An Interview with Steve Kirin, New CEO of NCBTMB

I recently had the opportunity to meet with Steve Kirin, the new CEO of the NCBTMB. This is the interview I did with him. 

1. You were just appointed CEO in May, but you’ve been on board for a year and a half. What do you see as the major challenges facing the NCBTMB at this time?

·        I believe there are several key challenges.

o   I feel the primary challenge that we continue to face at NCBTMB is defining and communicating the importance of certification.  I have had the pleasure of speaking with hundreds of dedicated therapists during the past year and a half, and believe the profession deserves and needs a credential that symbolizes a commitment to the highest standard of education and practice within the profession of massage therapy.

o   We have rolled out an entirely new suite of products and services over the past 18 months; ensuring that our constituents understand those products and find them valuable in advancing their own professional credentials is essential as well.

o   NCBTMB means different things—good and bad—to different people.  I am committed to defining NCBTMB in a singular way—as the organization committed to providing a pathway for those who value excellence.  Our new programs—which were rolled out and not just promised—are designed to do just that.

·        We are fortunate to not have significant directional challenges as are sometimes evident in CEO transitions.  Fortunately, Mike and I worked closely together in crafting our direction and our programs.  Our customers and those with whom we do business should expect a consistent direction from NCBTMB.

2. What kind of progress have you seen since coming into the organization?

·        “Listening to the Profession” is without question the one progressive change in philosophy that I am most proud of since joining NCBTMB.  Through the development of our social media platform, Quarterly CEO Webinar (coming soon) just to mention a few of the new initiatives, we will continue to demonstrate our desire to listen to the profession.

·        There was a great deal of market confusion between licensing and certification.  By separating our certification product, we have put real value behind the certification credential.  Further, we have had the opportunity to totally recraft every point of interaction between the profession and NCBTMB.  Now our programs not only raise the standard across the profession but give our certificants a means to differentiate themselves to their customers.  I am thrilled with this change in programs and look forward to rolling out further enhancements over the next year.

3. What do you have to say about the mass protest that happened over the revised CE/AP rules?

·        I personally would never refer to it as a mass protest.  I call it feedback. When you make a commitment to listen to the profession and ask for honest feedback, you need to embrace the feedback you receive.  AP/CE was a great example of how we listened and adjusted the program based on the feedback.

4. I notice that the AP/CE page has not had an update since February. Has any progress been made towards another revision of that program?

·        The board approved the final draft of the program at our June Board meeting and we will begin to rollout the program shortly.  The applications are being finalized and as soon as that process is complete we will add all of the information to the website. Before we launch the new program, November 1, 2013, NCB will send eBlast to all of the CE Providers across the country explaining the changes and guidelines of the new process.

5. I’d like to state that the NCB’s policy of approving classes as long as they can show “lineage” is a huge cause of distress to science-based and evidence-informed practitioners. When the classes that are being approved directly contradict the laws of physics and are based on claims that are totally false, why are those classes still being approved?   

·        We are not approving classes as long as they can show lineage but rather we are asking for a historical perspective as to the origin of the modality.  Courses that can be found within the lineage of massage refer to information that has been passed forward through history.  We are here to do a detailed review but we have no right to say that something is or is not “real” in the holistic profession. Regulations and information gathering in this profession is in its infancy and as anyone who has done research about different modalities within the holistic profession has found, there is much room for research in the future. This is where getting public feedback will play an integral part as to whether a class is successful and useful to a practitioner and their clients.

·         Philosophy and Medicine are very similar in that there are theories and practices that work and it is not known why but they are still part of the practice of medicine.  Trying to get all of massage CE around evidence based studies would do no justice to the profession.

6.  How is the new Board Certification going? How many people have earned it so far? How many have actually had to take the exam and how many have been “grandfathered”?

