1. Have a mentor. A lot of information is put into the 135-hour (or more in some cases) training course you attend. If the information is new to you, it’s a lot to process & remember. There will be questions that come up when treating patients or things you didn’t learn that you thought you did. A mentor is invaluable. Often times your course instructor can be this person.
2. Begin to treat immediately (& in a traditional setting like outpatient, if possible). Not only will your new skills begin to be honed & perfected while fresh, but if practicing in outpatient, you will get a comprehensive knowledge of treatment from start to finish (including knowledge of vendors & what compression types & levels are appropriate for which patients). If you start in a setting like acute care, on the other hand, a patient may discharge before being ready for compression garments or you may not see lymphedema patients regularly or supplies may be different than you were trained with, etc. A traditional setting will permit you to solidify the basics before being put into a setting requiring creativity & additional knowledge.
3. Practice in a familiar setting. If you’re familiar & experienced in your current work setting, that’s one hurdle you won’t have to jump. But if you’re trying to navigate & adjust to a new setting in addition to applying newly acquired lymphedema skills in that setting, it will be a double challenge. At the very least, ensure you have a mentor.
4. Be conservative in treatment. For example, if a person presents with swelling in both legs, once you determine they’re appropriate for treatment, don’t start by bandaging both legs & the abdomen in your first treatment. Instead, after a comprehensive assessment & history, begin with bandaging the most swollen extremity first. Ensure the patient had no problems or complaints the next visit. If not, then consider progressing to the second leg. If you aggressively bandage, you could overload a person’s cardiac or renal function.
5. Be selective in where you work. If you aren’t able to use your skills in your current work setting & plan to seek new employment, be selective about where you choose to work. No matter how excited or anxious you are to put your new skill set to practice, if you get an uneasy feeling during the interview process (or even immediately after hire), consider working elsewhere. Red flags might include:
- tension between employees or a sense of communication breakdown
- the impression they are overwhelmed & anxious to get relief
- a lack of receptiveness to a request for guidance or supervision
- insufficient time given to learn their documentation process
Being a Certified Lymphedema Therapist is a rewarding area of expertise. Congratulations on your accomplishment! And, starting out with the right resources & support can make it even more fulfilling.