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How do I choose a lymphoedema practitioner in Australia?

It is worth taking the time and effort to do a thorough research when choosing a lymphoedema therapist.

It is important to ask your practitioner if they have suitable training.

What is suitable lymphoedema training in Australia?

Suitable training includes the following 4 steps.

1/ Your practitioner will need a degree to become a health professional suitable for providing physical therapies. Your therapist should be a qualified Physiotherapist, Occupational Therapist, Registered Nurse, Remedial Massage Therapist, Myotherapist, Podiatrist, Exercise Physiologist, Chiropractor or Osteopath. Speech Pathologist also treat facial lymphoedema.

Your therapist may also be a Doctor that has a special interest in the lymphatic system and may prescribe the therapy but does not usually do the hands on therapy such as a General Practitioners / Doctors, Vascular Specialists / Phlebologists, Rehabilitation Specialists, Radiation Therapists and Cancer Surgeons.

The length of time your practitioner invested into studying in order to receive their health qualification will depend on their health profession. If your therapist has only invested a few weeks in training, then they cannot be suitably qualified to become a health care practitioner. For example, it takes your practitioner at least 1 year to become a Remedial Massage Therapist (completed through TAFE or private training companies) and 4 years to become a Physiotherapist (completed through University).

You can ask questions by stating, “I am wanting to ensure that I feel comfortable with finding a suitably trained therapist. Can you please answer a few questions for me?”:

If they say, “Yes” the first question is:

“What is your health profession?” followed by “Do you have a health degree or health qualification?”

2/ Suitably trained health practitioners will have medical insurance. Your practitioner will have to show proof of training to their insurance company in order to receive insurance.

You can ask:

“Do you have medical insurance?”

3/ Your health practitioner then needs to undertake special training in lymphoedema and the lymphatic system to receive lymphoedema certification. This training needs to be of a level that is recognised by the peak professional lymphology association in Australia known as the Australasian Lymphology Association (ALA). It costs practitioners a few hundred dollars every year to become an ALA member and your practitioner will have to show initial proof that their standards of lymphoedema certification were acceptable. Practitioners that only do a few hours of learning online with a non-approved provider, for example, are not accepted by the ALA.

The ALA has a list of suitably qualified therapists. It is called the National Lymphoedema Practitioners Register.

You can search for therapists that meet these guidelines via postcode search here: https://www.lymphoedema.org.au/accreditation-nlpr/find-a-practitioner/

Please note that in Australia we no longer refer to Category 1 or 2 Therapists nor Level 1 or 2 Training. The standard of lymphoedema training by the Australasian Lymphology Association is now qualifications by body area:

  • Arm and Breast
  • Lower Limb and genitals
  • Head and Neck

The international standard of lymphoedema training is courses that are 135 hours in duration. Courses that are recognised by Casley-Smith International are 135 hours in duration and cover the treatment of all body areas.

Training should be provided by a respected organisation with recognition by a formal organisation. Courses offered by the Australian Institute of Lymphoedema, for example, are recognised by the ALA as well as Casley-Smith International.

You can ask:

“Do you have formal training in the lymphatic system?”

“Are you recognised by the Australasian Lymphology Association?”

“Are you qualified to treat my body area?”

“Who did you receive your training through?”

4/ Your lymphoedema practitioner should be staying up to date with current health training. It is generally accepted that every two years your practitioner will complete some form of training either formally or informally – such as taking a short refresher course or reading research papers.

You can ask:

“When did you last refresh your knowledge on the lymphatic system?”

What other things should I know about when seeking a lymphoedema therapist?

Other things you may wish to ask your practitioner include the following:

Cost of treatment

“How much does treatment cost?”

Health funds – some practitioners will be registered with certain private health funds. A HICAPS machine onsite allows the practitioner to claim back your heath fund fees onsite. Not all clinics have these machines and you may need to submit your claims online.

“Do you accept private health funds?”

“How does it work claiming back health fund rebates?”

Medicare and other government funding – you may be eligible for Medicare or other funding such as the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) funding. If applicable to you, you can ask the following questions:

“Do you accept patients under the Chronic Care program?” If yes, “How much is the out of pocket expense?”

“Do you accept patients under the NDIS program?”

Parking

“Where can I park?”

“Does parking cost money?”

Public transport

“Is your clinic close to public transport?”

Assessments

“What assessments do you offer?”

Treatments

“What treatments do you offer?”

“How long are treatment sessions?”

Treatment: Garment prescription – a suitably qualified lymphoedema practitioner should be trained in garment prescription.

“Can you prescribe pressure garments?”

In certain states there are funding programs available for garments. If applicable to you, “Can you please help me get funding for my garments?”

Preparation

“What should I do to prepare for a lymphatic treatment?”

“What do I need to bring to a lymphatic treatment session?”

“What should I wear to a treatment session?”

You should be able to ask these questions to your lymphoedema practitioner and feel comfortable and safe with the responses received.