Top Tips to Obtaining Your Lymphedema Certification
If you are curious about obtaining a lymphedema certification but you’re unsure how to go about it, we’ve got you covered! This article will highlight how you can become lymphedema certified in the United States as well as multiple other continents.
Patients with chronic lymphedema can be difficult to treat, which is why many occupational therapists and other healthcare professionals seek lymphedema certifications.
But first, we want to cover a bit about lymphedema itself. Here are the basics:
What is Lymphedema?
Lymphedema is swelling that occurs as a result of fluid buildup in the body. This happens when there is a disruption of the transportation of the lymphatic fluid in the lymph vessels or lymph nodes (1).
Imagine your lymph nodes as a drain in your sink. If the drain is blocked, the fluid won’t drain (2).
Most commonly, it occurs in the arms and legs, but it can occur anywhere in the body.
What is the Lymphatic System?
Quick reminder: Your lymphatic system keeps your body fluid levels in balance and fights infections.
It collects lymph (water, protein, and large molecules) from your tissue and takes it into your bloodstream (1).
Your lymphatic system is made up of lymph vessels that meet up with your lymph nodes that are in your axilla (armpit), neck, and groin.
What causes Lymphatic Dysfunction?
- Primary lymphedema: This is also known as hereditary lymphedema. It is less common than secondary lymphedema. This is an inherited condition caused by faulty genes.
- Secondary lymphedema: This is often the result of cancer, surgery, trauma, or radiation. Mastectomies from breast cancer are often one of the most common causes of secondary lymphedema.
Who can be Lymphedema Certified?
- Occupational therapists
- Physical therapists
- OTAs and PTAs
- Speech-language pathologists
- Medical doctors
- Some massage therapists
- Orthotists and prosthetists can measure and fit garments
This may vary according to different states or countries.
What do Lymphedema Certifications include?
Many of the courses are 135 hours of training, which may include some online work and some practical classroom work. All certifications are slightly different, but they all offer training in complete decongestive therapy, which can consist of:
- Manual lymphatic drainage: gentle skin stretching massage to re-route lymph flow from blocked lymph vessels to healthy lymph vessels
- Wound care: infections are a common complication of lymphedema, so knowledge of wound care and general hygiene of the skin and nails is integral.
- Compression bandaging and customized garment fitting: these methods maintain continuous pressure on the affected area to assist in fluid drainage. It is worn between sessions.
- Exercises to assist with lymphedema: to pump lymph out of the swollen extremity
- Self-care training and management: teaching your patient or the patient’s family how to manage it at home
Further information on Decongestive Therapy
There are two different phases of complete decongestive therapy:
- Phase 1 (the acute phase)
- Phase 2 (the maintenance phase)
- Fluid mobilization to bring down swelling
- Occurs in the first few weeks: depends on lymphedema severity
- The compression bandage is worn 23 hours a day and is only removed when bathing or showering.
- Maintains swelling reduction: achieve long-term lymphedema control
- It is important to start phase 2 immediately after phase 1
- Can last for months or years
- Daytime elastic compression bandage and nighttime foam bandage (3)
- Self management is done by the patient
Lymphedema Certification is classified according to continents:
These are a few from each continent that I could find. I am sure there are many missing, so please check with the lymphatic association/society/organization in your country or continent to guide you further if needed.
- Academy of Lymphatic Studies
- ILWTI’s Certified Lymphedema and Wound Therapist
- Klose Training Lymphedema Certification
- Norton School of Lymphatic Therapy
- The Lymphoedema Academy of Australia
- Australian Lymphoedema Institute
- MQ Health
- Klose Training Lymphedema Certification
- Lymphoedema Education Solutions
- Germany, Denmark, and Hungary Foeldi College
- UK: The Lymphoedema Training Academy
- UK: Casley-Smith Lymphoedema Education
There are many short courses on lymphedema that you can take online to get started (with several great options on MedBridge), but they do not provide you with full certification, so keep that in mind.
Additional Resources on Lymphedema
You may discover that you are currently unable to complete the certification but would like to have access to some resources for yourself or your patients. Here are some free resources you can access:
- Apps: The Canadian Lymphedema Framework has put together an amazing list of lymphedema apps that you can advise your patients to download. The apps vary from education on lymphedema to tracking lymphedema to even being able to find trained lymphedema therapists in the area.
- Videos: The UK NHS Lymphoedema Network Wales has created educational videos for patients, their caregivers, and clinicians. You have access to all the videos here.
- Handout: Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital created a wonderful handout you can provide your patients who have lymphedema.
- Free course on lymphedema: The Lymphoedema Support Network has created two free modules in conjunction with British Medical Journal Learning. You can find the first free module here and the second free module here.
- Our articles, 5 Ways to Incorporate Edema Management Into Your OT Practice and A Day in the Life of a Certified Lymphedema Therapist.
There are many lymphedema certifications for occupational therapists to consider. It is important to carefully consider each one and note if it suits your budget, location, and needs. It can be very rewarding to obtain your lymphedema certification, and it will have a significant impact on your patients’ lives, but like most certifications, it can sometimes be time-consuming, challenging, and costly.
We’re hoping this article will help you identify the different lymphedema certifications available for you and help you refine which one is the best fit for you.
Please leave a comment if you know of any other lymphedema certifications that we missed, or if you have any personal recommendations for certifications that you have completed!