We’re excited for the brand new school year, but September will be a little bittersweet this year as two well-loved faces will be missing from campus. Please join us in saying “goodbye, thank you, and good luck” to Robert Haviar and Christina Wahlers. After many wonderful years as Vicars instructors, Christina and Robert are retiring from teaching and moving on to the next stages of their lives and careers.

Retiring Edmonton instructor Robert Haviar

Retiring Calgary instructor Christina Wahlers

Robert has been teaching at Vicars in Edmonton since 2004 and has been a part of countless students’ journeys over the last 16 years. Christina has been an invaluable member of our Calgary teaching staff for almost a decade, and has helped us along our path to accreditation in addition to sharing her skill in the classroom.

I chatted with both Christina and Robert this summer to hear about what’s next each of them, and to reflect on their time at Vicars. And it was obvious in our conversations that while both of them are excited about their next chapters, a part of them was already starting to miss their students.

“I just loved being with the students, and I loved sharing with them,” said Robert. “What I’ve enjoyed most about teaching is seeing the ‘aha!’ moments students had, when the lightbulb lit up above their head and you could see that they got something at a deeper level. That was amazingly satisfying, and it still is.”

“A lot of my favourite memories of my classes are from when we’re doing the review at the end of the year, before exams. That’s when I could see the students start to relax a little bit, and all their personalities come out as they realize they’re getting close to the finish line,” said Christina. “I absolutely loved watching our students become these competent, confident therapists that I’m proud to now call my colleagues.”

After years of being the ones standing at the front of the classroom, both Robert and Christina are putting their ‘student’ hats back on and continuing their educations beyond massage therapy – though neither is leaving the career behind. Christina is returning to university to complete an undergraduate degree, and hopes to continue to advocate for massage therapy in Canada. Robert plans to study Somatics, in order to have another way to help his clients heal.

It’s been a pleasure to work with Robert and Christina all these years, and we wish them well.

This school year will be unlike any other that we’ve experienced, and we know that there will be challenges and surprises ahead. We have been working hard all summer to make sure that when our students and faculty return to campus in August and September, they’ll be able to learn and work in a safe and comfortable environment.

To give you an idea of what campus will be like on your next visit, here’s an overview of our COVID-19 safety protocols.

These health and safety measures comply with the Government of Alberta COVID-19 Risk Mitigation requirements for post-secondary institutions, and municipal bylaws. We have also taken guidance from the rules created by Alberta’s main massage therapy professional associations for their individual members, and consulted with our colleagues at other massage schools across the country.

  • Our campus will remain closed to the general public. Only students, faculty, staff, and essential visitors will be allowed on site. We are not yet accepting clinic clients.
  • Masks will be mandatory for students, faculty, and staff when on campus, with a few exceptions when people are physically distanced or have other PPE.
  • Everyone will complete a screening questionnaire online every day before they enter the building. Anyone who is deemed to be at risk of transmitting the COVID-19 virus (as identified by the screening questionnaire or public health authorities) will not be permitted on campus until the risk has passed.
  • All campus areas are professionally cleaned regularly. Students will also be responsible for disinfecting their massage station and desk at the end of the day. Cleaning supplies will be provided.
  • Classrooms will be preassigned, so students will only be share spaces with your own instructors and classmates.
  • Students will have one massage partner each day for all of the hands-on work.
  • Some common areas and campus amenities will be off-limits.

More detailed instructions are being shared with students. If you have any questions about how we’re protecting the Vicars community, please be in touch!

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!

Vi

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.