1. Experience – Does this person have recent lymphedema experience? If their experience is just having finished a training program, there will be a learning curve; there’s no teacher like experience. A “new grad” may do very well, especially if they have worked in this setting or are familiar with the types of comorbidities that may go along with a patient’s lymphedema (such as Chronic Venous Insufficiency, Obesity, Cellulitis, Cancer, etc.). They should also know when underlying conditions are a cause of edema & not true lymphedema; an experienced clinician will have had more time to reinforce other causes of swelling like CHF, Renal Failure, Malnutrition, DVT & what to do or not do.
2. Familiarity with Practice Setting – Is this setting familiar to this new hire? For example, if they have never worked in acute care & have no wound care experience, they may be overwhelmed by the lack of supplies in the department. Instead of the material with which they were trained (Stockinette, foam or cotton & short-stretch bandages), they have access to wound care supplies (such as Kerlix, Abdominal pads, Tubigrip, ACE bandages, wound care kits). They may not know what to do with these items. As another example, maybe this is a traditional setting such as outpatient. If they’re already familiar with the flow of outpatient, applying their acquired lymphedema skills won’t be as taxing an effort. They may not have experienced the full course of treatment from start to finish (i.e. from evaluation to garment fitting – permitting familiarity with vendors & appropriate compression levels), but they’ll have one less hurdle to overcome – an unfamiliar setting.
3. Mentors – Do you have mentors available? It’s hard to have a check off list for competencies if you don’t have an experienced CLT on staff to administer & assess these competencies. It’s also difficult to give insight or guidance when a difficult case is presented or Cellulitis has never been seen or they don’t have a wound care background & haven’t seen chronic venous insufficiency. Has the mentor attended the same training school as the new hire? While the basics will be the same, the technique or MLD sequence may be slightly different; they may or may not have been trained in the use of ACE bandaging versus short-stretch bandages, etc.
4. Orientation – Are you willing to slowly break them in if they are not familiar with your administrative tasks (i.e. Are you willing to train them in your documentation process until they are comfortable or do you want someone who is ready for a full caseload immediately)?
5. Communication – Repeat what you think you understand during the interview. Communication is key. Even though you may be ready for relief by adding a team member, don’t overlook ensuring mutual understanding of your needs & their experience & ability. Also, don’t overlook communicating expectations. For example, if this is “PRN” position, have you clearly communicated scheduling? Consider this scenario: You hire a “PRN” but don’t want them to be on the clock if they don’t have a patient scheduled. Their hours are 1:00 – 5:30 pm Monday, Wednesday, Friday. If their first patient has been at 2:00 & suddenly you schedule a 1:00 for them, how will they know? Consider the small details during orientation.
Hiring a Lymphedema Therapist to start a new program or to take part of the load can be a great experience for both of you. Be sure to ask the right questions to ensure you get the perfect candidate & that it’s a smooth transition.