, while the BC College requires applicants to pay for a “prior learning assessment” before they can take their test. (Read more about why Vicars grads are choosing Newfoundland and New Brunswick here).

The journey to become RMTs in BC began in the spring of 2017.

“I was going to go the BC route, because I didn’t know anything about Newfoundland, but about a month before we graduated someone mentioned it and we were all curious,” said Tyler Shortridge, who lives in Cranbrook and attended the Calgary campus. “[CMTNL] were really good. They answered emails fast, they answered phone calls. It was easy to get the answers I needed, and the paperwork was simple. I think I waited two weeks to hear whether we were accepted to write the exam. They had no issues with our program.”

The Newfoundland entry-to-practice exam has two parts. The multiple-choice exam covers massage theory, ethics, and law, including regulations specific to Newfoundland. The practical exam, which consists of seven separate stations, evaluates the therapist’s academic knowledge, hands-on techniques, and problem-solving skills.

“It was a little bit intimidating,” said Jenna. “You walk into the room and there were two examiners, just sitting off to the side, and there’s the body. The examiners don’t say anything, they don’t acknowledge you, they don’t smile, they don’t do anything. You just walk in and do your thing.”

The College publishes a detailed outline of the exam structure and contents to help therapists prepare, and the Vicars grad felt that the exams were well-organized and fair.

“It was fairly straightforward. You just have to make sure that you’re confident in your answers,” said Karen Goforth, who lives and works in Creston, BC.

Nonetheless, they all felt very prepared.

“The hardest part was waiting for the results,” said Tyler. “I took the exam in August, and by the end of October I was registered in Newfoundland. The end of January is when I was able to work in BC as an RMT.”

All the time and effort was worth it.

“Being a massage therapist is awesome, I love it. I have the freedom to do whatever I want with my schedule, and I like helping people,” said Tyler. “You see a lot of different people, and it’s really nice to connect with them.”

If you’re a Vicars student or grad interested in more information about moving to a regulated province, please contact the school and we’d be happy to help.

In 2011, Bree Skiba had been out of school for four years and was already head of a mini massage empire: her company Balance Massage had two Edmonton locations and had just opened a third in Kelowna. I interviewed her then about her experiences as a student, and her career so far.

Watch that video here:

It’s now six years later, and both Balance Massage and the school have grown and changed. After reconnecting at our recent Edmonton Networking Night, I took the opportunity to catch up with Bree.

“I’m still doing well!” she says. “We’re almost 10 years at our original location at Moksha Yoga West, so that’s super exciting. I have a lot of regular clients who have stuck with me through the years, even through when I had a baby and came back.

The two original Edmonton locations are still going strong, and a third clinic is opening this month within TNP Fitness Studio. Bree sold the Kelowna location a few years ago.

“I have 8 therapists now, and I’ll be looking to hire more in the next couple of months. I’ve had a couple therapists now who’ve been with me for quite a while, and I’ve had lots of Vicars grads come through my door,” she says. “I also have one Vicars student on staff right now.”

Her journey has not been without challenges, however. The industry has changed over the last decade, and she and her therapists have had to work hard to keep up.

“What I’ve noticed is the saturation of massage therapy companies in the Edmonton area,” Bree says. “There are a few very large big box companies coming out of the States that have made it harder for small business owners. Those big places, they underpay their therapists, and as a business owner who pays out a good percentage to my therapists, it’s really frustrating to see.”

To thrive with this increasing competition, Bree and her colleagues have had to get back to basics: providing consistent, high-quality treatments that her clients can count on.

“I think if you’re a good therapist, and you know what your clients want, they will always, always, always come back to you,” she says. “My bread and butter is my regular clientele. As long as they’re happy, I’m happy, because they stick around.”

And a decade in, Bree has no plans to slow down.

“I wouldn’t trade my job for the world. Being a massage therapist—I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I’m a single mum of a four-year-old, and I can still spend a ton of time with him and take clients in the evenings. It’s just so versatile.”

To learn more about Bree, read her bio on Balance Massage here.

To learn more about Balance Massage, visit their website.

A group of MH Vicars students sitting around the coffee table, discussing lessons.

As an RMT, you’ve chosen to dedicate your career to helping and connecting with others. So, networking should come as second nature. But too many massage therapists write off the idea entirely without realizing its value. Maybe the term brings to mind images of midlevel executives in uncomfortable suits exchanging superficial pleasantries along with their business cards. Maybe it just doesn’t seem necessary for someone who’s self-employed, or has a full client list.

