After spending six years completing her post-secondary education, Heather Wiebe is anxious to begin her career as a massage therapist.
The Sudbury native spent four years at Laurentian University, where she earned a degree in health promotion, and another two at Lambdon College is Sarnia, where she graduated with a massage therapy diploma in June.
But Wiebe hit a snag when it came to taking her written certification exam with the College of Massage Therapists of Ontario.
The 24-year-old was originally planned to take the exam last month.
However, in May, the regulatory body learned the exam had “potentially been compromised, involving the harvesting and circulation of current exam questions,” according to a press release from the college.
The massage therapists' college took “immediate steps to investigate the allegations,” and eventually rescheduled the exam for November.
Wiebe said she already has a job lined up at a new massage therapy clinic due to open in Sudbury in the near future, but she can't work in her field until she's certified.
While her future boss is willing to hold the job for her, she said the delay in becoming certified is ultimately hampering her ability to start paying back student loans.
“I'm going to have to take on a part-time job like retail or a restaurant until I can work as a massage therapist,” Wiebe said.
As part of its measures to improve security, the massage therapists' college has decided to move from a computer-based exam to a paper-based exam.
All students will now be required to write the exam in Toronto, Wiebe said. Before the problems with the exam, Wiebe would have been able to write it in nearby North Bay.
“Now I have to come to Toronto, it will be more expensive,” Wiebe said. “I have to pay for gas and transportation, hotel, food.”
Partly because so many of her constituents are affected, Nickel Belt MPP France Gélinas wrote a letter to Health and Long-Term Care Minister Deb Matthews about the issue.
She said in the letter that the massage therapists' college is regulated under the Health Professions Act, and therefore should provide responsible and timely services to its members. Gélinas asked Matthews if she could step in.
“This is not reasonable,” she told Northern Life.
“First of all, they will be six months without work. They are brand-new health-care professionals, and they have brand-new skills, and you take them out of the market for six months. Chances are they will have lost some of their skills.”
For its part, the college said it understands that delaying the exam could negatively impact recent graduates.
“While the college is acutely sensitive to the needs of its registrants, as well as candidates seeking registration, it has the statutory duty to balance those needs against the over-arching objective of protecting the public and ensuring that only those properly qualified to practise the profession are registered to do so,” Vahe Kehyayan, registrar and CEO of the college, said in the press release.
“Fundamental to that process is ensuring that the entry-to-practice certification examination is appropriate, in order that the college as well as the public and those individuals who do qualify for membership can all be satisfied that those registered are in fact qualified to do so.”
Kehyayan added that the college is committed to quickly processing the new registrants upon successful completion of the November exam.
The press release does not explain why students can't write the exam sooner. Officials with the regulatory body were not immediately available to speak about the matter.
Collège Boréal is one of the community colleges in the province which offers a massage therapy program. Northern Life attempted to contact officials with the program, but they weren't immediately available for an interview.
Posted by Arron Pickard