·        I am very pleased with the progress of our board certification. Since the initial rollout of the new credential, our current Nationally Certified Therapists have been affected the most.  I am proud to say that, through the relentless effort of our Customer Service team, every conversion to Board Certification was successfully handled on a case by case basis.  The overall success of the program cannot be measured over months but rather over the next few years.  A major part of the success will come from the continued effort to communicate the importance of certification.

7. What would you say to convince massage therapists that they should seek the new Certification?

·        NCBTMB is committed to developing a platform and a series of programs for those who strive to differentiate themselves in this profession.  From our school programs to our continuing education and exam programs and our ethics and standards reviews, NCBTMB is committed to excellence at every point of interaction with the profession. The profession needs a higher credential comparable to other professions and industries.  The foundation of any certification comes from self-pride.  Wanting to be the best.   And we intend to roll out further enhancements to our offerings that will further allow our certificants the opportunity to differentiate themselves in the marketplace.  I look forward to our certificants realizing the value of their credential that our direction will allow.

8. Why did the NCBTMB drop the Ethics requirement from renewals?

·        There were several factors involved in the decision to drop the Ethics requirement.

o   First there was the reduction from a 4 year recertification (48 CE Hours) to a 2 year recertification (24 CE Hours).   If 3 of the 24 hours are required for ethics and an additional 3 were now required for research, it would only allow 18 hours for professional development.

o   Additionally, since the States currently uphold an ethics requirement, we did not want to duplicate efforts.  Based on these reason and others, it was decided to drop the Ethics requirement.

·        Based on feedback from the profession,  I am happy to say that our Board has decided to add two topics to the agenda for discussion and eventual vote at the Board meeting this Monday, July 22nd:

o   Reinstatement of the Ethics requirements (Note from Laura: it was reported by Sue Toscano, NCBTMB President, at the AFMTE meeting that it has been reinstanted.)

o   The elimination of the recertification restriction on courses that contain less than 2 CE hours

9. Have you studied the past history of the NCB and familiarized yourself with some of the previous mistakes that have happened there—in the interest of not repeating any of them?

·        It is always easy to judge people’s success from the outside; each of our CEOs has had unique challenges to address during their tenure.  I will say that I am committed to continuing to develop programs that raise the standards of the profession and give interested therapists, instructors and schools ways to differentiate themselves from those not seeking higher credentials.

10. What do you want to say to people who have experienced long wait times for a response, conflicting information from staff members, lack of returning phone calls etc? Is it a priority of yours to improve the customer service at the NCB?

·        This is a subject that is near and dear to my heart.  My background has always placed a high importance on Customer Service.  In regards to the challenges that surrounded the announcement of all the changes to NCB, no one was happy with the long wait times and confusing information that followed.  We reacted quickly to the high volumes and instructed the staff that every single caller must receive the highest level of customer service possible.  I was very proud of our customer service team.  The volumes have since subsided and Customer Service will continue to be a top priority for me moving forward.

11. Are you personally a consumer of massage?

·        I am very proud to say that “Yes” I am a consumer of massage.  Throughout my life, I have grown to appreciate the medicinal benefits of massage through my many years of participation in high level competitive sports.

Anything else you’d like to say?

·        I am thrilled to be in this position and to have the opportunity to continue the path of excellence that we have blazed over the past eighteen months.  I had significant involvement in developing our current direction and intend to continue on that path as we move forward.

·        At NCBTMB we are striving to improve our credential and provide a more meaningful career path for all therapists.  It is important to us to make it known to the public that there is a higher credential and what it stands for within the massage therapy profession.  I know that, currently, therapists do not always feel the credential is necessary, after all it is voluntary.   I look at it in a completely different way.  The Board Certification credential is truly how you can set yourself apart from others who choose not to hold the certification.  As I mentioned earlier, the foundation of any certification is built on self-pride.  Challenging yourself to achieve the highest credential available within your profession, gives you the satisfaction of knowing that you hold yourself up to the highest standards possible.   I look forward to continuing to grow NCB, WITH the profession and I look forward to our new offerings that will further allow our certificants to differentiate themselves.

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