If that’s been your attitude towards networking, it’s time to think again! Networking is an essential tool for RMTs at all stages of their careers. Authentic, meaningful networking isn’t about impressing your peers, or keeping up appearances. It’s about making connections and building communities.

Don’t believe me yet? Keep reading for our top 6 benefits of networking.

#1: Keep up with trends and innovations in the industry

A group of MH Vicars students sitting around the coffee table, discussing lessons.How do you stay on top of the latest massage news? If the answer is that you chat with your clients and fellow RMTs, then congratulations: you’re networking already!

While massage as a healing discipline is thousands of years old, as a modern career it’s experiencing rapid growth and change. From developments in regulation and school accreditation, to innovative treatments and modalities, there’s always something new to learn. By cultivating connections with other therapists and health professionals, you can keep up with all the latest news in this dynamic field.

#2: Make important referral contacts

Maybe you’re so busy that you have to turn potential clients away. Maybe you want to be able to recommend someone you trust when you have to refer your clients to another practitioner. In either case, it’s very helpful to know the therapists and health professionals in your area. Your clients trust you with their health when they’re on your table, and you owe it to them to be knowledgeable about their treatment options beyond your clinic walls.
And of course, making this type of connection pays off in both directions. Wellness professionals like physiotherapists, coaches, and chiropractors are often called upon to recommend massage to their clients and patients. By getting to know them, you’ll both benefit – and so will your clients.

#3: Get motivated

No matter how much you love your job – and we hope you adore it! – it’s still work. It’s natural for your drive and enthusiasm to ebb and flow.

One sure-fire way to jumpstart your passion for the career is to meet with fellow RMTs and talk about the job! Sharing ideas, tips, funny stories, and lessons learned can remind you why you chose this career in the first place, and will leave you re-energized about your practice.

#4: It’s an opportunity to find or become a mentor

I wouldn’t be where I am today – with a fulfilling job that I love – without the help and advice of a lot of different people, and I expect the same is true for you. Interestingly, I didn’t connect with the people whom I consider my most important mentors and teachers through formal mentorship programs. Rather, they’ve been bosses, professors, senior colleagues, and even friends who simply took the time to share their thoughts and experiences with me. It may have been a small thing to them, but it has been precious to me. I hope that someday, I can play a similar role in someone else’s life.

And these casual, organic mentor relationships are just as important for RMTs as they are for writers like me. By connecting with the rest of the massage community, you can meet people to learn from, and people to teach. Because we’re never too old to do either!

#5: Look for a new job, or find new employees

If I were writing this for another school’s blog, I would probably have put this one at the top of the list. It’s the most obvious benefit of formal networking. But if your clinic is fully booked, or you happily work for yourself, it might be the benefit you’re most likely to discount. If you’re not actively looking to switch jobs or hire anyone, cultivating employment contacts might be pretty low on your to-do list. And fair enough!

But this is an important strategy for students and new graduates, and those of you who are still building their practice. And even if you’re comfortable where you are right now: the right time to have this kind of connection is before you need it.

#6: Socialize and have fun!

This one isn’t an afterthought, I promise! Massage therapists are good people (and I’d know!). All the RMTs that I know are in this business because they care about others, and want to have a positive influence on the world. And who wouldn’t want to hang out with people like that?

When it comes down to it, “networking” is just connecting with other RMTs and wellness professionals. It’s spending time with people, be they old classmates or new friends, with whom you have a lot in common—and helping your career at the same time. What could be better?

Can you think of any benefits to networking that I’ve missed? What have been your best networking experiences so far? Please share them in the comments!

Applications are now being accepted for the 2016 Massage Therapy Research Fund. This is a wonderful opportunity for students and alumni to exercise their research muscles!

The MTRF funds academic research into many aspects of massage therapy as a discipline and as a profession. According to the MTRF:

“Eligible research topics include, but are not limited to:
– Massage Therapy effectiveness, efficacy and safety;
– Massage Therapy competencies and competency assessment;
– Access to and delivery of Massage Therapy services;
– Professionalization of Massage Therapy; and
– Evaluation of Massage Therapy practice.”

This year, they are also placing a special call for research on massage for soft tissue injuries.

Applications will be accepted until September, and more than $100,000 in funding is up for grabs for researchers across the country.

Read more on Massage Therapy Canada’s website. 

