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How do I become a qualified lymphoedema practitioner?

Lymphoedema therapists are critical members of the allied health team providing care to persons with and at risk of lymphoedema from all causes.

In Australia and New Zealand the standard to become a recognised health professional in the treatment of lymphoedema is to complete a course that is accredited by the Australasian Lymphology Association (ALA). The ALA is the peak professional association for lymphology in Australia and New Zealand. Lymphoedema practitioners must meet the ALA Competency Standards which define the knowledge and skills you need to posses in order to become an ALA Accredited Lymphoedema Practitioner.

The current ALA Competency Standards can be downloaded here: ALA Competency Standards Updated 1st November 2019

Why complete recognised training in lymphoedema?

Completing recognised training in lymphoedema will not only provide you with the necessary understanding to correctly and safely care for your patients – you can have confidence that your training meets a minimum standard and your qualification will be respected. It also gives confidence to those that will be referring patients to you.

You may also be eligible as a prescriber under Australian government garment subsidy programs such as Enable in NSW or SWEP in Victoria, allowing your patients to claim some or all of the cost of their compression garments.

Under such schemes, an eligible prescriber is typically:

  • a Registered Occupational Therapist, Registered Physiotherapist, Medical Officer, or Registered Nurse;
  • that has a completion of Level 1 in Lymphoedema Training Course (see note), recognised by the Australasian Lymphology Association.

Note: “Level 1” is an outdated term. Courses are now described by body area of qualification and the minimum number of hours of required training.

The prescription of custom garments may have further requirements for eligibility, such as minimum years of practice.  Ensure you seek the relevant information from your local scheme.

International Standards of Lymphoedema Training

There is currently no international standard for lymphoedema training. Countries may or may not define a training standard for lymphoedema. Where they do, generally a course needs to be 135 hours in duration, deliver a recognised method of Lymphatic Therapy (such as the Casley-Smith Method) and be recognised by a large professional body (such as Casley-Smith International). You will also need to be a qualified health professional.

The Lymphoedema Association of North America, LANA, for example, requires:

  • Successful completion of a 135-hour course in Complex Lymphatic Therapy (CLT);
  • Possessing a current, unrestricted US state or international license or registration as a Registered Nurse, Occupational Therapist, Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant, Physical Therapist, Physical Therapist Assistant, Medical Doctor, Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, Doctor of Chiropractic, Massage Therapist, or Certified Athletic Trainer; and
  • Meet minimum 12 college-credit hour science requirements (meaning University grade science studies).

Other international best practice recommendations for the treatment of lymphoedema

The Lymphoedema Framework,  produced in the United Kingdom, presents a model for best practice in lymphoedema in adults with the aim of raising awareness of the condition and improving the care that patients receive. You can access the full best practice paper for free via Best Practice for the Management of Lymphoedema: an international consensus.

What should I look for in lymphoedema training?  

Lymphoedema training for healthcare providers needs to be recognised and of a suitable standard. To ascertain the quality you can ask your training provider the following questions:

  • What method do they teach? If they teach a method, such as the Casley-Smith method, are they recognised by the international body that offers this method?
  • What is the duration of their certification course? The international standard is 135 hours.
  • Are the courses evidence-based? All courses should be based on research rather than on the teacher’s individual beliefs.
  • Is the content current and up to date? All content should be continually revised and updated as new research evolves.
  • Does the training provider have any affiliation with a University? This is a good indication that the content is being taught by experts in the area.
  • Is the training provider a member of a large international training body? Such providers benefit from a broad view of research, expert opinion and extensive experience across the globe.
  • Is the training accredited by the peak professional lymphology association in the country? This ensures the training meets a minimum standard, your qualification is respected and gives confidence to those that will be referring patients to you.
  • Will you get the opportunity to learn from real patients living with lymphoedema? Learning from patients living with the condition will give you a greater insight into the realities of living with lymphoedema.
  • Have past students had a great learning experience? Hearing of past student experiences helps you assess whether you will have a fun and memorable learning experience.
Finding the right lymphoedema training

Finding the right training provider for you is the first step in your learning journey.

About CANpractice by the Australian Institute of Lymphoedema

CANpractice is an evidence-based and up-to-date recognised lymphoedema course in the Casley-Smith method of Complex Lymphatic Therapy and is designed to award you a certification as a lymphoedema practitioner. The full program is 135 hours and is recognised by:

  • Australasian Lymphology Association (ALA);
  • Casley-Smith International;
  • International Institute of Complementary Therapies (IICT); and
  • Massage Association of Australia (MAA).

The answers to the questions asked above are presented below:

What method do you teach?

We proudly provide Casley-Smith Method and courses which are recognised by Casley-Smith International. We are the current sole provider of Casley-Smith International recognised courses in Australia.

How many hours are your courses?

The full CANpractice course is 135 hours.

Modules specific to lower limb and upper limb are available for  practitioners wishing to complete the course in smaller phases.

Are your courses evidence-based? Yes. CANpractice is highly evidence-based where methods are presented as per the Casley-Smith textbook.
Is the content up to date? Yes. CANpractice content undergoes a quality improvement process at least every 12 months.
Does your training provider have any affiliation with a University? Yes. Professor Neil Piller (Lymphologist, Flinders University) features in the online learning and Andrea Mangion is undertaking her PhD with Flinders University.
Is your training provider a member of a large international training body? Yes. CANpractice is recognised by Casley-Smith International and Andrea Mangion is on the board of Casley-Smith International.
Is your training accredited? Yes. The full CANpractice course of 135 hours is recognised by:

Australasian Lymphology Association (ALA);

Casley-Smith International;

International Institute of Complementary Therapies (IICT); and

Massage Association of Australia (MAA).

Will I get the opportunity to learn from real patients living with lymphoedema? Yes. The online learning component of CANpractice features 8 patients living with lymphoedema. You also meet a patient who has lymphoedema at the face-to-face component.

You can read about past students who provided wonderful feedback on their learning experience about CANpractice here.

REFERENCE:

Anderson EA, Anbari AB, Armer NC, Armer JM. Lymphoedema therapists: a national and international survey. Journal of lymphoedema. 2019;14(1):22.