Last week we made a switch to our healing team, and fired our Spriest from healing duties. Our Boomkin stepped up and strapped on the tree (that sounds oddly phallic), and performed admirably. Our introduction to healing was a little rough on her though - so let me explain.
Elue has been part of our group (off and on) since Vanilla (I think, I drank a lot back then). She didn't really start raiding with us hard core until Ulduar I think (maybe Naxx), but since she's sleeping with our Ret pally, she gets to tag along. Don't get me wrong though, she's not a "Oh, you're so and so's wife, here's a raid spot", Elue pulls her weight and then some, and is always good for a laugh. She was a boomkin back before boomkins existed, and she is actually the only person I know who might actually have boomkin feet in those shoes she wears. I've never looked, but she's got some big feet.
Anne's healing experience before last Sunday was limited to a couple of pulls in Kara. Back when we were first working on the place, we single tanked it from the start. This made pulling the ushers a challenge, so she'd heal while Wombcrusher would pop his wings and run in screaming - hoping to hold agro long enough to get killed and let the DPS burn one of them down. <3 to you Toby.
Given this, you can imagine the excitement and joy that Elue felt when she was told that we needed her to step up and heal. She got a few tips from our resident man of 810348103 alts, found a spec, and eased into the healing scene.
By eased in, I mean we went straight to H-Chim. WELCOME TO THE PARTY RICHTER. We didn't kill H-Chim, but we got further than we had in the past. Some changes need to be made still, but she handeld well. At least on Vent. From what I hear, she was cussing up a storm at the house. We're definately a NC-17 raid group. After a few hours of listening to our heads go squish there, we decided to knock Nef over and call it a night. Having seen the fight many times, but having never healed it, managed to keep her whole platform alive and we one shot Nef. Needless to say, I was impressed.
The real evaluation of a new healer takes time. While you can always run heroics with someone, or even just bring them into a raid, you really need to put them to the fire to see how they respond. Zerging through content you over gear certainly isn't a good test, and neither is taking them to a farm kill. Of course by the same token, trying to evaluate a healer when you're first learning a new boss is also tough - so what do you do?
Try something different
Taking someone out of their comfort zone and tossing them into a new environment is a good way to see how they'll react to changing situations. While you can't really gauge someone's ability to raid heal by sticking them in an arena match, you can get a feel for how they react uder pressure or to a fluid situation. Another option is to give them a healing assignment that they may not be used to - say raid healing instead of tank healing. While this may not give you an idea of their capabilities for their normal role, it again lets you see how they react to something new.
Try it short handed
This is another way to artificially incease difficulty. Strat says you must three heal? Try it with two. Of course your whole group/raid has to be on board with this, becuase you might wipe more than a few times.
Check the logs
This is the more conventional way to check out how a new healer is performing. Did their assigned targets die? Did they use CDs effectively and at the right time? For example, blowing tranquility on H-Chim during a non fued phase is pretty dumb (that thump you heard was me running over Elue). Are they running out of mana too quickly? Barely outhealing the DK tank? All these things are worth looking at.
Know your candidate
Right here where I ran over Elue, I don't mention that she's a brand new healer (not just for us, but in general), so holding her to the same standards I would say - Monger - is really urealistic. People make mistakes, it's how you recover from them that really matters. Are you evaluating someone who claims to be a top healer? They better be wired tight.
At the end of the day, remember the most important thing is does the player mesh with your group. I'd rather have someone who's not in the top percentage if I can get along with them, instead of someone who doesn't think Old Greg is funny.