Thanks to Instructor Anna Faris for bringing this to our attention.

MH Vicars instructor teaching a class

We are about to devote many hours and quite a bit of money to earn a piece of paper that some other Alberta massage schools don’t even want. And we couldn’t be more delighted!

MH Vicars School has been chosen as a pilot school by the Canadian Massage Therapy Council for Accreditation! You read that right: at long last, massage schools in Canada will be able to earn accreditation from a national body. And they’ve chosen MH Vicars School to help launch that process.

We have invited a group of CMTCA assessors to use our campuses to test their assessment process. It’s the latest step towards a full, nationwide accreditation system.

What is accreditation?

To put it very simply, accreditation will mean that a school can prove that it:

  • Meets the curriculum standards of the regulated provinces
  • Awards diplomas only to massage therapists who have proven themselves skilled, knowledgeable, and effective
  • Delivers what it promises: qualified instructors; relevant content; and a culture of continuous improvement

These are the same high standards that we have set for ourselves every day.

Why do we care so much about CMTCA accreditation?

Maybe we just like being ahead of the crowd! After all, we were the first private school in Alberta to upgrade our curriculum to meet the national standard (which is required of schools in BC and other regulated provinces, but still voluntary in Alberta). We also were the first massage school to be named to the MTAA’s Approved Program List.

Accreditation is an essential step for government regulation of the industry, which we still don’t have in Alberta. I have been pushing for Canada-wide accreditation of massage schools since I started MH Vicars School in 2001. Accreditation of massage therapy schools means that students will get the best education, and clients will get the best treatments.

So why wouldn’t everyone want this?

Politics. And profits. With regulation, some MTs would have to get more education, and many schools would have to get better– a lot better, in many cases. And upgrading a school is expensive and time-consuming. We spend hundreds of hours each year refining our curriculum to make sure that it covers the latest massage and education research. Many schools don’t bother. They won’t upgrade their programs until they are forced to by regulation, or by an educated public.

We are pursuing accreditation because it is the right thing to do. It will be benefit our alumni, who are already in demand by employers and clients. Once they are able to say that they have graduated from an accredited school, it will only be further proof that they are worth every penny!

It will also benefit the public. Clients should be able to count on competent, effective therapy. Being able to choose therapists from accredited schools will make it easier for them to find the best therapists (our therapists, obviously!).

Accreditation is the future for massage therapy in Alberta, and we are thrilled to be a part of this process with the CMTCA.

Best,

Maryhelen Vicars

A relaxing hand massage

Welcome to the second half of our job search guide for massage therapists. In Part 1 of this guide, we covered how to determine what that perfect position will look like for you, and how to start finding opportunities that fit those goals. Today, we’ll discuss how to prepare for and ace your interviews, and how to handle contract negotiations.

Step 1: Be Prepared

I have sat on both sides of the job interview table in my career, and the most valuable lesson I’ve learned from this experience is that preparation is essential. As an applicant, I’ve been most successful when I’ve taken the time to research the position and the company, anticipate their questions, and come up with a few of my own. Similarly, there’s hardly anything that impresses me less as an interviewer than someone who obviously didn’t bother to prepare properly: either they have to fumble for answers to my questions, know nothing about the business or industry, or have no questions of their own. And you’d be surprised how often it happens!

Set yourself apart from the other applicants not just by your excellent training, but by doing your homework before the interview. If you’ve taken all the recommended steps from Part 1 of this guide, you’re more than halfway there.

Consider the interview as a conversation, not an interrogation. It’s an opportunity for both of you to learn about each other. They will want to know about your training, goals, strengths, and weaknesses. Try to anticipate their questions, and practice your responses. Why should they hire you?

Get ready to interview them, as well. What do you need to know in order to feel confident taking this position? Prepare a list of questions or topics to cover during (or before) the interview. Here’s a few to get you started:

  • What type of massage will you generally be providing? Do most of their clients book relaxation massages, or therapeutic ones? Does the clinic specialize in certain conditions or techniques?
  • What do they charge for a massage?
  • Will you be an employee, or a contractor? If on contract, will it be a commission split, or a flat monthly room rental?
  • If you’re an employee, what benefits (if any) do they offer?
  • What is the split amount? Is there a scale or cap?
  • What services will the employer provide? For example, if the commission split is 60/40, you need to know what they’re doing to earn their 40%. Ask about marketing, reception, supplies (ie, linens, oils, laundry), etc.
  • Will you be expected to sell products?
  • Is there a minimum time between treatments? Some clinics only allow 15 minutes between treatments.
  • Is there a minimum or maximum number of bookings per week? How much control will you have over your own hours?
  • Does the clinic have a policy manual?
  • How long have they been in business?
  • How long in advance do clients currently have to book their appointments? This is an easy way to gauge how busy you’ll be when you join them.
  • Are there clinic-specific processes and paperwork you’ll expected to follow? What forms do they use for health histories and assessment and treatment planning?
  • Is there a dress code?
  • Is the clinic owner present in the clinic on a regular basis? If not, is the clinic managed day to day by a manager or receptionist?
  • What continuing education support do they offer, if any?

Since you’ve already reviewed your priorities and goals, it should be easy to determine what answers you need to hear to these questions in order to be comfortable taking the job. Don’t be afraid to print off a list of questions to bring with you to the interview.

Step 2: The Interview

A relaxing hand massage

Finally, it’s time to put all that preparation to the test! My first piece of advice is to be confident. Not just because confidence and a professional manner are two of the “intangibles” that employers look for, but because you deserve to be. You have worked very hard and have been trained to the national standard. You have a lot to be proud of, and the interview is the time to show that off.

Your interview is likely to have two parts: a conversation with the employer, and a massage. When setting up the interview, confirm whether they’d prefer both during the same appointment, or if they’d like you to come back later for the massage (or vice versa). Wear your scrubs to perform the massage.

The interviewer may ask you to perform specific techniques, but most likely you’ll just be asked to perform a relaxation massage. Make sure you’re clear on their expectations regarding the style and length of the massage at the outset. Regardless of the style of massage, make sure you do a thorough health history and assessment. As you work, describe what you’re doing and why. Try to impress them with your flow, rhythm, and tissue engagement skills. This is also a great opportunity to discuss all the other techniques and modalities you’ve been taught, from hydrotherapy and remedial exercise, to seated and sports massage. Make sure they know how well you understand the concepts of assessment and treatment planning, and the conditions you’re able to treat.

Step 3: Don’t Settle

Remember, just because you’re offered a job doesn’t mean you have to take it. There are lots of jobs out there, so you don’t have to accept anything that doesn’t meet your standards. We recommend that you apply at a few places, and choose your favourite.

Don’t be afraid to walk away if something doesn’t feel right. What constitutes a red flag, or even a deal breaker, will vary from person to person. But here are a few specific things to watch out for during the interview and contract negotiation process:

  • Is the clinic clean? Does it seem organized and professional?
  • Do they have a comprehensive record-keeping system for health histories, SOAP notes, etc?
  • Is the employer vague about what your duties or responsibilities will be?
  • Do they seem more interested in hiring a salesperson than an RMT?
  • Do you feel comfortable with the number of shifts you’ll be expected to work?

If you’re still happy, it’s time to get down to the small print…

Step 4: No Loose Ends

A clearly written contract (or rental agreement) is essential. No matter how much you like and trust your employer or landlord, it’s imperative that you have the details of your business relationship in writing, in advance. Circumstances and relationships change, and memories can be fuzzy. Having a detailed written contract will protect both of you, and provide an easy reference to resolve misunderstandings and disputes.

Ideally, your contract won’t hold any surprises. Since you were so prepared for your interview, and asked so many great questions, it should simply reiterate what you’ve already talked about. Read it thoroughly before signing it, to make sure that you still agree with everything in there. It may be a good idea to have a friend or fellow RMT take a look before you sign. Don’t be afraid to ask the employer about anything you find unclear; request that they rewrite any confusing sections before you sign.

In addition to the topics included in the questions above, make sure that your contract is clear on your start date, what happens when you leave the clinic (what notice is required from both sides? Who will own client files? Is there a non-compete clause?), holidays and sick days (if you’re an employee), and what the grievance and disciplinary procedures are should either of you have a problem.

Congratulations on your first RMT job! We are incredibly proud of you and all that you’ve accomplished over the past two years, and are excited to watch the next step in your journey.

Your first RMT position is really important; it’s your first “real world” experience as a massage therapist, and will help set the tone for the rest of your career. Finding a job that excites and inspires you, in an environment that offers both challenges and support, is essential. We hope that having done all this research and preparation will ensure that your first job will fit the bill. But it might not, and that’s ok. It’s alright to leave! Even a bad experience can be worthwhile, as long as you learn from it.

We wish you the best.