We miss you!

Everyone at MH Vicars is here because we love massage therapy, and have first-hand knowledge of the benefits that regular treatments from a well-trained massage therapist can bring. And nothing compares to the satisfaction of treating a client who’s sore, stressed, or in pain and seeing them walk out of your clinic with a smile on their face. Though the satisfaction of teaching someone the skills to do that comes pretty close!

So it goes without saying that we’re counting down the days until we can reopen our public clinics and see you again.

But we won’t do so until we’re confident that we can ensure everyone’s safety, and also support our students’ educational goals. This means that we cannot guarantee when our clinics will reopen.

We cannot guarantee when our clinics will reopen.

We have been carefully following the updates and announcements by Alberta’s public health officials, and were pleased to see that the government has included massage therapy in its multi-stage relaunch strategy. Massage therapists will be able to begin seeing clients, with some restrictions, in stage 2 of the plan.

We don’t yet know when stage 2 will begin. The first stage could begin as early as May 14, and further changes will depend on how that goes. We don’t expect that massage therapy clinics will be able to open for another month at the earliest.

Despite that uncertainty, massage therapists across the province are already making plans for how to safely reopen their practices.

Even for small clinics and single-therapist practices, reopening safely is going to be a huge undertaking. The professional associations have begun to publish the health and safety protocols for their members. Almost all aspects of running a practice will be affected, from your therapist’s personal protective equipment to how they disinfect common areas to how they coordinate the movement of clients and staff in and out of the clinic.

When you next see your massage therapist, you can rest assured that they will be doing everything that they can to reduce your risk of being exposed to the coronavirus. And that includes the next time that you come for a student massage at Vicars in Calgary and Edmonton. But as much planning and preparation that will need to go into re-opening a regular massage clinic (and it’s a lot!) it pales in comparison to the work that will have to go into safely opening our public clinics.

The most obvious challenge is the sheer size of our clinics. We are a large school and our public clinics regularly have over a dozen student therapists treating clients at a time. That means a lot of shared spaces, and shared surfaces. We will need to review our (already robust) cleaning and disinfecting protocols, and may need to adjust our clinic schedules. We will also need to have a reliable supply of personal protective equipment. All of this needs to be coordinated around our students’ educations, as well. Classes have continued online since we closed our campuses in March, and some students will have exams in June.

We appreciate your understanding. We also ask you to show the same patience and compassion to other therapists in your community, who may choose to delay opening their practices. All therapists and business owners will have different factors to consider in deciding when and how to reopen.

We will continue to share updates, and will let you know when we are ready to accept bookings again. Until then, stay safe and well.

In response to the continued spread of the COVID-19 virus, we have made the difficult decision to temporarily close our campuses.

Both the Edmonton and Calgary campuses will be closed from Monday, March 16 until further notice. All on-campus activities including classes, clinics, and study halls will be cancelled.

We are making this decision as a precautionary measure. Post-secondary schools in Alberta have not yet been required to shut down operations. However, the best way for people to slow the spread of this virus is to reduce the risk of exposure. So we are choosing to pause our in-person interactions for a few weeks.

And because our program is delivered through blended learning, we are better prepared for this type of situation than some other schools.

We are communicating directly with students with updates on how this will impact their studies.

Upcoming events and in-person appointments for prospective students will be rescheduled or switched to a virtual platform. If you have an appointment booked with any of us, we’ll contact you to confirm the details.

Thank you for your understanding and patience.

There’s nothing like a road trip to see old friends!

On October 7, our Executive Director Sarah Ward-Bakken and our Curriculum Director Linda McGeachy joined massage therapists from across the province for the Massage Therapist Association of Alberta’s annual general meeting.

The MTAA is one of Alberta’s three major professional associations for massage therapists, and represents many Vicars graduates, students, and faculty. (Vicars instructors and supervisors are all practicing therapists, and our faculty includes members of the MTAA, NHPC, and RMTA). Sarah and Linda were joined at this year’s AGM by instructors Kerri Wagensveld, Janine Borger, Dan Hvingelby, and Tamara Goodrich – as well as many successful Vicars grads!

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Kerri, Sarah, Dan, Linda, and Tamara at the 2019 MTAA AGM

Connecting with colleagues is only one reason we headed to Red Deer, though. These annual meetings are an important way for members to learn about what their association is doing on their behalf, and to have a say in what it does in the future.

The most interesting information at this year’s meeting was, of course, updates on the future of regulation and school accreditation in Alberta. The MTAA has been at the forefront of the campaign for both of these projects, and everyone at the meeting was keen to hear the latest news.

This past year has been very eventful on both fronts. Some of it has been very positive, such as PEI becoming regulated and the College of Massage Therapists of BC signing a multi-year accreditation contract with the Canadian Massage Therapy Council for Accreditation.

But unfortunately for those of us who are committed to meeting a Canada-wide standard of training and client care in Alberta, there have also been setbacks to both the accreditation and regulation processes.

The MTAA have been one of the strongest advocates for the advancement of our profession in Alberta, and we were glad to be at the meeting to be able to hear their perspective on the issues.

We will be writing more about both regulation and accreditation – what they mean, why they matter, and how we can achieve them – in the next few weeks, so stay tuned.

Flag of PEI

There’s big news for massage in Canada’s smallest province! Prince Edward Island has added massage therapy to its list of Regulated Health Professions.Flag of PEI

Please join us in congratulating the Prince Edward Island Massage Therapy Association (PEIMTA) for this achievement. Those of us working toward regulation in Alberta know just how much work it has taken for PEI’s massage therapists to meet this goal. PEI is now the fifth regulated province in Canada, after BC, Ontario, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador. A Regulatory College is currently being formed.

