Janine Borger still loves being an RMT (And we still love her!)

Vicars School instructor Janine Borger gets up close and personal with “Stan” the skeleton

When Janine Borger was hired as an instructor at Vicars back in 2002, she insisted on completing our second-year classes first.

She says the extra work was “just to solidify what I knew and to understand the Vicars approach to curriculum delivery.” At the time, she had four children at home, owned and operated a large massage clinic in Lacombe, and was very involved in local minor hockey.

That level of energy and commitment, it turns out, is a Janine trademark and it hasn’t changed. Twenty-five years later, she continues to welcome the changes in the industry that have opened doors for well-prepared graduates.

“We’ve seen the viewpoint of massage therapy change from that of a pampering treatment to a complementary health therapy,” she says. “We’ve seen it become more common for physicians and other professionals in the medical field to refer their patients for massage therapy, and we’ve seen insurance companies allowing more access to coverage under extended benefits.”

These industry changes are reflected in rising standards in the quality of massage education nationally and in Alberta. Janine is very much part of the change, both in her role at Vicars in ensuring the delivery of the highest level of education for our students, and in her work with the Massage Therapy Association of Alberta in the area of massage education.

“It’s really worthwhile to stay connected to our professional body and to keep up with the latest information and initiatives,” she says.

Janine brings her own educational experiences to her teaching: “I think a little of my forte is that I can relate to the pressures of going back to school when you’re no longer 18 and have been out of the educational system,” says Janine. “I feel I can encourage students to learn material that is within their grasp and show them how to leap forward.”

“I love my profession and so I love it when I connect with students and can help them through the hard parts,” Janine says. “For some, the two years at Vicars can be life-changing and I can shine a light along the way.”

While the mix of several different generations, often in one class, keeps her thinking young, there are challenges as well. Staying current with the changing needs of students in a challenging global environment means that there are more mental and emotional aspects of student support than ever before.

“It’s become a much more complex world, and people are affected by that,” she says. “Students don’t just sit in a classroom and absorb; they internalize their world, and it becomes part of their learning.”

For Janine, guiding students along the path to becoming professional massage therapists is grounded in connections with people. From ethics to marketing and business, she says every aspect of the curriculum is about that.

“Helping people and showing them how you can help them benefit from massage therapy comes up again and again,” she says. “And when students first start in the public clinic, when they meet their first clients, we ensure that they are in a safe place and have the tools and support to work through the challenges of interacting in an intimate way with strangers.”

For more than 20 of the almost 30 years that she’s been an RMT, Janine has been a valued instructor at Vicars in the classroom and, in recent years, the dedicated Edmonton instructor of Anatomy & Physiology and Pathology, courses Vicars students take online. More recently, Janine has taken on an administrative role as faculty liaison between campuses, working closely with Curriculum Director Linda McGeachy and Executive Director Sarah Ward. To ensure that Vicars upholds the standards that are required of accredited massage schools, everything from curriculum, policies and procedures, and responses to student issues and concerns must be consistent across the two campuses.

Janine works with instructors to keep them up to current accreditation standards, which includes new approaches to curriculum delivery, new material for the curriculum, and keeping up with research.

“One of the best things about Janine is that she holds my feet to the fire and never has an issue asking a direct question to gain clarity about the reason or direction that we’re going,” says Sarah. “She’s exceptional in her role and a huge support to me.”

Janine comes from a family of academics and medical professionals but didn’t discover her love of anatomy and physiology until she worked in a hospital brain injury unit years ago. That interest led her to pursue massage therapy training, which she completed in 1995. She joined Vicars School of Massage Therapy as an instructor in 2002, shortly after it was founded by Maryhelen Vicars. By then Janine had several years’ experience running her own clinic.

Janine continued her work at her clinic for several more years while teaching at Vicars. When her children were grown, she sold the clinic. Like all Vicars instructors, she continues to practice massage, and brings that day-to-day experience to the classroom: “Being on the front line with all kinds of clients really is important in describing experiences and potential situations to students,” she says. “It also helps prepare them for when they do their training in our school’s public clinics.”

Her years of practice are core to Janine’s teaching, but so are her relationships with other health professionals, made easier in a small town than in a larger city. She feels strongly that Vicars students who come from small towns and rural areas have an advantage over students from urban areas.

“There are many opportunities to meet with other health professionals in a smaller community whether it’s at a sports arena or a community meeting,” she says. “And those can turn into opportunities to discuss the commonalities in how you can help their patients.”

Because she knew so many other health professionals and was invited to different events and sessions that they held, she was able to bring that collaboration to her work at Vicars. “Those cross-disciplinary collaborations create advocates for the massage therapy profession,” Janine says.

Looking back over her career as a therapist and an instructor, Janine sees her time at Vicars has really been beneficial to her personal life, her career and to the people she’s met along the way.

“There is so much joy in showing people what you love about your profession,” she says. “I attribute my teaching to being able to be a massage therapist for as long as I want. It’s something I’m very grateful to Vicars for.”

Kathleen Thurber
Author: Kathleen Thurber

Kathleen Thurber is an Edmonton-based health and science writer.