Lymphedema is more underdiagnosed than Parkinson’s, ALS and multiple sclerosis combined in the United States, and it’s more prevalent, according to Occupational Therapist and Certified Lymphedema Therapist (CLT) Courtney Henderson.
“This debilitating condition effects a very underserved population,” Henderson said.
Lymphedema is a chronic, progressive swelling condition usually occurring in the arms or legs. There is no cure, but it is treated through therapy which includes manual lymphatic drainage, compression wrap bandages, meticulous skin care, and home exercises.
After graduating with her Master’s in Occupational Therapy from the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences (USAHS), Henderson worked in an outpatient setting and then in skilled nursing at a nursing home in Asheville, North Carolina. She also got her CLT certification after graduation.
She noticed the big need for lymphedema treatment while working in the nursing home and began seeing people on her own on the side. This eventually led to her own clinic – the Lymphedema Center of Asheville, which opened in October of 2017 and started welcoming patients in February 2018.
“We would like to be the one stop shop for people with lymphatic issues in town,” Henderson said.
She’s hired a team of Certified Occupational Therapy Assistants, all with CLT certifications, so her clinic can see patients 2-3 times per week. They have bi-weekly team meetings to touch base about each patient, so all the therapists are on the same page.
“It’s nice that all of my employees are CLTs, so they had all the same training that I did,” Henderson said. “I feel comfortable if a patient has to see a different therapist that the quality of care will be the same.”
With a successful clinic on the rise, Henderson couldn’t be happier to have chosen a career on Occupational Therapy.
“I felt like there were always different setting that I could work in and I always had the freedom to mold my career the way I wanted to,” Henderson said.
She would encourage any PT or OT who has an interest in the CLT certification to pursue it, because there is a great need for therapists in the lymphedema community.
“We have identified many outcome measures to evaluate the effectiveness of our occupational therapy programs, but perhaps the most significant is the success, the impact, of our graduates in their chosen area of practice,” USAHS Vice President of Accreditation and Assessment for OT, Dr. Anne Hull said. “What they accomplish in their professional careers makes a difference in the health and well-being of society.”