Regulation is good for both clients and therapists. It ensures that all therapists practicing in a province must meet a high standard of knowledge and skill. This means that no matter where a client goes for a massage in PEI, they can trust that their registered massage therapist will be able to treat them safely and effectively.

MH Vicars School has been advocating for regulation in Alberta since we opened. We look forward to continuing to work with the provincial associations and other reputable schools in the province toward that goal so that all therapists and clients in Alberta can enjoy the same benefits as our friends in PEI.

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.

An image of someone working on their laptop and visiting Facebook

This morning when I sat down at my desk, coffee in hand, the first thing that I did was open up Facebook. It’s the first thing I do every morning.

This isn’t a confession that I’m slacking off on the job—quite the opposite, in fact!

As Communications Coordinator, it’s my job to promote the School, share what’s happening on campus, and answer questions from clients and prospective (and current) students. And one of the ways I do this is by using social media.

Hence the morning Facebook-and-coffee ritual each morning. I log in to Facebook and navigate to the MH Vicars School business page (resisting the temptation to check my own notifications…usually!) and see how the online community has been interacting with the School.

An image of someone working on their laptop and visiting Facebook

I check the messaging inbox—recent messages have included questions about class schedules, job postings, and continuing education – and reply to comments. I also go behind the scenes to check out the analytic data on recent posts—information that’s available on business pages but not personal profiles. This allows me to learn about what our Facebook community likes, so I can create even more relevant and enjoyable content for them in the future.

I check back in with Facebook—and our Instagram account—once or twice during the day. I’ll write new posts and either publish them immediately or schedule them for later. I try to post at least once a day for the school, being careful not to spam peoples’ timelines or neglect my other responsibilities.

Relatively speaking, it’s a small part of my job. But it’s an incredibly important one. These days, it’s vital for businesses to have a social media presence. And though massage therapy is an offline profession, it’s no exception.

As an RMT, you are your own business, and your own brand. It doesn’t matter whether you’re an employee of another clinic, or run your own practice, or even if you’re a student just starting to build a network of potential clients. No matter your practice, your customers are online. They expect you to have a responsive web presence, and social media is one of the fastest, cheapest, and most effective ways to meet that need.

Your daily social media doesn’t need to look like mine, but if you want to grow your client base, manage your personal brand, and communicate with your clients, you should really be on social media.

Platforms like Facebook and Instagram offer a wide range of tools specifically for businesses. They allow you to separate your personal and professional identities online, communicate with your clients, and build your ideal audience. But these tools can be complex, they aren’t always intuitive, and they’re regularly being updated. I’ve been using Facebook for business for years, and every few months I make a point to check out what new features are available.

If you don’t already have a Facebook business page, now’s the time. But you don’t have to learn how to do it alone. To learn how to set up your page, or make sure that you’re using it to the best potential, I recommend you attend the one-day social media marketing course we’re holding at the end of the month:


Building Your Massage Business
(Level I): Using Social Media to Build Your Brand

When: November 25, 2017
Where: Edmonton Campus

Sign Up


 

International Womens Day logo

International Women’s Day, March 8, is a global celebration of the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.

Like so many health and caring professions, massage therapy is dominated by women. At MH Vicars School, we are proud to work with so many strong, smart, caring, funny, driven women every day—both students and staff.

When Maryhelen founded the school, one of her goals was to create a space where women could improve their lives by getting a great education that prepared them for a successful career, while still being able to fulfill their many responsibilities. Sixteen years later, and we’re as dedicated to that dream as ever.

Please join us today in honouring the women in your life who inspire you. For us, it’s all of you.

It feels so good to see a dream coming true!

Last night we held our first ever community-building event. We wanted it to be a night of connection and inspiration; between graduates, current students, and professionals from the wider wellness community. It’s something I’ve always wished for…and it worked!!Everyone at the networking event participating in a group exercise, with all their hands up in the air

It was a great night! We had lots of yummy food and beverages, lots of stimulating conversation, lots of hugs from our wonderful alumni and big smiles from our current students. This is such a vibrant community to be a part of!

Geha Gonthier gave an inspiring lecture on holistic wellness through the lens of Oriental Medicine, mainly the practice of Shiatsu massage. Her lively presentation helped those of us trained in clinical orthopedic massage therapy to understand how energy/vitality and organ systems can inform us how to treat the “being” on the table. Everyone in the room could feel her respect for her clients, her passion for health and wellness, and her willingness to share.

Geha is teaching a course called Applied Shiatsu (Level 1) at our Edmonton campus on March 24-26. I’ve taken this course myself and found it easy to integrate with my therapeutic massage practice. It also gave me tools for sustaining my own energy levels no matter what was happening with the person I was treating on my table. This course has received high continuing credit values with the major associations. Click here for details.Two attendees sharing a hug and smiling

I’m grateful to everyone who showed up and made the night so special. Their presence and enthusiasm was contagious. It’s so easy to start conversations when we all share the same values for our profession and its vital place in the wellness paradigm. And what a great opportunity to meet practitioners who aren’t MTs, who we can refer clients to when needed!

We will be hosting more of these networking events in the future, both in Edmonton and Calgary. You’ll have the opportunity to meet physiotherapists, chiropractors, naturopaths, nutritionists, business mentors and many others. But of course, the reason we’re hosting these events is our inner circle of alumni and graduates. If there’s a topic or presenter you would like to see at future events, please let us know in the comments below. Tell us what interests you, because that is what interests us!

Finally, I want to thank the dream team: the stellar MH Vicars staff who worked so hard to make this dream a reality! Big high fives all around!